An energy-efficient conveyor system from Bastian Solutions and Hytrol Conveyor Company helped Monoprice increase throughput from 4,000 orders up to 14,000 orders per day.
Monoprice, Inc. specializes in high-quality cables, components, and accessories for computer and consumer electronics. Established in 2002, the company has built a reputation by its customers’ word-of-mouth. The Monoprice brand’s greatest claim to fame is the ability to deliver premium quality products on par with the best known national brands, doing so at prices far below the retail average with unmatched speed and service.
To keep up with strong consumer demand, Monoprice needed an order fulfillment automation system to help increase daily throughput from roughly 300 orders per hour up to 1,000 orders per hour.
Bastian Solutions was chosen as the Monoprice integration solutions provider and implemented a system comprised almost exclusively of 24-volt DC zero-pressure accumulation (ZPA) conveyor, manufactured by Hytrol Conveyor Company. In addition to considerable savings due to the energy-efficient design and ability of the conveyor to “go to sleep” when not in use, the warehouse is considerably quieter than many distribution centers. This conveyor system design is also very modular, allowing for future expansion of the system and requiring very little maintenance.
Inside the New Automated E-Fulfillment Center
Hytrol E24™ conveyor was part of the system, which was comprised of three floor-level pick modules with inline timing belt diverts. The diverts send cartons or totes to picking zones where operators pick via voice picking headsets. Bastian Solutions implemented its Exacta Warehouse Control System (WCS) to interface with Monoprice’s warehouse management system (WMS), providing intelligent automated order routing of cartons for picking throughout the system.
Many of Monoprice’s orders are shipped out in USPS flat rate envelopes. To accommodate these orders, Bastian Solutions employed a compartmentalized tote, which allowed for picking of up to seven orders per tote. Each order is associated to a tote’s master license plate and is diverted to USPS processing stations downstream for efficient processing and elimination of congestion in the conveyor system. Once orders are fulfilled, operators seal cartons via inline void fill stations and orders are singulated via an Intralox activated roller top conveyor prior to passing over an inline checkweigher. Orders are then processed via a narrow belt sorter, and downstream of the sorter, an extendible ZPA loading dock conveyor helps to efficiently load outbound orders for delivery.
Process Improvements Drive Daily Order Volumes
Since the system was implemented, Monoprice has realized a substantial improvement in processing daily order volumes, especially during the peak holiday season. In the past, typical throughput for a day was about 4,000 orders, but since the new system was installed, Monoprice now processes upwards of 14,000 orders per day. Operators also find they are able to be much more efficient in their jobs with a substantial reduction in operator travel times for order picking. Monoprice achieved its business objectives, including:
- Increase order fulfillment volume
- Improve customer delivery times
- Reduce order picking errors
- Eliminate paper-based picking
- Reduce operator travel time to each pick
- Install a modular system capable of future growth
Mitch Johnson, Hytrol’s Director of Systems Development, said the E24™ conveyor was right for Monoprice because of its ability to adapt to the company’s changing peaks in business. He said, “Sleep mode provides quiet operation that results in better operator efficiency as well as real electricity savings. Most maintenance can be done without turning the conveyor off, resulting in zero downtime. Conveyors can be repurposed or easily added due to minimal conduit wiring and overall programming. Functionality is improved as the E24™ inherently keeps products separate, a crucial fact when accumulating, merging, gapping, and sorting.”
Hytrol works closely with Bastian Solutions as an integration partner, and both organizations consider labor optimization when devising best-practice material handling solutions. Johnson said, “Working with an integration partner like Bastian Solutions, we can identify current labor categories and can design specific equipment to automate labor that was heretofore manual. Sometimes the best solution may actually include more equipment when considering labor as the equipment is a one-time cost.”
According to Bill Fish, Senior Application Engineer and Conveyor Systems Manager at Bastian Solutions, the relationship has grown since Bastian initially started working with Monoprice. They have added an additional void fill lane, extended the first pick module toward the north zone, and extended from 24 to 27 pick zones. Monoprice also added a second shipping line with a fluid load, accumulating extendable conveyor to accommodate a large number of shipments.
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