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Scalable Automation: Creating Optimization for Today and Tomorrow at Parts Town

Spiros Tzanetakos and Joe Campbell | 16 December 2020

Parts Town needed a way to get ahead of their 30 percent year over year growth. Order printouts and manual push carts bustling from one side of the warehouse to another just wasn’t working anymore.

Wanting to embrace their success without sacrificing their promise to customers of same-day delivery, Parts Town turned to Bastian Solutions. It was time to envision a new approach and make better use of their space.

Parts Town is the largest and fastest growing food service parts provider in the world. Due to the nature of the restaurant industry, days, weeks or months of down-time to rebuild was simply not an acceptable option. Through an organic four-year relationship, Bastian Solutions was able to develop a project timeline that accommodated Parts Town’s current operations in order to maintain business continuity.  

As a benefit to what ultimately became a two-phase approach, Bastian Solutions’ consulting and engineering teams worked closely together to analyze and design a system that could meet Parts Town’s rates of growth and to solve today’s problem, as well as plan ahead.

Incorporating Automation

Initially considering only a conveyor system to create defined workstations and build in some efficiency by reducing warehouse walking distances, the consultants and engineers took a deeper look at Parts Town’s growth estimates and ultimately concluded that automation was the way to go.

If Parts Town waited to automate, they would require roughly 77 pickers in only five years’ time. By investing in automation, Parts Town was able to cut that number in half. The AutoStore’s dense storage meant that no matter how large it got, Parts Town would be able to pick 4-5 times more than their current on-foot methods. The true cost ROI was an easy decision.

Adding to that, this system gave them the ability to grow and expand the company’s operation substantially. AutoStore accounts for only seven percent of their facility footprint. With that space Parts Town can accomplish 65 percent of their picking activity which adds immensely to the longevity of their facility.

Scaled Approach

Knowing that Parts Town’s growth was expected to rapidly continue, Bastian Solutions worked with them to develop a thorough analysis and modeling of their data, providing recommendations and a new system layout. Planning was two-fold in that they wanted to streamline current processes and design for future expansion.

Phase 1 included:

Due to the detailed planning, extra floor space had already been assigned and kept clear for Phase 2. This implementation was fast and easy, and ultimately reduced what could have been costly business interruptions.

Phase 2 added:

  • 2.5x expansion of the AutoStore system
  • 4500 ft. of conveyor
  • 2 shoe sorters
  • 2 sawtooth merges
  • 6 separate scan and divert points

Gained Control and Flexibility

Keeping up with orders and maintaining customer promises was at the core of the project with Parts Town, but to truly support their success, Bastian Solutions knew they needed to maintain flexibility. The AutoStore goods-to-person system, while a great solution and framework, was only the start.

Bastian Solutions was able to improve order accuracy at the AutoStore workstation by displaying item images on screen, leveraging Illumipick to highlight bin sections, and pick-to-light for efficient operator picking. The visual cues made work fast and accurate. The inherent modularity of AutoStore meant that the company could continue to scale as needed by adding bins for increased storage, robots for increased picking speed, and workstations for increased volume.

Robots do add a new element of maintenance and support, but with AutoStore’s built in redundancy, a robot can be serviced without impeding on the operation, which was crucial to stay competitive.

Bastian Solutions knew that while they were streamlining Parts Town’s processes, they still needed to ensure that they kept complexity at a minimum. The implemented plan, featuring more technology, reduced operator training time to hours rather than weeks. And, it improved the ergonomics and safety of Parts Town’s employees through reduced walking, defined workstations, minimal bending and the removal of ladders.

Communication – Key to a Preventative Approach

The four-year organic partnership between Parts Town and Bastian Solutions was unique and truly made a difference in what they could accomplish together.  From day one, Bastian Solutions was embraced as not just a provider of automated equipment but an overall problem solver for production growth.

"The partnership between Parts Town and Bastian Solutions has been so successful because of the collaboration. We’re a high demand customer and Bastian Solutions has always stayed with us every step of the way. A lot of companies say that they’re for customers, but Bastian Solutions walks the talk,” said Kenny William, Senior Director of Process Improvement, Parts Town.

The open communication established through the years created a database of knowledge not just for Bastian Solutions’ engineers but for Parts Town too. It provided clarity for data-backed solutions so together they could work towards having a preventative approach instead of reactionary.

Opening Opportunities

As more opportunities open for Parts Town and Bastian Solutions to collaborate, the established trust and long-term partnership makes it easier to attain the end goal as now they have a mutual understanding of what each other expects.  

Distribution center automation has given Parts Town a fresh new approach to their rapid growth. Through a creative combination of solutions and open communication, Bastian Solutions has introduced a scalable framework that has already proven its ability to grow without costly business interruptions or physical footprint expansions.

Author: Joe Campbell, Spiros Tzanetakos

Joe is a Regional Manager at Bastian Solutions. He has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis. As Regional Sales Manager, he leads of team of talented project and application engineers supporting a number of customers with automation and material handling needs.

Spiros is a Regional Manager at Bastian Solutions. He has Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Technology and Industrial Distribution from Purdue University. Based in Chicago, Illinois he is an experienced sales manager with a demonstrated history of working in the wholesale industry.


Wadcobs says:
12/31/2020 11:12 PM

Hardly we find that the businesses disclose their short term goal and the strategy to get it done during that stipulated time period. Its wonderful step and a good move towards achieving the defined goal, which i believe will keep the stakeholders under control especially in this chaotic time of Covid where economies are lingering. Its really appreciable and the this post is worth sharing. i am grateful for this valuable information, enjoyed reading this post.

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