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Tire Distributor Slashes Putaway Time with WMS

The following is from an article published in June 2005 By Brian Albright at Frontline Solutions Magazine.

When Terry's Tire Town built its 188,000-square-foot distribution center in Alliance, Ohio, distribution manager Doug McCollum knew that an automated warehouse management system needed to be a part of the facility.

The company put away tires in its old facility by brand, with no location tracking system. Employees pulled orders from memory. If one brand's aisle filled up and tires were stored somewhere else in the building, it could take hours to find them again. "Productivity was terrible," McCollum said. "Guys spent half the night walking up and down aisles trying to find tires."

Now, using the RT Locator warehouse management system from RT Systems Inc., bar code scanning, and a narrow-aisle pallet racking system, Terry's Tire has already exceeded its labor savings goals for the first year of the system. In fact, because of the automation, the company was able to scale down its original plans for a 240,000-square-foot facility, and can store the same amount of tires in less space.

According to McCollum, the company spent a year researching the WMS project. The RT Locator because "we felt the most comfortable with [that] system, and with the support we felt we'd get," McCollum said.

Terry's Tire receives 6,000 to 8,000 tires a day at Alliance, and ships 3,000 to 5,000 units each night to its dealership, wholesale, and tire shop customers. The company needed a faster way to find tires, and the flexibility to put away tires without losing track of them.

Now, when trucks arrive, workers build pallet loads of product for putaway. Using bar code scanners from Intermec Technologies Corp., they scan license plate tags on the pallets, which are then driven down to the brand-specific aisles. The RT Locator system guides putaway.

Ship orders are sent to the system and released by route. RT Locator determines picks to be made in reverse stop sequence and directs pickers on narrow aisle trucks to pick in bin sequence onto pallets, which are then delivered to the assigned ship dock before trailers are hand loaded. The system also directs batch picking of parcel orders, which are taken to a UPS station before being shipped.

Installation was quick. The system went into the new facility in August 2004 before the move. Once the company started moving its inventory, employees were using the system for putaway within hours. "We put 60,000 tires away in four days," McCollum said. "That Sunday we did the exporting. By 5:30 p.m. we were running orders, and by 6:00 p.m. we had guys out on the floor pulling tires. Within the first day we already understood about 90% of how to use the system."

Originally, McCollum said the company expected to relocate seven employees from the putaway/picking operations to other positions. In fact, the company now operates with 11 fewer people in the distribution center. The company has saved 12 hours of labor per truck at unloading because of the pallet-building process. "It used to take three or four guys up to four hours to unload a truck," McCollum said.

The company can also research the history of each load, and can measure how long it took to process each truckload of tires. The biggest benefit, though, is the more efficient putaway process. "It's very flexible," McCollum said. "The system directs orders to the first available spot."

The RT Locator system has proven so successful in Alliance that the company has installed it in its new Richmond, Va., facility, and plans to repeat the process at another new facility in Baltimore, Md.

Terry's Tire Town: http://www.terrystiretown.com