Warehouse automation improvement numbersOPEX Corporation employs nearly 400 service technicians across North America. Each service region maintains a stock of spare parts, to provide OPEX customers for repairs or preventative maintenance. All parts replenishment requests from OPEX technicians are fulfilled from their centralized parts warehouse located at the OPEX World Headquarters in Moorestown, NJ.

The way it was: manual pick-to-order

Before implementing automation in its warehouse, parts sat on rows of shelving that spanned across 45,000 square feet of warehouse space. Parts were labeled by hand and stored on open racking, with access to anyone passing through the warehouse.

OPEX employed a team of 10 full-time employees whose jobs included filling parts orders and replenishing inventory. Both order fulfillment and replenishment were an entirely manual process. Employees walked aisles and climbed ladders to access items, picking to each individual technician’s order. Parts for orders were pulled and placed into plastic bags which were then labeled by hand and finally packed in boxes and brought to shipping. This time-consuming process often resulted in orders unfilled even after a full eight-hour workday.

In addition to the regular daily picking operation, Nate Wilson, Parts and Shipping Manager, personally handled about 35 top-priority express orders each day. “Those express part orders would be directed to me,” explains Wilson. “Because of the time-sensitive nature of these orders, I would stop what I was doing and handpick each order as it came in and saw to it that it was filled and shipped overnight to the technician.” OPEX quickly realized the need to find a faster and more accurate way to pick parts while reducing costs.

Perfect Pick improves picking for parts order fulfillment

In 2012, OPEX entered the material handling industry with Perfect Pick®, the unique robotic goods-to-person picking technology. As companies around the globe soon realized, Perfect Pick was designed to simplify order fulfillment. It became quite clear to OPEX that it, too, could benefit greatly from its own innovation. The obvious solution was to deploy a Perfect Pick in its warehouse to streamline the labor-intensive and time-consuming picking and replenishing process.

The single-aisle Perfect Pick installed at OPEX securely stores nearly 2,000 SKUs of the most frequently requested spare parts for distribution to its North American field service technicians. This Perfect Pick uses five iBOT®s to deliver parts orders directly to a single operator at the integrated workstation. Additionally, replenishment of inventory occurs using the same workstation, as quickly and easily as the items are picked.

Orders are released from OPEX’s ERP system each day into Cortex™, OPEX’s equipment control system, which manages the inventory stored within Perfect Pick. Cortex guides operators through the picking process to ensure accurate order fulfillment by using a color coordinated pick-to-light system.

“The pick-to-light system made things even easier,” says Lynn Miller, Perfect Pick Operator at OPEX. “We are human, so pick errors may happen, but the integrated pick-to-light system guides you step-by-step with color-coded support. You see a color on the screen, the same color shining on the cell of the tote and a matching indicator light on the workstation. It’s tough to mess up.”

Parts are picked and placed directly into shipping boxes on the OPEX workstation. Once the order is complete, the box is transferred along the conveyor for final shipment. In addition to fulfilling parts orders faster, the installation of Perfect Pick has changed the way express orders are handled. An express order is entered into the system and is prioritized on the pick list, allowing operators to fill those orders seamlessly and without disruption.

“Perfect Pick has made a huge difference in the way we operate,” Wilson explains. “We now only need six full-time workers, which allowed us to redeploy four to other areas within the company.  A job that previously took a full eight-hour day is accomplished in under three hours.”

Not only was OPEX able to accomplish more tasks in less time, it was also able to consolidate its parts storage, providing more warehouse space to accommodate their expanding product assembly area. Perfect Pick’s design takes full advantage of the warehouse’s vertical space.

Wilson adds, “With the efficiency of Perfect Pick, we are not only fulfilling orders faster and more accurately, but we are also able to consolidate shipments to each site, which drives costs down.”

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