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NorthShore Care Supply is a national direct-to-consumer and e-commerce supplier of high-absorbency adult diapers and incontinence supplies throughout North America, mostly available under its private NorthShore label. As part of the company’s growth, NorthShore has shifted many of its supply chain and logistics functions to a fulfillment center that allows it to meet on-demand customer and shipping requirements.
The brand has undergone significant expansion, growing over 30% per year since 2017. Because NorthShore distinguishes itself with same-day shipping options, it had to invest in a bigger and faster facility. In 2020, the company completed a new 173,000 square-foot warehouse that required upgrades to processes and automation equipment.
Compounding that need was a sudden and drastic increase in demand; customers were now purchasing six to 12 months of supply at a time due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
NorthShore turned to systems integrator Numina Group, which brought in Waypoint Robotics to help automate part of its workflows to meet demand without compromising quality. Using Numina Group and Waypoint’s warehouse automation expertise, NorthShore looked to improve speed, accuracy, and safety, while minimizing potential fulfillment issues with demand swings.
To accomplish this, NorthShore added Waypoint’s autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and Numina Group’s Advanced RDS Voice Picking System, a warehouse execution and control application, to multiply output while retaining the existing workforce.
NorthShore began using Vector AMRs equipped with Kingpin top modules to pick up high-capacity custom carts that workers use in the picking process. The Kingpin add-on enables the Vector AMRs to automatically load and unload payloads, as well as connect to the high-capacity carts. This speeds up order fulfillment while saving workers from having to handle extremely heavy carts and walk long distances to pick orders from throughout the warehouse.
To optimize picking workflows, Numina’s specialized RDS system was used to connect the in-house order management system to the AMRs. The Numina RDS systems use real-time customer orders to direct the AMRs and people throughout the warehouse, for loading and transporting carts from the pick aisles to the pack stations. The functionality enables workers to pick in a designated area within the warehouse, while AMRs continuously travel to their locations and transport carts until all orders are depleted at each site. To ensure that the robots are always ready, the AMRs autonomously charge at nearby EnZone wireless charging stations throughout the day.
Just months after deploying the AMRs and voice-picking system, NorthShore has seen measurable results. By optimizing replenishment, receiving, picking, packing, putaway and cycle counting, the company has made a 100% improvement in efficiency in outbound boxes per labor hour. Workers tripled order-picking throughput when they moved from manual push carts to picking with the Waypoint Vector AMRs, Kingpin, EnZone wireless chargers, Numina system, and high-capacity custom carts.
“There’s been a lot of benefits that NorthShore has seen by integrating the Waypoint Vector AMRs with our custom-designed carts into our picking operation,” says NorthShore chief executive officer Adam Greenberg. “They’re smart, they know where to go, and how to get there. Like a really good Swiss watch, everything shows up at the right time and at the right place.”
Overall, NorthShore doubled output with a 99.9% accuracy rate. And with NorthShore workers still playing a vital role in optimizing the picking, packing and automation processes, the company anticipates an additional 25% to 50% improvement in operational efficiency.
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