Giant Eagle: Putting food on the table

Mobile robots keep product flowing at Giant Eagle’s retail support centers
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
June 01, 2013 - MMH Editorial

Giant Eagle
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Size: 440,000 square feet
Products: Dry grocery
Employees: 400
Shifts: 3 shifts a day/7 days per week

At its Pittsburgh retail support center, Giant Eagle’s materials handling system uses a variety of automated technologies to keep product flowing through the facility. 

When an inbound truck arrives at the receiving dock (1), the merchandise in the trailer has already been received in Giant Eagle’s warehouse management system (WMS) through an advanced ship notice. A receiver verifies the delivery by scanning the license plate bar code label on each pallet in the staging area (2). Once the pallet is verified and tagged, the WMS identifies a storage location in the reserve storage area (5).
Storage: The facility manages three storage processes, depending on where the product will be stored.

• Robotic industrial truck putaway: Robotic industrial trucks are used to move two pallets at a time from a robot start area (3) to end-of-aisle drop points (4) in the reserve storage area (5). The mobile robots are primarily used for the longest hauls and currently deliver to 14 locations. To initiate this process, a team member scans the license plate bar code label on the pallets using a scanner mounted on the robot. The drop location for the pallets is displayed on a screen. The team member enters the start, drop and end location into the robot’s control system with a keypad on the robot. The mobile robot knows the route (6) associated with that pallet and proceeds to a designated drop zone (4). A bar code reader on the robot reads the pallet label as the mast is being lowered to drop off the pallets. That notifies a team member in that area that the pallet is available for putaway into a storage location in reserve storage (5). When the team member scans the license plate bar code label, the WMS directs him to the correct reserve storage location for that pallet. 

• Conventional putaway: In addition to robotic putaway, team members are also assigned to the receiving area for conventional putaway processes to picking and storage locations in reserve storage (5) near the receiving dock. When the team member scans the license plate bar code label on a pallet, the WMS directs him to the correct storage location.

• AS/RS putaway: Giant Eagle uses its automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) (7) to store slow-moving items and to build up an inventory of seasonal items. The WMS identifies items destined for the AS/RS during the receiving process. Once the pallet has been verified, the team member delivers it directly to the induction station for the AS/RS, where it is automatically put into a storage location.

Picking: Orders are picked for specific stores and are directed by a voice picking solution. Team members receive their picking instructions over their head sets. They speak a check digit to confirm that they are at the right location and then pick to double pallet handling pallet jacks.

Packing and shipping: Pallets are manually stretch-wrapped and staged (2) on the shipping dock. When a team member scans the license plate bar code label, the WMS directs him to the right trailer. The team member can then scan either the right or left hand side of the truck for loading (8).

System suppliers
Robotic industrial trucks: Seegrid,
Lift trucks: Raymond,; Yale Materials Handling,
Pallet rack: Frazier,
Double pallet jacks: Raymond,; Yale Materials Handling,
Stretch wrap: Manual stretch wrapping
Bar code scanning: Motorola,
Automated storage and retrieval system: Dematic (HK Systems),
Claw attachment: Tygard Machine & Manufacturing,
Warehouse Management System: Manhattan Associates,
Voice-directed picking: Vocollect,

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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