Unit load AS/RS (5 cranes, stores 4,131 pallets) is 24m (79ft) high under the beams.

Unit load AS/RS (5 cranes, stores 4,131 pallets) is 24 m high under the beams.

One of the China's finest pharmaceutical distribution drastically improved inventory control and shipping accuracy

Site area: 26,000 sq.m

Site area: 26,000 sq m
Total floor space: 26,930 sq m

Chongqing Medicine Heping Drugstore is China’s largest drugstore chain. Heping Drugstore is owned by pharmaceutical wholesaler Chongqing Medicine Co., Ltd. In April 2007, Chongqing Medicine expanded and renovated its Peace Distribution Center by introducing a unit load automated storage & retrieval system (AS/RS), high-speed sorting transfer vehicles (STV), and warehouse management system software (WMS). The new equipment automated receiving, picking, replenishment, and shipping. The new DC uses less power and labor, while providing increased storage and improved order processing capabilities.

New building handles more items and higher volume

Established in 1950, Chongqing Medicine now operates in 18 provinces and municipalities. In 2007, Chongqing Medicine’s revenue was 6.7 billion Chinese yuan (111.9 billion yen). The first Heping Drugstore opened in 1945 and became a subsidiary of Chongqing Medicine in 1994. There are 2,200 stores today.

The Heping Distribution Center opened in April 2002 and featured conventional rack and manual labor. As the store network grew, the number of items and volume also grew - causing storage and order processing challenges. Picking and shipping errors became more frequent.

To address these issues, Chongqing Medicine added a building adjacent to the existing one and introduced the latest automated material handling system.

Orders are processed quickly and accurately

With the addition of the new building, Heping Distribution Center’s floor space tripled. The automated material handling equipment stores, transports, and tracks 130,000 cases representing 15,500 SKUs. Order processing has doubled to 2,000 orders per day, and wireless handheld terminals (RFT) have greatly improved accuracy. Automation has enabled the DC to ship 4 billion yuan (66.8 billion yen) worth of inventory quickly and accurately.

  • After inspection, labels are issued and put on cases.

    After inspection, labels are issued and put on cases.

  • Case picking area. Three STVs travel on the loop track.

    Case picking area. Three STVs travel on the loop track.

  • B product picking area on the second floor. After inspecting with RF handy terminals, products are put in yellow collection cases.

    B product picking area on the second floor. After inspecting with RF handy terminals, products are put in yellow collection cases.

  • Re-inspection area. Products are packed and quantity is checked one item at a time.

    Re-inspection area. Products are packed and quantity is checked one item at a time.

  • Jet Surfing Sorter with 9 chutes, sorts 3,000 cases/hour. Cases are scanned with RF handy terminal to be in relationship to roll box pallet (left).
  • Jet Surfing Sorter with 9 chutes, sorts 3,000 cases/hour. Cases are scanned with RF handy terminal to be in relationship to roll box pallet (left).

Jet Surfing Sorter with 9 chutes, sorts 3,000 cases/hour. Cases are scanned with RF handy terminal to be in relationship to roll box pallet (left).

Fast moving products are separated from slower moving products

Products received from vendors are checked with RFT when unloaded. “A” products are stacked on pallets and placed on fixed rack or AS/RS via fork truck. Replenishments for “B”, “C”, and “D” products are also temporarily stored in the AS/RS. “B”, “C”, “D” products that need to be replenished as soon as they are received are transported to the appropriate floor by conveyor, moved onto a cart, and transported to the designated flow-rack or shelf. Product storage location is checked with RFT before items are stored.

The “A” products are then sent to the shipping area. Cases are picked on the second floor, transported on conveyor to the high-speed automatic sorter Jet Surfing Sorter (JSUS) on the first floor, and sorted by customer. The JSUS is also used to pick “B”, “C”, and “D” for replenishment.

“A” products are collected and transported via conveyor to the second floor for re-checking and packing. Shipping labels are issued and attached, and items are sorted by the JSUS and loaded on roll cages. Full cages are moved to the shipping area, loaded on trucks, and delivered to Heping Drugstore outlets and hospitals.

Facility can withstand earthquakes

“Material handling systems in the facility fully started operation only 30 minutes after the Sichuan earthquake broke out. This proved that the equipment, software, our administrative structure, and staff are all first-class level. We will try to improve further efficiency in operations.” says Gong Wei, Board Chairman and General Manager.

< DAIFUKU NEWS No.189 (December 2008) >