The Opici Wine Company of New Jersey has been a respected name in U.S. wine and spirits distribution since the early 1900s. In the 1990s, Opici moved its corporate headquarters to Glen Rock, New Jersey. For the turnkey integration of its 200,000-square-foot (18,580 m²) warehouse and distribution facility, Opici worked with W&H Systems, a material handling logistics solutions provider.
By using its (then) next-generation, wave-based picking methodology, W&H offered Opici a means to dramatically improve throughput rates in its new facility by abandoning the old order-by-order “paper picking” method of order fulfillment for a system that enabled picking of 14-30 orders at a time, in one picking wave. As a result of that project, Opici was able to double its case volume over the next twelve years with only minimal increases in labor.
In 2009, Opici contacted W&H once again, searching for solutions to capacity constraints in its facility. For this project, Opici’s goals were twofold: 1) to increase overall throughput capacity without having to perform a complete overhaul of the existing system; 2) to replace the existing sorter with a more robust sorting solution that offered a higher rate capacity.
Selecting and installing a sorter that would meet Opici’s requirements was a critical part of the implementation project for W&H. The existing sorter in the facility was a line-shaft swivel-wheel sorter, which directs cartons into 14 presort lanes. Cartons are then “unscrambled” and released sequentially to be loaded into trucks in reverse deliverystop order.
When selecting a new machine to replace the old sorter, W&H sought to fulfill all of Opici’s requirements for the new equipment:
- Provide higher throughput capacity without overhauling the entire system
- Have a positive divert with less slippage than the current sorter
- Handle a variety of product sizes, weights, and packaging types
- Have a compact footprint with close divert centers (39 inches)
Maintaining the existing tight divert centerlines was a critical success factor as installing a sorter with greater divert centers would require W&H to reconfigure the existing pre-sort lanes and would demand more time for implementation than was allotted in Opici’s busy production schedule.
To determine a sorting solution that would meet all of Opici’s requirements, W&H consulted Intralox. Intralox recommended its ARB™ sorter, featuring patented Activated Roller Belt™ conveyance technology. The ARB sorter provides low-maintenance, rapid, and accurate sorting at 90 degrees, while maintaining short-edge-leading carton orientation. ARB technology manipulates the movement of cartons on the conveyor belt via embedded belt rollers, thereby changing carton direction and maintaining carton orientation into perpendicular after-sort lanes without using rails or complicated controls.
“The Intralox solution was ideally suited to this application, which required the benefits of higher capacity and expandability as well as a custom fit within some very challenging space restrictions,” said Jim Huston, Systems Engineering Manager at W&H Systems.
With a compact design that accommodates tight divert centers, the Intralox sorter seamlessly fit into the current layout of the facility. “We needed to have a technology that could easily fit into the current setup, have close divert centers, and handle a wide range of carton weights and sizes—with a positive, noslippage divert. And the Intralox sorter was a very unique, yet proven solution that was customizable to the application,” said Paul Laman, VP of Sales at W&H.
Because the Intralox sorter is easily modifiable, Opici has the ability to further expand and increase throughput in the future by adding more diverts to the sorter.
Since installation, the Intralox sorter has enabled a 30% increase in the facility’s peak sorting rate. This improvement has allowed Opici to increase the throughput rate of the entire facility. And, because the Intralox sorter is easily modifiable, it allows for truck-loading capacity to be increased in the future by 50%.