Berry Plastics, a leading Midwest manufacturer of injection-molded plastic packaging and thermoformed products, needed a better way to sort products for shipping at their new warehouse in Lecompton, Kansas. The company is recognized globally for their drink cups, containers, bottles, closures, trash bags, and more.
The problem? How to get packaging produced on 10 different printers sorted more quickly—and accurately—into the right shipping lane, where a dispatcher can then move the packages to pallets.
“We wanted to reduce the distance boxes needed to be carried by hand to palletize,” said Mark Henderson, a Project Engineer at Berry Plastics whose job is to find new ways to make the plant run more efficiently. “We also wanted to eliminate the possibility of mixing different products on one skid.”
The team at IBT worked with Henderson to analyze the existing conveyor system and plant layout and brainstorm solutions. In the end, they decided on a customized 10-slot sorter system that could deliver product directly from a printer to the correct shipping pallet—with near-100% accuracy, using a bar code scanner.
Paul Wagner, the Senior Mechanical Project Engineer who headed up the IBT effort, has over 30 years of material handling systems experience. “We wanted to be 100% sure that the right box got on the right pallet,” he said. “In the previous system, it was up to the dispatcher to pull the product and ship it correctly, and there were a large number of boxes coming down the conveyor at any one time.”
Wagner worked with Kerwin and Jim Boatright, a Manager of Operations at IBT, to design a more efficient system that could meet their unique challenges—right down to the electric controls, changes in elevation, and type of conveyor belt. As part of their project plan, they provided mechanical and electrical drawings, material recommendations, and even a floor plan.
“We were involved from start to finish,” Wagner said. “We started out by asking Berry Plastics, ‘What do you want to get out of this?’ and followed the project all the way through installation and system startup.”
One of IBT’s long-term goals for the sorter system? To reduce Berry Plastics’ total cost of ownership (TCO) of the new machinery—by reducing overall man-hours needed to run the system, as well as the number of errors made.
Today, the new 10-sorter system delivers each product from the printer to the right dispatcher for shipping—at the rate of 20 cases/minute.
“Each of the 10 lanes is assigned to only 1 product, so Product A always goes to Lane A,” Wagner said. “But they still retain the flexibility to put any product in any lane.”
The new system has eliminated the guesswork and errors of the previous system, and is now part of Berry Plastics’ quality control process. While the dispatcher still only picks up 1 box at a time, it has reduced the overall distance that the dispatcher needs to travel.
“We now have better worker ergonomics and have increased order fulfillment accuracy,” Henderson said. “After the initial system startup, IBT worked diligently to make sure all the features of the new conveying system met or exceeded performance expectations.”
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