United Book Distributors (UBD) is the new warehousing and distribution arm of Pearson Australia Group which accommodates the distribution requirements of Pearson’s three publishing divisions: Penguin, Dorling Kindersley and Pearson Education, as well as a number of domestic and international third party distribution customers.
The UBD operation is a sizeable 20,000 m2 and has a design concept of a co-locating bulk reserve storage area with a three-level picking module via an integrated sortation and conveying system that services all picking requirements in a paperless and real-time environment.
The site has 38,000 pick locations and a further 30,000 long span carton, half pallet and full pallet locations making up the bulk storage area.
Incorporated into the design solution is a Tronics Print and apply machine which both prints and applies labels (with barcodes) to shipping cartons.
And, it is this barcode that is the information source for on site scanners and systems to control all activities associated with order picking and shipping to bookstores around Australia.
Dexion designed and developed the warehouse system, but turned to Tronics for one of the vital nerve centre components … the print and apply label machine.
“We are delighted that the Tronics system was selected because the unit has not missed a beat in delivering consistent and reliable print quality, speed and application outcomes,” UBD warehouse manager Paul Ferguson said.
“Orders are passed from our enterprise application to the warehouse management system and Dexion’s Realtime Distribution Systemwhich manages order induction.
The appropriate size shipping carton is then automatically selected by the system and delivered by conveyor for presentation to the Tronics Print and apply labeller.
With the barcode label applied to the carton (the barcode also carries product and other detail for the freight company) the empty carton then travels via conveyor to the particular warehouse zones with items allocated to the order.
Pick to light and RF technologies are used exclusively to guide staff to product and their locations in completing the order.
On completion of order picking, packing lists and invoices are automatically generated with cartons then passing through two semi-automated void filling stations and automated carton sealing devices.
All exiting cartons pass an integrated and automated check weigher which diverts those that are 100 grams over or under weight into the Quality Control area for examination.
Once closed the carton is conveyed to the despatch sortation loop for transfer to the appropriate region and carrier lane.
While typical monthly throughput sees around 80,000 cartons labelled and shipped, November, the peak month, will see throughput of up to 150,000 - that’s almost 8,000 cartons per day.
“Yes, we had some minor teething problems when the system was commissioned but they were easily fixed,” Paul said.
“The Tronics Print and apply machine is certainly at the centre of our operation because if the labeller stops, the whole warehouse shuts down. Printing and applying 1 million labels a year is no small task … so accuracy, reliability and a consistency of performance is critical,” he added.
Paul was asked if he would change anything about the design or the performance of the print and apply labeller.
“It doesn’t change a thing,” he said.
“It hasn’t missed a beat to date and continues to play an important part in delivering the tremendous efficiency gains we now take for granted,” concluded Paul.
Explaining why the unit performed so well, Scott Foreman of Tronics, said the unit had been custom designed for the job.
“The machine itself is somewhat different to the standard Print and apply machine. This unit has been designed to provide Zero Down Time operation, so even if labels run out or a service error occurs, the machine automatically compensates for the condition and hands operation over to another head for continuous uninterrupted operation.
“With its modular configuration it was easy, and economical, for us to modify a proven design to meet the particular requirements of this high volume line,” Foreman said.