Case Study: How We Helped McLane Company

Background: McLane Company is a highly successful $28 billion supply chain services company that optimizes the purchase, flow and sale of products from thousands of suppliers to over 36,000 retail grocery locations. As a leader in the industry with an excellent reputation, McLane wanted to improve their processes but only if the results would maintain or increase quality control.

McLane had a traditional supply chain operation in which product was selected manually and staged in front of shipping doors on pallets and carts. Employees selected full case items on the lower levels of pallet rack onto carts pulled by tuggers as they traveled up and down long aisles. Each trailer required two open doors during the loading process because of the space required for staging and quality control. Because teams had to work independently, more team leaders were needed to be on-staff. Additional down time was one of many challenges.

Solution: Conveyco, working closely with McLane engineers, identified several goals for the project: increase productivity, worker safety, and order quality; reduce product damage and loss, and improve the utilization of space. Together, Conveyco and McLane engineers have designed and installed the first automated picking and shipping sortation system for McLane High Plains in Lubbock, Texas.

McLane has since installed several automated systems in other divisions based on this initial design, including McLane Pacific in Merced, California, which contains more than four miles of conveyor and a comprehensive sortation system. Full cases are selected in waves from three full case mezzanines. Repack items are picked from three flow rack mezzanines into totes and cigarette half cases. The totes and cases are automatically sorted into waves and released to the shipping sorter along with the full cases. Product flows directly to trailers to be floor-loaded at one of 18 direct load lanes.

With the new system in place, McLane has reduced operational costs, even with increased volumes during peak times. Overtime was reduced by more than 50%. Conveyors are now set at an ergonomically optimal height, reducing back strain and other potential work-related injuries. Less truck traffic has reduced facility congestion and accidents. Trailers are set in consecutive doors to allow shipping and receiving during the same shift. Errors have decreased by 25%, even as volume has increased.

Teammate standards are now measurable with a system that tracks cases throughout the facility. Product damage has been reduced, and the redesigned facility can now allow order selection on all levels with improved replenishment storage. The system sets the pace and pulls product through the facility. Improved tools also allow supervisors to manage and adjust manpower before and during shifts.

The McLane project is just one of many successful partnerships between Conveyco engineers and our clients.