Clearing parts for takeoff

Airline parts supplier slashes operating costs by 5% with 6RS’ collaborative fulfillment solution

Aerospace manufacturing supplier doubles pick rates and cuts errors by 92%

Kevin’s work ends up on an airplane manufacturing line, so he knows he can’t afford to make mistakes. Each part he picks at this top-10 third-party logistics provider (3PL) gets white-glove service. The aerospace industry is heavily regulated, so Kevin takes great care to ensure all his picks are in perfect order. For Kevin, precision always takes precedence: just one or two missing screws can cause turbulence on the assembly line.

Sky-high standards, with no room for mistakes

Kevin works for a manufacturing parts supplier that ships stock to the assembly line of a major jet airliner. His work includes picking nuts, bolts and washers and securing hydraulic hoses with foam protectors, which all end up delivered to workers on the aircraft assembly line. Kevin also assembles kits of small mechanical parts that are used to build airplanes that carry more than 300 people.

Kevin and his colleagues take their jobs seriously and want to do well, but they routinely face the same challenges:

Struggling to achieve perfect accuracy
This 3PL is responsible for shipping high-quality products in the right quantity, so workers inspect and verify every single order before shipment. Mistakes in this thorough vetting process can cost up to 4X more time to correct than the average mispick. Mispicks cost the average warehouse $389,000 a year, or $22 per average mispick. At this 3PL, mistakes cost up to $1.5 million a year, or about $88 a mispick.

Speeding up production
Before using 6RS and Chuck, associates lugged heavy push carts and scratched their heads over which parts to pick. Errors were demoralizing. Mistakes that cropped up downstream in the supply chain delayed manufacturing, frustrating workers who needed to build the planes. In some cases, mistakes meant workers needed to wait hours for just one small but crucial bag of screws.

With its uncompromising focus on accuracy, the 3PL needed to balance a quality-controlled process with a speedy one. They turned to 6RS to help their facility boost overall pick rates so they could get more accurate orders out the door faster.

Taking flight: Collaborative robots boost speed, accuracy

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Chuck

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Chuck is a turn-key, drop-in replacement for cart picking. Chucks communicate directly with a scalable, cloud-based software that coordinates all work on the floor. The software integrates to the site’s existing Warehouse Management System (WMS) so that Chuck can be used throughout the warehouse.

Once the associate badges in, Chuck leads them, showing important task information — item image, description, quantity, location, etc. — on a display the size of a tablet. This keeps associates on task, spending less time searching for items. Chuck lights up to indicate which side of the aisle to pick from and which order container to place the item into.

This 3PL used Chuck’s scanner to validate that the right lot number was picked for the job, ensuring traceability throughout the entire supply chain. Chuck’s high-powered, mounted scanner captures all necessary product information, including real-time validation of lot and serial number, in a single scan — allowing operators to pick hands-free. Work is prioritized by the system and assigned to associates through intelligent algorithms that maximize productivity and utilization — like Google Maps for your warehouse.

A 6-month scorecard

More than 2x improvement in pick rates

Before implementing 6RS, this 3PL picked at an average of 45 lines per hour (LPH.) After using Chuck and 6RS, the 3PL more than doubled its pick rate, achieving an all-time high of 101.9 LPH.

Total Lines Picked

239,723


Pick Rate LPH

Up 2x


Variable
Operating Costs

Down 5%


Highest Daily
Throughput Rate

101.9 LPH


Picking Error
rate

Down 92%

Setting and meeting targets
Before undertaking any project, 6RS and the client contractually agree to target rates. 6RS conducts acceptance tests periodically after solutions go live at sites to measure success against agreed-upon benchmarks. In this 3PL’s case, 6RS hit the target rate just 4 weeks after the solution went live. In just the first two weeks, 6RS improved rates 30%.

92% reduction in picking errors vs. RF scanner

6RS drastically improved this 3PL’s accuracy. Prior to Chuck the facility used RF scanners, which produced a high error rate. During a twelve-week test with the Chucks, industrial engineers observed a 92% decrease in errors.

5% decrease in operating costs, with no staff cuts

While 6RS only operated in a part of the facility, the entire center saw a 5 percent decrease in variable operating costs, with no reduction in headcount. Warehouse associates accomplished greater amounts of work in a shorter amount of time, and were able to be shuffled around to work in other areas of the distribution center.

Live in a month: An agile, cost-effective fulfillment helper

Traditional automation like AS/RS solutions and goods-to-person systems are clunky, costly and constraining. And, they can take months to implement. 6RS was able to deploy a fleet of Chucks in just 4 weeks of arrival on site.

Productive associates after 1-day training

Onboarding with 6RS is easy because Chuck:

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Meets associates and leads them through the picking process, directing them to sequential pick locations in an optimized manner. This eliminates the need to memorize layouts and paces them through their work.


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Displays a picture of the item to be picked, quantity and the pick location during transition between tasks. This significantly improves rates.


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Once a pick is confirmed using a high-precision image scanner, Chuck uses lights to indicate which container to place the item into, improving accuracy. He instantly guides the associate to the next task.


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Provides the associate context-specific reason codes in the case of exceptions (e.g. shortage or damage) via a large touch screen display, which keeps them on task.

A more engaged workforce

Unlike many warehouses, which struggle to attract workers, this 3PL had a dedicated and engaged staff of associates. Introducing Chuck and 6RS to their operation only made the team more productive, more engaged and happier—creating a better work culture.

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“The employees here recognize that 6RS and Chuck were installed to make their job easier,” a site manager said. “They recognize that and they welcome it.”

Want to learn more about 6 River Systems and Chuck? Call us for a free consultation at 1-866-60-CHUCK.