Food Engineering

KeHE DC sees 300 percent productivity gain with automated material handling system

December 8, 2010
Natural food industry giant’s Allentown, PA distribution center achieves 99.9 percent order accuracy and cuts operating costs per square foot in half.


System integrator Automation Dynamics teamed with Intelligrated to install an automated material handling system at KeHE distributors in Allentown, PA. The system achieves 99.9 percent order accuracy. Source: Intelligrated.
KeHE Distributors, a large US distributor of natural and specialty food products to small and mass market retailers across the country realized distribution center (DC) productivity gains of 300 percent after implementing a material handling system from Intelligrated and Automation Dynamics, a system integrator.  

KeHE, which operates 13 DCs across the US, instigated a centralization strategy that consolidated two of the company’s Northeastern DCs into a new 312,000-sq.-ft. DC in Allentown, PA, forming a single, high-efficiency operation. According to KeHE Vice President of Distribution Operations Craig Turner, the DCs were operating at maximum capacity and were unable to accommodate increasing demand. The challenge was to redesign the Allentown facility to reduce the number of touches, meet increased order throughput and efficiency and build in reserve capacity for future growth.

The Allentown installation, valued at $1.8 million, is a hybrid system of horizontal pick carousels, a pick- and put-to-light carton flow module and a conveyor system to route product through the various pick and pack zones. The system optimizes cubing and vertical space to achieve a dense pick, minimized footprint and increased picking accuracy while maximizing the efficiency of the existing labor pool.

“We are extremely pleased with the effective teamwork and cooperation between KeHE, Intelligrated and Automation Dynamics,” says Turner. “We think that our design here can outperform any competitors in an each-pick environment. Other systems have pick-to-light and carousels, but they use them in such a traditional way that they do not reach their full potential. The system integration team did an excellent job studying our SKU mix to rethink these technologies.”

For more information, contact Emily Smith, Intelligrated, 513-881-5239 or by e-mail.