Invata Intralogistics designed, supplied all the materials for, and installed a new warehouse storage system for one of the world’s largest medical devices and supplies manufacturers.
Located in Panama City, Panama, the 82,000 sq. ft. warehouse storage system was designed to handle medical devices, medical supplies, and consumer goods for local order fulfillment in Panama as well as distribution throughout the entire Latin America (LATAM) region.
The new system adheres to strict rules in regard to segregation of inventory between in-country and out-of-country operations as well as other regulations governing distribution of medical supplies. Included in the build out was high-density storage, selective racking, dynamic storage, order selection equipment, order assembly equipment, a thermal curtain wall, automatic roll-up doors, fork truck safety barriers, and control access barriers at the docks.
Invata had a great deal of experience working with this client on US and Canadian warehouse storage system projects and also had a great deal of experience installing warehouse automation systems for other clients throughout LATAM.
At the same time, a shift in demand for the company’s larger, bulky, medical products was transforming the healthcare products provider’s operation from a case-in-the-door/piece-out-the-door warehouse storage system to the addition of a pallet-in/case-out system.
Given that, the decision was made to move their operations to a larger facility. The questions were: How much larger? And what kind of equipment would best satisfy the needs of the new warehouse storage system?
New processes had to be designed for receiving, put away, replenishment, picking, packing, and shipping. In addition, the new warehouse storage system needed to be compatible with the capabilities of the ERP/WMS system already in use in the company, and it had to utilize a lot control/serialization methodology in all storage and order fulfillment strategies. The system also had to make efficient use of the local labor resources and leverage the capabilities of the client’s JD Edwards ERP.
The challenge was to determine how big the new warehouse storage system needed to be. Before that there had to be an agreement reached on the kind of racking systems, handling systems, environmental systems, and security systems would go into the facility. Invata was given data on existing sales and inventory levels as well as a list of the company’ s objectives for the new operation. These objectives included:
- Minimize reliance on labor where cost justifiable
- Provide temperature controlled storage for certain items
- Maintain first expiration first out (FEFO) processing for all lot controlled items
- Accommodate projected demand increases through the next seven years
- Accommodate increased inventory levels in accordance with inventory turn targets for the new demand levels
Once the data was delivered and objectives were clearly defined, Invata set forth on an analytics effort that would be used to establish the design criteria for the new warehouse storage system. Once the analytics effort established the design criteria, Invata was able to develop a prototype design of the new facility.
The prototype was then used as the basis for a real estate search for a potential site. Once a suitable building was found, Invata modified the prototype design to accommodate the particulars of the actual structure.
Warehouse Storage System Solution
The new warehouse storage system works in the following manner:
Containers of medical products are received into the facility in ocean and airfreight containers from distribution and manufacturing facilities in North America and Europe. These containers are floor loaded (not on pallets), so received goods must be manually handled upon entry into the facility. As goods are received, they are segregated into three groupings: single/like item or unitary pallets (single lot/SKU), unitary cases, and mixed cases.
The warehouse storage system itself consists of variety of storage media and items are put away depending on their physical characteristics and overall inventory level:
- Unitary pallets are moved directly via forklift into reserve locations consisting of selective racking or push back racks.
- Unitary cases are sorted by storage aisle, then put away via order picker vehicle in either hand stack locations or case flow racks, depending on their associated activity levels.
- Mixed cases go through an opening, inspection, and sorting process before being put way. Once sorted loose items from mixed cases are placed on shelf locations in pick aisles.
There is an extensive temperature controlled area for pharmaceutical products that could be damaged by long-term exposure to the Panamanian heat. Insulated curtain walls are used in the warehouse storage system to keep the cool air in and the inventory protected. At either end of the climate-controlled storage, automatic doors allowed forklift drivers to pass unimpeded making the area transparent operationally.
Picking for unitary pallets is done from the selective and push back racks with forklifts. Unitary cases and mixed case shipments are batch picked to carts and then moved to the packing area. Once packing is completed, shipments are staged for courier pickup. Out of country shipments are palletized or containerized for sea or air shipment.
Results of Warehouse Storage System Implementation
The Invata designed 82,000 square foot warehouse storage system enabled this global healthcare products giant to successfully meet its growth expectations for the LATAM region. It minimized labor dependency and enhanced both the facility’s inventory storage capacity and it’s picking and packing capacity. It enabled first expiration first out (FEFO) processing for all lot-controlled items and seamlessly tied-in all processing with the existing ERP and WMS systems.
The system included high-density storage, selective racking, dynamic storage, order selection equipment, order assembly equipment, a thermal curtain wall, roll-up doors, and fork truck safety barriers. To ensure warehouse security, Invata also provided control access barriers at the docks and in the temperature controlled area.
The installation of the warehouse storage system was completed on time, meeting a critical timeline and all local regulatory requirements. The success of this design lead to an Invata designed warehouse storage system in another distribution center for the same client in Santiago, Chile just a sort time later.