Blog post by Ryan Goad, Controls Engineer
A couple of years ago, we completed a major retrofit of a database at a garment distribution facility. In the last few months, we’ve gone back and made a few tweaks to the system. Making periodic upgrades can help make the system a little more robust, add new functionality, alleviate some operator involvement, and help in maintaining the system as well.
The examples below show how such minor upgrades to an existing system can be a great benefit in the long run in the life of the system.
Added Robustness of the system
There was a high number of garments being “rejected” by the system due to the barcode readers not picking up the barcodes on some of the different garments types. To combat this, more barcode readers were added to allow for the system to handle the different placements of the barcodes on the garments. This allows the system to read all of the different garments inducted and reduce the number of rejected garments.
Added New Functionality
On rush orders, where garments are supposed to be through the distribution center quickly, a bottleneck was noticed at one of the sorters. To counteract this, an application was developed to allow selected trolleys of garments to bypass the sorter, essentially virtualizing the sortation process for these garments. This allows for those selected garments to be expedited through the distribution center more quickly.
Added Diagnosis/ Maintenance Help
Any garment pins that are bent can lead to garments slipping back a pin on the conveyor which then leads those garments to be sorted incorrectly. To help maintenance find these bent pins on the conveyor, laser sensors were installed to detect them and a function was created that will stop the conveyor at these bent pins for the maintenance team to replace them.
Alleviate Rejects and Reduce Operator Involvement
Garments are inducted into the system on trolleys that are scanned and either diverted or passed through to the sorter based on if the trolley data is in the system. This process was leading to tracking issues where there were a lot of misdiverted trolleys and the operator was having to manually induct them, which is a little labor intensive. To better track these trolleys through the system, an encoder was added to the trolley conveyor. This has since reduced the number of rejected trolleys and kept the operator from having to laboriously induct them by hand.
While none of these updates required major equipment overhauls, a few smart solutions have resulted in significantly reduced time loss, more accurate asset tracking, reduced cycle time, and reduced operator hassle.