How Normerica Grew Productivity While Keeping OpEx Low
High volume manufacturers like premium pet product leader Normerica rely on strong supply chains for their products to swiftly reach retailers around North America. At just one of their warehouses, personnel load 60 trucks per day with up to 26 pallets each. Time and traceability are of the essence.
Over the years the extra time involved in handheld barcode scanning for palletized shipments had become more and more prohibitive for Normerica. Pallets had to get out the door quickly. The company was managing higher and higher inventory turns, to over 40 a year. When forklift drivers are constantly delayed by having to get off trucks to scan, and sometimes missing scans altogether, it becomes impossible to manage lean inventories.
“We want to maintain that product velocity without slowing people down,” explains Simon Than, who has been working as Normerica’s supply chain and IT systems consultant for 12 years. “We want to grow the business, but don’t necessarily want to grow square footage.”
The company was already working with warehouse technology solutions provider Portable Intelligence for warehouse management software and shipment labeling. Together, Normerica and Portable Intelligence pursued innovative tracking solutions. It was easy to rule out handheld scanning, with the cost in personnel hours, lost speed, and potential scanning errors. They considered RFID tracking solutions but found the cost to be too high in terms of hardware, setup, and tags. (In tags alone, $.10 per RFID tag would be $156 daily for those 60 shipments, or around $50,000 a year.) A vision system, then, made the most sense for promising and shortest payback, it was easy-to-deploy, offered real-time scanning automation and visibility, and required no operator intervention.
Artemis Vision’s RaPTr scanning system neatly interfaced with Portable Intelligence’s solution. It was ready to install within days. And it provides the ability for forklift drivers to pass through warehouse checkpoints without ever having to get off or stop the forklift. In Normerica’s case, as the drivers pass through dock doors onto trucks, the system automatically records ship transactions and confirms product is loaded to the correct truck with immediate feedback to drivers. The system takes an image capture of every scanned pallet and stores all data in a database. This means if there’s ever a dispute over a shipment, shipping managers can pull up timestamped data with photographic proof.
And now, without slowing down personnel or product to scan, 25 minutes per load is saved – 60 times per day. Normerica now can ship more trucks per day with the same amount of labor. Product velocity is soaring, without the need for a combined investment in more square footage and dock doors and the drivers, forklifts, and handheld scanners to serve them. All those investments require not only upfront cash but the ongoing operational expenditures to sustain them.
Normerica now plans to roll out the system to their other three facilities and expects to generate at least hundreds of thousands in savings with increased worker productivity and reduced compliance fines.
“We’ve started with something that’s never been done before here and now we have a working solution that can be deployed to all our other facilities,” says Than. “Working with Artemis Vision has been great. They’ve come to the table with a lot of great ideas, and turnaround with any enhancements has been very quick. The teams at Artemis Vision and Portable Intelligence have been excellent partners on the project.”
For Normerica, their mission of delivering quality to our furry friends and the people who care for them has become that much more efficient.