Simon & Schuster writes book on distribution

Warehouse improvements allowed Simon & Schuster to synchronize manual processes

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In Simon & Schuster’s new materials handling system, a warehouse control and warehouse management system (WMS) work together with bar code scanning and voice recognition technologies to manage inventory and orders.

Receiving: Simon & Schuster gets close to 100% advance shipment notifications (ASNs) from its printers. Inbound freight is scheduled by appointment and prioritized by criteria such as how well an item is selling. A shipment of a best-selling title, for instance, may be given priority over a replenishment title. About 80% of the inventory received (1) in Riverside arrives in full pallet quantities, although the facility receives some returns and some print-on-demand titles on pallets with mixed SKUs. Pallets are unloaded by lift truck. New titles that have never been stocked before are weighed and measured by the cubing and dimensioning system to create a profile for storage in the WMS. Otherwise, a bar code label accompanying a pallet is scanned to determine a location on the dock where the pallet will be staged (2) for putaway.


Putaway: Once product is staged on the dock, it’s putaway into storage within 24 hours.  Pallets are picked up in the staging area by the swing reach trucks that operate in the very narrow aisle storage areas (3) and are then directed by the WMS to a putaway location. The operator scans a check digit to confirm the putaway location and the pallet is now available in the system. In the current configuration, full cases are picked from lower levels in the storage area while the upper levels are used for reserve storage.

Replenishment: Pick waves are run daily in the WMS system, which also generates replenishment orders throughout the warehouse based on the stock needs in split case (4) and full case picking (5) areas. To replenish the split case picking modules, for instance, the WMS directs an associate to pick the required cartons as if they were any other pick. The cartons are labeled and inducted onto the conveyor system (6) that delivers them to the back side of the pick module for replenishment. 

When it comes to picking, an order may be filled with a full pallet pick (3), split case picks (4), full case picks (5), or a combination of the three. When the WMS creates an order, it will generate tasks in three hierarchies. For instance, if a customer asks for 1,057 books, and there are 1,000 books on a pallet and 10 books to a carton, the system will generate an order for one pallet, five cartons and seven individual picks. The system then synchronizes the picks so that all of the components of that order arrive at the shipping dock (7) at close to the same time by supplying the warehouse control system (WCS) with the carton records for that order. The WCS tracks the cartons and updates the WMS on the status of the order on a real-time basis.

Pallet picking: This is the most straight forward pick. The WMS directs an operator to a pick location (3). Once the operator confirms the pick by scanning a bar code, he is directed to a staging location (8) on the dock.

Carton picking:
The Riverside facility stocks some titles that are perennial bestsellers. These are stocked in a special storage area (9) so they can be picked directly to the conveyor (6). For the remaining titles, picking instructions are delivered by the WMS to the operator on an RF terminal. Cartons are picked to a pallet (5), and an operator may be picking multiple orders for multiple customers. Once the pallet is full, the operator drops it off at a conveyor induction area, where the cartons are loaded onto the conveyor (6). They are conveyed to a quality control area, where the cartons are weighed and compared to a calculated expected weight. Following a bar code scan, each carton is sorted (10) to a pallet building area (11) near the dock. Once the pallet is built, it’s stretch-wrapped and staged (8) on the dock.

Split carton picking:
To initiate picking in the split carton area (4), cartons are automatically erected and labeled with two bar codes that can be scanned on two sides. The empty carton is then sorted by the WCS to the right zone to initiate picking. Picking is directed by the voice system. Once all of the items in the first zone have been picked, the WCS sends the carton by conveyor (6) to other zones until all the items for that carton have been picked. If the pick can’t be completed, the carton will circulate until a title has been replenished or it goes to a quality control area for completion. Once all the items for that carton have been successfully picked, it’s conveyed to the weighing and cubing station. A sorter (12) in between the picking areas and the shipping dock (8) diverts the last carton of every order to a station where the shipping papers are added. The carton is then conveyed to the pallet build area (11). There the pallet is built, stretch-wrapped and married to other components of the order on the dock (8).

Shipping: Once all of the components of an order have been assembled on the dock, they are loaded onto a truck for shipping (7).
Simon & Schuster implements warehouse control system
Read how a warehouse control system and new technology are the heroes at Simon & Schuster’s New Jersey distribution center.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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