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L’Oréal and Cimcorp – Walton DC: In the making of fully automated supply chain

Distribution distribution center layer pick Retail

In the expansion of its US market, L’Oréal sought more efficient ways to respond to the demands of the modern markets. The leading cosmetics giant understands the importance of adapting to the changing environment and increasing demands of customers in order to succeed. In the world we live today, speed, reliability, and availability are mandatory for businesses to survive.

In 2009, L’Oréal, the world’s largest health and beauty care company, opened a distribution center in Walton, KY., in order to continue their U.S. expansion. Cimcorp was carefully chosen by L’Oréal to help resolve the on-going challenges on using a manual, traditional facility design by implementing an innovative solution for its new distribution center (Walton DC). Walton DC, L’Oréal’s largest U.S-based distribution center, was built to distribute Garnier and L’Oréal Paris hair care and styling products both domestically and internationally.

Streamlined operations and increased efficiency

When Walton DC originally opened, they were using an entirely manual order processing model to hand-pick 10 million pounds per year, using a three shift operation, staffed exclusively with a sub-contracted workforce. L’Oréal made it a priority to reduce the facility operation hours from three shifts to two, while improving outbound order quality and providing a superior level of customer service. Even more prominently, L’Oréal wanted to hold a premier standard in energy conservation and worker health and safety by decreasing the amount of manually lifted and picked items each year and reducing transportable waste.

Jonathan Hart, director, Physical Flows L’Oréal USA, said,

“The Cimcorp layer picking solution was chosen for its sophisticated gantry automation and its ability to reduce operating costs in the facility. Walton DC feels confident using a solution that is widely utilized with other major players in the beverage industry and has adaptability to work with our unique requirements.”

Once the decision to move forward with Cimcorp was made, collaboration between the two companies spanned almost a full year. Cimcorp was very elaborate during the design phase, making sure to hand select the most beneficial layout design for order processing material flows in Walton DC.

Solution to meet picking demands

Cimcorp’s layer pick system- a fully automated, robotic system with the ability to pick a near limitless variety of products, access a large volume of inventory with a single machine and create customer orders in any sequence desired- was strategically chosen and built in Walton DC because it best fit L’Oréal’s business needs. The layer pick system is suited for facilities that pick more than 1,000 layers per day from 50-500 stock keeping units (SKUs). L’Oréal additionally took their layer picking system a step farther by investing in a double gantry system in order to provide 100 percent redundancy. Cimcorp furthermore determined that it was essential to implement a forward reserve cascading replenishment system for the 6,000 pallets per month, to reduce forklift travel within the 680,000 square foot facility. With this racking system, the high velocity SKU’s are stored within 200 feet from the induction stations. Cimcorp’s warehouse management system (WMS) was integrated with L’Oréal’s business interface module (BIM) to facilitate communication with the SAP system.

Reaping the benefits

With the installation of Cimcorp’s layer pick system, the flow of orders and productivity have become more efficient and consistent compared to the manual order processing solution in Walton DC. The end-to-end solution allowed the distribution center to reduce and reallocate existing resources to other operations within the facility, such as receiving, warehousing and shipping.

In addition, the ability to build taller outbound pallets has allowed the average number of pallets per outbound shipment to reduce, therefore creating additional benefits regarding wooden pallet costs, forklift pallet touches and transportation savings. Along with the ergonomic and environmental benefits, the distribution has increased worker safety by decreasing the amount of manually lifted and picked items each year. L’Oréal is continuing to benefit from the replenishment of 6,000 pallets per month and 100 percent accuracy and traceability at a faster rate. It is currently handling 1 million cases per month.

Having met the expected quality and productivity, L’Oréal as a culture is embracing automation to the fullest level. Cimcorp’s robotic layer picking solution in Walton DC has successfully been implemented with future plans to employ other forms of automation to allow the Walton DC to further handle numerous types of products (corrugate, shrink wrapped, etc.).


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