In order to meet customer demands and their service expectations, tire suppliers need to rely heavily on their warehouses to use the most advanced processes to ensure the end consumer is given a high-quality experience and product when they need it. These cutting-edge processes are taking the tire industry to the next level. In doing so, we have officially reached the next era of tire distribution innovation.
Current trends are showing the importance of moving from manual systems to automation in the warehouse in order to improve overall quality of the order fulfillment process, achieve 100% tractability and accuracy, all while reducing costs, human error and damage to product. Fortunately for all distribution facilities, these standards can be reached in not only newly constructed (Greenfield) warehouses, but in older, existing (Brownfield) facilities that still use manual processes
Fully Automated Tire Handling Approach
Many robotic manufacturers have begun to offer fully automated handling solutions for tire manufacturing and distribution, which is a benchmark of the new era. A single end-to-end material handling solution with an optimized layout design can utilize 50% less floor space than conventional solutions, and handles raw materials and compound products. Additionally, an automated handling solution has the capability of integrating with shipping trailers, conveyor systems, automatic tire identification systems, AGV systems and other specialty equipment and can generate cost savings of up to 50% by simplifying the material flow.
Innovation at Work
Automated handling solution providers have given the global tire industry a solution that has proved to meet goals and exceed expectations. For example, the largest tire distribution and consumer goods retailer in Canada needed to build its new tire distribution center with automation capabilities in order to service the central Canadian market: Ontario, Quebec and part of Western Canada.
Creating a facility with automated systems and gantry robot technology integrated throughout allows for a smoother overall process and real-time traceability along the way. The retailer now has the capability to receive tires at the distribution center in trailers, transfer them on a conveyor system and ultimately bring them to the automation process. Tires are automatically identified and then reconciled with the trailer manifest. They are then entered into the gantry automation where they are cross docked, or palletized by like product for put away into a high bay storage area for future gantry replenishment. Electronic orders are communicated to the automation system via the Warehouse Management System (WMS), which directs the gantries to pick those orders and place them in outbound stations. From there, they are pushed to the outbound doors and sent to the retail store.
A fully automated tire handling solution approach has immediately given the Canadian company the advantage of having the ability to handle tires on demand on a daily basis, and much larger peak volumes when special store promotions are run. It has also decreased the likelihood of product damage and improved worker ergonomics— in both health and safety. Additionally, the distribution center achieves a high level of accuracy in tracking tires through the facility and has rapid order fulfillment with reduced level of errors. The advanced software provides total control of the material and data flow as well as allows for precise, real-time data to be gathered ensuring intelligent decision making for production and inventory management.
Getting a Head Start
Manufacturers and distributors looking to get ahead of the competition should seek to automate their facilities— old and new. By doing so, they will be able to gain:
- Total control of the manufacturing/distribution processes at each stage.
- Real-time data for inventory management, including 100% availability of product at each point in the handling process.
- Optimum utilization of the automation, to secure the ability to satisfy demands and return on investment.
- Streamlined material flow that allows facilities managers to minimize buffering and maximize efficiency.
- Minimized capital investment for Greenfield sites through optimized layout design.
- More efficient use of space and increased capacity within given building constraints in Brownfield sites.
A Solution for Everyone
Keeping up with current trends is never an easy task. It can appear to be costly, overwhelming and, at times, seemingly difficult to justify. However, it is impossible to meet rising customer demands when not using proper, up-to-date automation and innovation. So as we enter this new era, it is important to upgrade your processes and technology.
Analysis often proves that the way to do this is by building an entirely new facility. Robotic solution providers have changed the game again by now offering automated systems that streamline the manufacturing process for both Greenfield and Brownfield facilities. The unique solutions are tailored for each manufacturing and distribution process, which can be installed in new and existing plants as either a one-time deployment or independently through a scalable and phased implementation.
Automating your warehouse will ensure your product keeps on rolling to market.
Don Heelis is a mechanical engineer and senior systems sales manager for Cimcorp, a manufacturer and integrator of turnkey robotic gantry-based order fulfillment and tire handling solutions. With more than 25 years of experience, Heelis helps customers develop fully automated systems that increase efficiency, accuracy and throughput for warehouses and distribution centers around the world.