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Perspectives on Material Handling Practice

Papers the in the Perspectives Handling series have appeared 1992 in conference the present. proceedings As such of Material Institute between and they provide a point of reference as to how the industry is changing as well as insight into accepted practice during this period. In many cases the authors credited have either changed jobs or are no longer in the industry. Some companies as well have been the subject of mergers or reorganization with a new corporate identity.

HIGH VOLUME CASE PICKING
(A UNIQUE NEW APPLICATION FOR DEEP LANE STORAGE SYSTEMS)

SCOTT RICHARDSON, MANAGER NORTH AMERICAN DISTRIBUTION AND SCOTT TELK MANAGER NORTH AMERICAN DISTRIBUTION PLANNING Black and Decker 4041 Pleasant Road Fort Mill, SC 29715 ABSTRACT When developing a vision and concept of operations for a new world class distribution center, much effort and detail is focused on stipulating and estimating how the plant should and will perform. Design teams go to great lengths to ensure a process exists to meet not only every business and customer requirement that can be identified, but also every imaginable exception and operating condition that will be encountered. Even with huge amounts of experience, talent, vision, and lick most facilities are fortunate to “have their arms around” 75-80% of the situations, conditions, and combinations of complications that will be encountered. However, due to the complex nature of integrating customers, factories, layers of software, people and material handling equipment into one focal operation, various sets of circumstances can never be projected or predicted, just simply encountered.

8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201

Charlotte, North Carolina 28217-3992

Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 1 of 18

replenishment of the full case picking area was the most difficult to overcome. this allowed a huge buffer inventory of case pick to be presented to the pick face to allow additional time for replenishment to arrive. A variety of systems and material handling enhancements were employed to offset a variety of constraints. and higher through-put levels achieved. Deep lane storage systems are typically used as a means to either increase space utilization and/or to support high volume pallet picking operations. distribution center in Fort Mill. case. However. protecting service levels. The major physical upgrade to this process was the installation of a deep lane storage system. SC was a classic example of the above scenario. to enable outbound truck docks to turn quickly. which features the latest in distributed software systems and material handling equipment presented a unique start-up challenge.000 sq. non-conveyable) must arrive at the dock in a collapsed time frame.The start-up of Black & Decker’s new 80. particularly when a run on a SKU within a wave was experienced. The Loadback has allowed for up to 40% of all picks to come from a condensed area which required less replenishment travel time and physically concentrated the workforce in the department for more effective supervision. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 2 of 18 . Due to the synchronous nature of the various processes. As new products and order types were added to the mix. ft. a deep lane storage system with additional pushback rack was erected as pick faces for a pick to belt module. all pick types (pallet. In effect. The highly automated facility. repack. an array of obstacles and bottlenecks kept surfacing and moving from process to process as the operation strived to maintain a synchronized balance with rapidly changing workload complexions and order profiles. 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte. In this unique application. while simultaneously maximizing transportation dollars (see Figure 1).

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Accessories & Household Products Hampstead. Black & Decker was composed of five unique divisions operating out of fourteen different distribution locations. while looking for ways to reduce costs within the distribution and transportation areas. Single Division Distribution Locations Pacoima. At this point in time. OK Kwikset Chicago. NC (Triangle) Household Products Raleigh. NC (Longs) Household Products Raleigh. Accessories & Household Products Black & Decker had successfully operated within this framework for years. in the North American consumer products arena. CA Price Pfister(Plumbing supplies) Anaheim. IL Price Pfister Morrow. GA Price Pfister Raleigh. Accessories Mexico City. Coupled with the 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte. Mexico Power Tools & Household Products Brockville. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 4 of 18 . MD Power Tools Multiple Division Distribution Locations Rancho Cucamonga. CA Kwikset (Locks and supplies) Bristow. Most of these locations served one division only (Figure 2).INTRODUCTION In the summer of 1992. NC (Carolace) Household Products Columbia. MD Power Tools. NC (Millbrook) Household Products Raleigh. CA Power Tools. Canada Power Tools. Black & Decker began examining the idea of consolidating its distribution network.

the Charlotte area was selected to build this east cost DC. After extensive cost modeling and a site search process. This required all repacks. Targets for fill rates and order accuracy were 99. was also factored in as project goals. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 5 of 18 . consolidated shipment of multi-dimensional orders to the same ship-to destination as one shipment was a major design target. pallet picks and non-conveyable picks to arrive at the shipping dock not only for an order but for a planned consolidated outbound truckload.desire to reduce costs. The facility was designed to handle current volumes with anticipated growth: 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte.C. Not only to reduce transportation cost. the decision was made to build a distribution center to increase capacity and at the same time consolidate several smaller facilities to reduce the overall cost. while D. and order turnaround time within the D. the launching of the De Walt product line in the early 1990”s increased throughput pressures on the network and strained it to the breaking point. order accuracy. Construction in Fort Mill began in November 1993. but for ease of customer request of a Black & Decker shipment.5%. To meet these challenges. the North American distribution network took the first step toward a bi-coastal multi-divisional strategy (see Figure 3). Also. a long term distribution strategy was developed: • large bi-coastal DC’s • consolidate all 5 business divisions • selective automation • highly systematized In mid-1993. case picks. order turnaround was to be reduced to within 24 hours.C. Enhanced service in terms of fill rates. Thus.

000 Inbound trailers 70 Outbound trailers 120 SKUs 12.000 Equipment Selection Loose Carton Picking Conveyor Full Pallet Picking Loose Unit Picking 3 tiered 3 pallets deep picking modules (Unarco) 3 miles of accumulation (Rapistan) 2 shoe sorters (Rapistan) VNA wire guidance (Raymond) Turret and reach trucks (Raymond) Single deep pallet rack (Ridg-U-Rak) Bulk floor storage Carousels and carton flow rack (Raymond) Systems Architecture Highly Integrated Transportation Planning System (TPS) . All equipment was installed by mid-November.routing shipments Warehouse Management System (WMS) .000 Full pallet picks 3. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 6 of 18 .Daily Requirements: Orders 10. Integration testing lasted through January 1995. Equipment began to be installed in July 1994.000 square feet Operating Design Criteria . On January 30.planning work within the DC Distribution Control System (DCS) .12.sorter and conveyor control A detailed illustration of the system hardware and a total distribution system information flow chart are highlighted in Figure 4 and 5 respectively. 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte.000 Loose repack units 140.000 Pickfaces 15.carousel control Sortation Control System (SCS) . The building was completed by September.000 Loose conveyable cartons 100.000 . 1995.Building Design Criteria Footprint Height Receiving Shipping Office Space 776.000 square feet 32 feet clear 26 doors 34 doors 17. the Fort Mill DC received its first of orders and the real fun began. Inventory was being moved into the building starting in November.

8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte.4gb Solid state Open VMS 6. • WAN Oversized to Support Timing Requirements and for Responsive XWindows Traffic Between Towson and Fort Mill.1.Technology Infrastructure (Figure 4) Service Platform Project Start 2 x Digital Axp 7620 1gb Memory 24gb Conventional 700m Solid state Open VMS 6.16 7. FDDI Backbone.2 Storage Operating System Database Terminals and PC’s Radio Frequency Subsystem Local Area Network Wide Area Network Comments: Oracle Version Oracle Version 7.2 100 VT420 100 VT420 CRT’s CRT’s 20 PC’s 10 PC’s 75 Vehicle 81 Vehicle 12 Handheld 38 Handheld Designed by Digital.1 Now 2 x Digital Axp 8460 2gb Memory 62gb Conventional 1. • Performance and Usage Driven Upgrade from 190mhz CPU’s to (6) 300mhz CPU’s (500% Increase in Power). North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 7 of 18 .3. • All Production Disks are Host Mirrored with Some Controller Based Stripe Sets. • Open VMS Chosen for Clustering and Stability.0. Cabletron Active Components T-1 Datalink with ISDN Dial Backup • Two Platforms with Primary and Development that also Serve as Failover Targets.

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Systems. Due to the large retail sales in the months preceding the holiday season. And then January 30th arrived… 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte. The last 25% would wait until May for transition. After that “piece” was digested. Only Household would be handled in February to allow any bugs to be worked out of the system. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 9 of 18 . it was decided to make the first transfer in late January or early February . Because of this spiking in the latter part of the year.FACILITY START UP During the two year time period from conceptual design to the first order being shipped. implementation and start up for the building.the lowest volume of the year.000 SKU’s Pick to Belt: 4. The Household Products Group was selected to be transferred first due to its simpler processing and handling requirements. system and people. equipment. (See Figure 6 for SKU breakdown by division). another would be moved into the new building.000 Double High) Repack : 8. Design Assumptions: Active SKU’s (Figure 6) Business Unit Household Products Power Tools Accessories TOTAL SKU’s 300 2500 5600 8300 85. Only a portion of the total business would be transferred into Fort Mill at a time. This would allow the summer for all problems to be worked through in anticipation for the holiday shipping months. equipment or other problems could also be worked out at lower volume levels with lesser impact on customers. June. A small Portion (about 25%) of the Power Tool and Accessory business would be moved in March due to the quarter end occurring that month. the bulk of the remaining Power Tool and Accessory business would be moved.00 Storage Locations (33. The fewer SKUs were involved and all processing was done in either full carton or full pallet increments with the volume split roughly between the two. September and December. heavy volume occurs September through December. This plan outlined and tracked every detail about the facility plan. a detailed start up plan was developed.000 SKU’s Non-Convey: 300 SKU’s The phased approach was designed to allow a steady stream of people to be hired and trained rather than a large amount all the one time. Black & Decker’s business volume varied throughout the occurred in quarterly cycles with peak shipping occurring in March. During the low month of April. That transfer of inventory and orders was planned to occur in stages.

the new building was designed to work synchronously.20. The system was designed this way to enable the customer to receive one pallet/one shipment even if they ordered a drill bit (not conveyable. Each subsystem will must be independently processed and any deficiencies corrected prior to continuing. The goal was to have all of the items for the order arrive at the shipping dock at the same time. controls and software. It was also for the management team as we learned to manage the building and the flow of work. This was an educated step for many members of the management team. In other words. Everything is new and looks neat and clean. Black & Decker was used to shipping tens of thousands of cartons per day. Although it wasn’t a day to write home about. Capacity barriers at 2. needs repacking). the system is accepted. training and process improvement. After sub-system requirements are satisfied.000 . start-up and testing is a orderly progressive affair normally performed by the vendor with little or no input from the owner. Patterned loosely after previous facilities.000 . it took 50 people 15 hours to ship 30 cartons. • Ramp-Up and Obstacles . For years. a drill (conveyable) and a workmate (not conveyable). These obstacles take on different forms in every new project but they are always there. Most of these problems were corrected without major difficulty. Through the next 12 months. On a daily and hourly basis. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 10 of 18 . below the surface. The total system must then be stress tested for a longer duration.Each sub-system performed as planned and the total integrated system gave every impression of working. When the system appears to be functioning as specified. The purpose of this work is t satisfy the vendor that the system will satisfactorily perform for acceptance tests conducted for the owner. all parts of the building had to flow and work together otherwise. New businesses were brought in and daily capacity increased. 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte. it was all up hill from there. Not a stellar beginning. each one must be integrated with others to prove interface compatibility.5. all sub-systems are tied together to form the total system.000 and 30. volume increased steadily as problem after problem was overcome. Training was not just for the hourly associates. Taking over a major automated Distribution Center when the vendors leave is very much like taking over as Captain of a ship. Problems were encountered in mechanical equipment. Each of these barriers were overcome using a combination of system modifications. at the very least it was a very interesting day. the work load and people in each area had to be examined and balanced to insure that product kept flowing through the building.000 . Finally. However. they did however cause orders not to be completed within the allotted time and the backlog started to grow.As anyone who has ever been through a start up can tell you. ICEBERG EFFECT Debugging. The total system must then be stress tested for short durations and the results documented and deficiencies corrected.10. hopefully not the Titanic. On this day. work from the faster areas had to slow down for the slower area to catch up. obstacles that will cause great pain and suffering are lurking.000 cartons per day were experienced.

The problem was that the waves were too large and lanes were not being filled. However. The Primary sorter has 50 lanes and each lane can hold up to three pallets worth of cartons.The first reaction is to blame the vendor. Hence. The problem is that piece picking is slower than picking full cases and the system did not allow us sufficient visibility into the orders to properly plan the wave. We do have five holding lanes so repacks should theoretically stay five waves ahead. It was decide to reduce and restrict a wave to utilize half of the Primary sort lanes (25 lanes). Repacked cartons posed its own set of problems. you are only going to get so much through-put out the door. repacks are palletized with full cases. Repacks are stored in 20 horizontal carousels with one associate operating 2 carousels in what we call a “pod”. We contracted Allen Zeiler Technical Consulting (AZTEC) to inspect the material handling equipment and Garr Consulting to probe the Warehouse Management System (WMS). North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 11 of 18 . blame the vendor. why can’t we get more than 25% of the design volume through the system. It almost always involves addition hardware and software and worst of all you have no one to blame but yourself. Unfortunately. We somehow got through the first quarter without making significant changes in this area. The other 25 lanes could then start queuing up the next wave when it was released. Part of the original justification for the project was to reduce freight by consolidating orders. This Is probably the most devastating thing that can happen in a project. Again. Rack was cleared out in the proximity of the PTB area to hold fast ◊ ◊ 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte. starting at the shipping dock and working back all the way to wave planning. Carton Pick to Belt (PTB) was having problems getting replenishments to the pickface in a timely manner. This one adjustment literally increased our through-put by 100% and allowed us to meet projections for the end of the first quarter of 1996. we find we have hit a capacity wall. The vendor comes in and checks the system and sometimes finds a deficiency in the design or maybe the vendor finds the system functioning properly and says the problem must be with other equipment or systems that are interfaced with him. a failure to involve operations personnel in the design and functionality of the system. Very often the vendor says that the system was not designed to handle. It is generally the hardest to change. this area was only producing about 75% of what would be required in the forth quarter and solutions would have to be found. This we termed “flip flopping” as we would flush half the lanes while we filled the other half. then a large repack wave occurs and the next thing you know. There is one thing that many people fail to comprehend and that is that no matter how much brute force you throw at an automated system. It was at this point that we realized we needed help in determining the extent and solutions to our problems. repacks are behind and full carton picking has to be shut down in order for repacks to catch up. at the same time future waves were being released and they had no place to go. some waves will have a small number of repacks and the holding lanes soon become full. • Capacity Wall . process or function in the manner you are requesting. OOPS.The corrective actions were put in place and facility capacity starts to grow and just as we reach our peak months. We stopped and analyzed each bottleneck along the way and made adjustments as follows: ◊ With the queue lanes available we found that we could not release cartons fast enough from the Primary sorter. We looked deeper into how we were using the system. A conveyor circles the carousels with diverts into each pod.

Hard copy packing lists would be replaced by scanners to verify orders. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 12 of 18 . we accomplished the task of getting through the first quarter. total through-put had more than doubled.Rewriting the software for the Replenishment Manager was going to be a fairly large undertaking with limited resources and other software projects that higher priorities. the end of the second quarter was to be about the same as the first quarter. The Team had been observing the changes incorporated in the first quarter to determine what had to be done in the next five months to push the wall back once more. it was determined that there would need to be additional conveyor between the PTB module and the sortation system. The Replenishment Manager (Software) had been written to call for replenishment at the time a wave was planned. The problem was that the third quarter was going to require greater through-put and we had discovered another wall. This flooded the area with product before there was a place to house it. By creating the holding rack (described earlier). Consequently the Replenishment Manager was turned off and replenishments were called for on an emergency basis.moving stock keeping units (SKU’s). This caused last minute problems on the dock and required runners to get the right product to the right Queue lanes in short order. (See Figures 7 and 8). The Repack Area . No-Reads and Mis-Picks .This area needed to become more ergonomically friendly and designs were submitted to rearrange the area reusing most of the existing conveyor. This had its own set of problems in that some waves would call for more product than a pallet flow lane could hold and then the associate would be waiting for product to complete the wave. This helped gain through-put but created a lot of double handling. With the quick fixes that we implemented in the first quarter. The following Items were approved as projects: • Replenishment is the Culprit . • • • • 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte. This was not working and it was decided that no-read and mis-picks would be rejected earlier in order to re-label or re-pick and accelerate the cartons return to the sortation system. The reject for the secondary should convey to a point just upstream from the scanner where an associate could take corrective action and re-induct the carton. It was determined that about 180 feet of additional accumulation conveyor would have to be installed to handle the volume.It was determined that if all the real problems were being taken care of at the Primary reject.Cartons being conveyed out of the pick modules were not being rejected until they were on the loading dock. No-Reads at the Secondary Sort (Palletizing lanes) . Totes would be purchased allowing consistency in the size of footprints being conveyed to reduce jams. It was determined that addition racking could be added to the existing flow rack and gain an additional five pallet positions for a total of eight pallets deep. Additional Queuing Conveyor . Fortunately.Bu putting the fast movers in the deep lane picking system. The best available solution appeared to be changing a portion of the current three deep pallet flow pickfaces to a deeper controlled flow pickface.

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the time between wave planning and picking sometimes became lengthy. A top priority that was needed for a wave being picked could be superseded by a “phantom” top priority from a future wave. At planning was the replenishment release point. it envisioned and designed so that the replenishment would arrive at the pickface the exact moment that it was needed. Although the time period between wave release and wave picking was short.000 picks across 8 hours. A lofty goal.00 cartons per day. As resources were focused on these high demand locations. Also. Once production planning was smoothed out to spread the work across the day. this became a serious problem. The system had stabilized at 45. and then they would turn as high as 10 times per day. Priorities also became meaningless. Yet the replenishments would be released when the wave was planned and associates would begin working them. The replenishments had to be released for work at one of these points to keep it in synch with the wave. during the second quarter pallet picking and receiving activity has been low. Upon analysis. This resulted in a lot of stock outs. the system would achieve rates of 65-70. Instead of spreading the 3.000 to 50. At closing and picking were too late for the replenishment to arrive when needed. at picking and at closing. When the replenishment module was written for WMS. The systems would group orders together to minimize shipping costs and maximize productivity.NEW CAPACITY WALL DISCOVERED During the second quarter the above enhancements were ordered and installed. However. and has masked the depth of the replenishment problem. There are four major control points on the life of a wave: at planning. making these product moves to the pickface the best task for virtually all rolling equipment. To accomplish this feat. at release for picking. This fact was aggravated by the Transportation Planning System (TPS) and WMS. The system would group all the picks for one SKU within one wave. another rock emerged from the lower lake. Replenishments were not being released and worked in a logically sequential fashion. Work-around plans had to e established and cut over mythologies employed. 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte. It was physically impossible for replenishments to keep up. allowing the system to muscle replenishments. It was decided that at releasing and at picking were too close together to allow time for the replenishment to be accomplished. at the higher sustained volumes. Another unfortunate side effect happened when these high demand days occurred and replenishments could not keep up for the locations. all the picks would be grouped into the same 30 minute wave. Unfortunately. It was anticipated that with the new equipment. When a location was projected to go bellow empty. the replenishment had to be “worked on” before the product was picked. we began to see continued floor cuts on certain SKU’s throughout the day.000 cartons per day. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 15 of 18 . the replenishment would be bumped to top priority. the resources were frequently pulled from other tasks causing stock outs to occur in normal locations. This caused a lot of product to arrive at the pickface too early. we found that some location would historically turn once a week until the upsurge in demand.

A Loadbank deep lane system was erected as pickfaces at a pick to belt module. this created by the Transportation Planning System. As problems are resolved and bottlenecks eliminated. and as consistent operating levels were approached. This included: • Producing Planning . a threepronged approach was agreed upon to solve the problem. 33 Feet Long Width: 4 Feet. and closer to optimal performance levels continuously lower the water.Enhancements were made to the pick wave planning process which would balance the demand for a SKU within parameters to prevent “slugging” of pickfaces. no one “fix” would completely correct the situation. This created a buffer inventory case pick stock to be presented to the pickface which protected against stock outs as heavy replenishment quantities were allowed more time to arrive. only to expose new rocks which hinder the flow to the next level. After months of fire fighting. Deep Lane Storage System . THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION An aggregating factor to the inability to predict a new facility’s operating behavior prior to reaching “steady state” is that new issues and obstacles continue to surface along the start-up ramp. Finally. • • Loadbank Deep Lane Pickface System (Figure 9) Structural Dimensions Height: 8 Pallets Deep. With the replenishment problem obviously being created through a culmination of multiple contributing factors.During slower volume days and periods. coupled with lumpy SKU velocity by pick wave.5 inches per Pickface System Height: 28 feet w/ 5 Pallet Levels 3 Picking Levels 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte. 1. the problem with replenishment timing and volatility of SKU became a new capacity wall. As throughput increased and demand requirements doubled.and a change from a pickface stock allocation concept to a simple min/max concept with priority bumping. higher throughput rates. (For Loadbank specs and elevation see Figure 9). it was discovered that replenishment to the case picking area was the remaining limiting factor preventing the operation from obtaining its full operating throughput capacity. (Lumpy demand using an average days worth of stock in one 20 minute wave). Warehouse Management System .Logic changes were made to the replenishment algorithm itself. time phased replenishment strategy. This was caused by the overly complicated designed algorithm which used a future. Specifically changing the strategy from replenishment task creation at time of wave planning to wave release --. the facility could muscle through these problems. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 16 of 18 .

8 OFF 4. high Safety Decking within Lanes will Accommodate Minimum Load = 300 lbs. 15 Push Buttons for Control from discharge end.120 degrees Fahrenheit Unit Load Weight Maximum = 3000 lbs. just simply encountered.2 25. people and material handling equipment into one focal operation. 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte.5 Duration 10 300 CONCLUSION Even with huge amounts of experience. layers of software. and luck most facilities are fortunate to “have their arms around” 75 .1 3. factories. talent. long x 40 in. wide x 52 in. Minimum Air Supply = 80 psi with 2 air drops Controls • Controlled by Cattron System • RI Interface • 3 Decoders of 15 Outputs each • User control Methods: Hand Held Transmitters w/ 4 Digit Activation Code for control from Change. Nominal Load Size = 48 in.80 % of the situations. Due to the complex nature of integrating customers.2 Storage Levels System Capacity Picking Lanes:51 Locations / Level 153 Total possible SKU’s 1224 total Pallet Capacity Pallet Return: 7 Locations / Level 21 Total Lanes Pushback Lanes: 58 Locations / Level = 116 Total possible SKU’s 116 Total Possible SKU’s 348 Total Pallet Capacity • • • • • Working Requirements: Operation at 50 . North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 17 of 18 . various sets of circumstances can never be projected or predicted. vision. Adjustable Timing Circuit: Parameter Min(Sec) Max(Sec) ON 0. conditions and combinations of complications that will be encountered.

as in an example of how unique and new applications and configurations of existing.By taking a well proven and seemingly low tech technology and applying it in a new way. and proven equipment can offer affordable solutions. 8720 Red Oak Boulevard Suite 201 Charlotte. The software enhancements coupled with the deep lane installation resulted in a 20% increase in productivity in the pick to belt operation. and minimal capital investment. we were able to solve a specific and complicated problem in a very high tech environment. North Carolina 28217-3992 Perspectives on Material Handling Practice Page 18 of 18 . with productivity gains.