Overview


Implementing a warehouse design into a facility that was not designed to house a state-of-the-art shipping management system was no easy task, but when the United Stated Marine Corps called upon Invata Intralogistics to create and integrate a warehouse design for the Marine Corps Institute — the Marine Corp’s second largest postal operation, the Invata team rose to the task.

The warehouse automation project  incorporated a serpentine, multi-level conveyor system  linking separate warehouse areas, an automated storage and retrieval system, featuring a horizontal carousel, a sortation systems featuring the small parcel sorter, and order fulfillment systems, featuring a Pick-to-Light System.  The system is directed by Invata’s FastTrak® Warehouse Control System (WCS) with real-time software controls and visualization software, along with Pitney Bowes’s Ascent™ shipping management software.

Situation

America’s modern military relies on cutting-edge technology and top-notch training for its personnel – and a key group of military trainers has come to depend on top civilian warehouse design technology from Invata and Pitney Bowes to keep up with demand for its services.

The Marine Corps Institute (MCI), the center for occupational training and continuing education programs within the U.S. Marine Corps, recently completed the installation of an Invata and Pitney Bowes warehouse design that enables 24-hour turnaround on orders that previously took days or even weeks to fulfill.

The new warehouse design ensures that order fulfillment no longer keeps Marines in the field waiting longer than necessary. Every order that we receive now goes out the next day, without exception.
Capt. Stephens, USMC

Opportunity

One of the many duties of the Marine Corps Institute is to distribute books and other printed materials all over the world for use by Marines pursuing educational requirements and opportunities through correspondence courses and distance-learning programs. On any given day, MCI receives roughly 2,000 orders for course materials, ranging from requests for the large stacks of books used in officers’ career education programs to relatively slim “red books” detailing proper usage and care instructions for weapons and other pieces of equipment.

To process all those orders, the Marine Corps Institute maintains the Marine Corps’ second-largest postal operation, staffed by 28 Marines and two civilians. “Even so,” said Capt. Stephens, “until the implementation of the warehouse design earlier this year, the order volume combined with an antiquated system that required outbound shipments to be hand-sorted according to ZIP code sometimes overwhelmed the dedicated personnel.”

Warehouse Design - Pick-to-Light

The warehouse design incorporated pick-to-light technology to enhance red book fulfillment process.

To illustrate the problem, Capt. Stephens recalled his own experience while stationed in the Pacific, prior to landing his MCI assignment. After ordering a set of officers’ training books, he waited more than three months for delivery. “When they finally arrived, I’d been reassigned and I wasn’t even in Okinawa anymore.”

Warehouse Design Solution

Warehouse Design - Small Parcel Sorter

The warehouse design included a a series of small parcel sorters connected by an extensive, multi-level conveyor system joining various warehousing areas within the facility.

The new warehouse design combines Invata’s FastTrak automated order selection, sorting, and conveyor system with Pitney Bowes’s Ascent™ shipping management software. Orders received through postal mail or the MCI Web site are fed into Ascent, which then directs the fulfillment system to retrieve materials from one or both warehouse sections of the MCI post office to fulfill the order. Ascent automatically generates shipping labels for each order. Bar-code readers assist in sorting all shipments by ZIP code and in verifying that order contents are correct and complete.

One of the challenges Pitney Bowes and Invata had to overcome to set up the new warehouse design was fitting the sophisticated conveyor/scanner hardware into the MCI logistics center. The historic Navy Yard building was categorically not designed to house a state-of-the-art shipping management system. Space considerations had necessitated MCI to store its inventory in two separate sections of the building: one for textbooks and other materials that must be shipped as small parcels, and another for “red books” and other materials that can be shipped in pouches or smaller packages.

Pitney Bowes and Invata’s warehouse designers nevertheless devised a serpentine, multi-level conveyor track system and sorting carousel that links the separate warehouse areas within the relatively small space. The warehouse design fully supports the common need to combine materials from both warehouses in a single shipment.

Warehouse Design - Carousel AS-RS

Horizontal carousels were included in the warehouse design for enhanced storage and retrieval of printed materials.

Warehouse Design Results

Warehouse Design - Conveyor System

Due to the challenging nature of the existing warehouse facility, the conveyor system in this warehouse design was serpentined through walls.

The new Invata warehouse design has provided welcome relief for the staff of the MCI fulfillment center, eliminating backlogs and freeing staff members to do more of the other official duties that fall to MCI personnel, such as serving as ceremonial honor guard and parade staff at official White House events.

“But the biggest benefit of the new Invata warehouse design,” said Capt. Stephens, “is the way it benefits Marines on assignment around the globe, including those in combat duty. There’s no question about it,” he said, “the new fulfillment system is definitely making things better for Marines in combat right now.”

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