2005 Supply & Demand Chain 100 Case Study  Royal Appliance Mgf. Co. / Hy-Tek Material Handling, Inc.

Profiles in Supply Chain Enablement: A leading appliance manufacturer reduces DC labor costs 70 percent without affecting productivity

Profiles in Supply Chain Enablement: A leading appliance manufacturer reduces DC labor costs 70 percent without affecting productivity

Company: Royal Appliance Mgf. Co. (Glenwillow, OH)
Company Size: Small
Company Sector: Distribution/Wholesale
Area(s) of Enablement: Fulfillment/Logistics
Enabler: Hy-Tek Material Handling, Inc. (Columbus, OH)

SDCE 100 2005Case Study:Royal Appliance Manufacturing is well known for developing one of America' s most beloved brands  the Dirt Devil line of vacuums and related products. Behind the scenes, Royal Appliance Manufacturing is also a leader in streamlining the manufacturing and marketing processes for entrepreneurs as well as global supply chain innovation.

The Royal distribution center in Glenwillow, Ohio, is an integral part of that supply chain, processing incoming containers and handling the distribution of Royal products to leading retails chains and outlets throughout North America.

Recently Royal's distribution leaders implemented a system that has reduced labor expense by 70 percent without affecting productivity. By successfully implementing automation into its distribution logistics, Royal has furthered its corporate strategies, adding even greater capacity for new product launches and increased flexibility to handle fluctuations in product lifecycles. Royal worked with Hy-Tek Material Handling, Inc. on the project.

Flexible Automation

Hy-Tek engineers used their analysis process and recommended a flexible automation solution with articulating arms that required fewer conveyors, had a smaller footprint and was more flexible with the entry of new product introduction than traditional palletizer or gantry systems and could make rate. Additionally the solution would require minimal labor to run and would incorporate some unique equipment Royal already had in place, specifically two extendable conveyors on tracks that move between dock doors.

The two moveable conveyors mate with a new conveyor headed toward two articulating-arm robotic cells, affectionately named Oscar and Ely. The solution also involves product traveling through a light curtain upstream from the robotic cells to enable Oscar and Ely to make proactive adjustments to incoming product discrepancies and maintain the integrity of the palletization and line speed. Oscar and Ely each have a fixed base and one long arm with four axes  or points of movement like human arms  to accommodate the adjustment flexibility and palletization demands.

Other system advantages include lightning-fast changeover from product to product with point and click ease of use at the operator interface; unlimited capacity for new products to be introduced, and the system can be loaded for a test run for a new product within one hour. The system is flexible, allowing the operator to direct the product to an exit conveyor, bypassing the robots for "oddball" or damaged items, or for manual palletizing without interruption in the event of a power outage.

Zero Downtime

Hy-Tek designed the system implementation schedule to ensure zero downtime, so that Royal continued to provide excellent service to its retail clients despite the significant change in its distribution system. The prototype was developed within five months of the sales order, installation began in month six and was phased over 60 days to enable continuous operation during implementation. (No downtime was incurred during implementation.) The official go-live phase occurred in month seven and by the beginning of month eight, the system was being run solo by Royal.

As a result of the project, Royal saw the following benefits:

  • Labor has decreased by 70 percent as the staffing need has been reduced from 22 full-time to five full-time operators, with optimum container rates still being met.

  • Ergonomic risk has been reduced through lessened physical requirements by human operators.

  • Reliance on temporary staffing has been eliminated.

  • Training costs have been reduced.

  • Reliability has increased.

  • Quality control has increased.

  • Product damage has decreased.

  • New distribution logistics have expanded Royal's capacity for meeting strategic goals of new product start-ups and its Concept to Consumer project.
For more stories of successful supply chain implementations, read the "2005 Supply & Demand Chain Executive 100" article in the June/July 2005 issue of the magazine. Also watch the Today's Headlines section of SDCExec.com every Tuesday and Thursday for more in depth best practices drawn from this year's Supply & Demand Chain Executive 100.