Case Study: Retail and E-commerce Fulfillment Center

A nationwide, specialty retailer of novelty and unique consumer products asked Compass Engineering for help to expand and update an existing fulfillment center, plus address needs pertaining to shipping, sorting, and error diagnostics.

THE CHALLENGE:

When undertaking an expansion and update of the company’s existing distribution facility, Compass Engineering had to address issues concerning picking, packing, returns, slappers, and shipping. Additionally, the operation sought Compass Engineering’s services to implement power distribution and data conduits as required by the new conveyor system and its peripherals. Operations management also wanted a graphical interface that could be used for system solutions diagnostics.

Some of the system faults Compass Engineering was asked to address were:

  • Active E-stop device and location by conveyor/area
  • Motor overload by individual motor
  • Lane full statuses (pick modules, ship lanes, etc.)
  • Low air pressure fault
  • Jams at all applicable divert points, sort points, and merge points
  • Functional area running/stopped status

THE STRATEGY:

To provide a modern, reliable controls and software system, Compass Engineering recommended a sophisticated, yet straightforward, architecture plan and graphical monitoring system to address the above concerns. Some of the strategies implemented include:

  • Compass Order Routing System (CORS) to provide supervisory control and system diagnostics in real-time
  • Product routing control utilizing a programmable logic controller (PLC) device
  • CORS/Wonderware integration to provide on-screen graphical systems information
  • Electrical installation and wiring of all devices

THE SOLUTION:

A new controls architecture facilitated three levels of functionality: the warehouse management system, the order routing system, and the mechanization of control. The CORS control and PLC logic provided by Compass Engineering worked together to direct all product routing within the fulfillment center and continuously assessed these three different areas.

To meet the company’s specific needs, the CORS system connected multiple series of computers via a local area network (LAN) to enable information sharing. The CORS server sends real-time data to the PLC, providing fast and accurate transmission of control system information. For error handling, the graphics provided by Compass Engineering depicted the physical conveyor layout—as well as text-based error logging—to provide management with an accurate and detailed analysis of the fault.

Compass Engineering ultimately provided controls hardware design, computer aided design (CAD) work, PLC programming, CORS design and programming, electrical installation and wiring of all field devices, commissioning of all the new and relocated conveyors, system acceptance testing, and customer training to ensure the new distribution center achieved optimal performance.

THE END RESULT:

Upon project completion, the facility had a new solutions control system. With state-of-the-art technologies and Compass Engineering’s intuitive approach, enabling the company to achieve increased efficiency, production, and profits.  

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