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Ocean Spray Implements Wireless LAN and Boosts Productivity

Ocean Spray's Kenosha, Wis., warehouse is one of six regional manufacturing/warehousing distribution facilities for Ocean Spray. While each produces juice from locally-grown fruit, all facilities distribute the full Ocean Spray product line in their region. That requires considerable inter-warehouse shipments.

Prior to adopting a wireless LAN technology at the Kenosha warehouse, two people were dedicated to walking around the 300,000-square-foot warehouse just to find open storage locations for incoming pallet loads. When it was time to pick cases of the company's juice products, workers had troubles reading the pallet case markings. Tracking of shipments by customers required many hours to review paperwork and determine who received which products from which lots.

Application: Bringing Wireless to the Warehouse
When the managers of the Ocean Spray Kenosha warehouse faced an increase of 15 percent in case volume and a 10-percent increase in SKU count, it was time to make a change in their inventory information management system. They decided on a wireless system, and today, every lift truck in the Kenosha warehouse is outfitted with a radio frequency data communication (RFDC) terminal. All storage locations are bar coded, as is every pallet load. A warehouse management system (WMS) coordinates activities, from receiving through shipping of finished goods. To maximize efficiencies, the server that the WMS systems runs on at Kenosha is fully integrated with the mainframe at Ocean Spray's corporate headquarters in Middleboro, Mass.

"This interactive transaction interface makes the data in our corporate system as current as the last bar code scanned on the floor," Manager of Application Development Pete Stirling said.

With the new system, pallet loads arriving from another warehouse have a bar-coded pallet label, including the product identification number, product code date or expiration date, the plant of manufacture, line of manufacture and a sequentially-assigned serial number. A lift truck operator scans the label in receiving. The RF terminal sends that data to the warehouse software, which immediately designates a storage location and relays it back to the RF terminal on the lift truck. Every storage location is identified by a bar code label, either suspended from the ceiling for floor locations, or attached to a rack face. The operator scans that bar code to confirm putaway in the correct location.

At headquarters, the mainframe receives orders by Ocean Spray's electronic data interchange (EDI) network. It then releases orders to locations. At Kenosha, the WMS manages order picking, balances work loads, and selects pick sequences for lift truck operators. The dock control module then releases orders for picking.

Each line item and quantity required appear on the designated lift truck's RFDC terminal. To confirm accuracy, the operator scans the bar code label on the full pallet or at the rack location for less than full pallet picks. The RF terminal directs the operator to the designated dock door for immediate loading on an over-the-road trailer, all under the control of the warehouse software. Using the inventory data captured by the RF terminals, the WMS automatically generates the pack list and bill of loading for each over-the-road trailer. Confirmations of line items picked and shipped are then sent to the mainframe for invoicing.

Benefits: Increased Productivity
The results of the wireless technology have been substantial. Beyond eliminating the original inefficiencies, the automatic data collection (ADC) system allowed Kenosha to ship an additional 1.8 million cases of the product in 2,200 fewer worker hours during the first year. Hourly productivity increased from 451 to 550 cases handled per worker. In addition, inventory accuracy now exceeds 98 percent, and inventory turns increased as inventory levels fell by 121,000 cases. Lead analyst Ed Mahoney said the new system provides a standard 100-percent lot traceability by customer, within minutes.

Installation Size
The wireless system was initially installed in the Kenosha, Wis., warehouse and is now in the process of being installed at Ocean Spray's other manufacturing/warehousing locations around the country.

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