3PLs Increase Productivity with Sky-Trax

New Castle, DE and Lemoyne, PA USA Site Visits
September 20, 2010
Evan Armstrong

Key Personnel:
Bill Conley, Chairman and CEO, Sky-Trax
Larry Mahan, President/COO, Sky-Trax
Bill McDonnell, CFO, Sky-Trax
David Emanuel, Vice President/CIO, Sky-Trax
Sarah Brisbin, Vice President of Marketing, Sky-Trax
Tony West, Vice President of Business Development, Sky-Trax
Matthew Stoner, Operations Manager, GENCO Supply Chain Solutions

Sky-Trax Overview
Sky-Trax was founded in 2004 by three ex-DuPont executives and is a technology solutions provider with a unique application for streamlining warehouse operations. Its “Total-Trax®” system uses a combination of forklift mounted hardware, warehouse location and product barcodes, and software to manage pallet picking, putaway, and inventory replenishment in warehouses. Instead of traditional RF (radio frequency) scanners, digital cameras (sensors) are mounted on the top and front of a forklift. The top camera is pointed up and takes pictures of barcodes mounted on the ceiling of a warehouse (optical position markers) to identify the forklift’s warehouse location. The front mounted forklift camera (or two cameras for warehouses with a lot of double stacked pallets) reads the product barcode on each pallet. This warehouse location and product information is then used by Sky-Trax “OpsMan®”, a visibility tool for tracking vehicles and inventory in real-time, and used by other Sky-Trax software applications to relay information to the forklift truck drivers to ensure that the right product is being picked or putaway from/to the right warehouse location. The Sky-Trax systems components are detailed in the diagram below.

Sky-Trax Automated Warehouse Operations Components

The Sky-Trax system provides users with the ability to have WMS (warehouse management system) directed tasks performed without having forklift drivers’ workflows interrupted to manually scan locations or products. Tasks are performed in a much more efficient manner with less waste; the forklift driver simply drives and follows the onscreen commands. Since the forklift and its driver are tracked throughout the workday and in all warehouse locations, the system captures a large amount of data and has reports that can be used in process improvement events to increase productivity, improve inventory accuracy, and optimize operational performance. Sky-Trax has been integrated with multiple WMS and has a growing customer list which includes: GENCO Supply Chain Solutions, New Zealand based Eastpack, and Saddle Creek Corporation. We had the opportunity to visit one of GENCO’s operations utilizing the Sky-Trax system and it is detailed below.

GENCO Lemoyne, PA Warehouse Case Study
GENCO Supply Chain Solutions has been using the Sky-Trax system to help manage its 200,000 square foot Pinnacle Foods Northeast Distribution Center operation in Lemoyne, PA. The operation runs five days a week with 12 warehouse workers split between two shifts. Approximately 20-25 inbound truckloads of product and orders for 20-25 outbound truckloads of product are processed each day. All product is palletized and approximately 60% is stored in bulk floor warehouse locations and the remainder is stored in two-high conventional racking.

The Sky-Trax system is being used on each forklift and its OpsMan operating system is integrated with GENCO’s “D-Log PLUS” proprietary WMS.

According to GENCO’s Matt Stoner who manages the operation, his forklift operators are very happy with the Sky-Trax system since they no longer have to stop and spend time scanning locations and product for the WMS. Sky-Trax proactively notifies them if they are picking the wrong product or putting product away in the wrong location, so operational failures are avoided.

Matt has seen a direct productivity increase of over 5%, a 12% increase in throughput, and has reduced his headcount by one after deploying the Sky-Trax system. In 2009, the Lemoyne, PA warehousing operation won GENCO’s Contract Logistics Facility of the Year Award.

GENCO has also been utilizing the Sky-Trax system at an Atlanta reverse logistics warehouse since March 2008. In the Atlanta operation, GENCO realized an 18% gain in pallets moved per hour after the first two days of using the Sky-Trax system. Using current operations as a benchmark, the Atlanta operation has achieved a 47% productivity gain and has accomplished a 61% labor reduction in three main operational areas. In addition, the operation is currently running at 100% pallet and location inventory accuracy.

Total-Trax forklift hardware

Bulk storage ceiling position barcodes (markers)

Sky-Trax Solutions Summary
Sky-Trax has a very good solution for high-volume pallet-in/pallet-out warehousing operations. It has been proven at GENCO and other 3PLs where it has been utilized to significantly improve operational performance. We anticipate that its technology will be seen in more and more operations as the word gets out.

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