More than five years ago, the Crossgate Logistics team first saw an AutoStore in action. After several site visits to see various AutoStore facilities around the country, they knew it would be a differentiating asset for the 3PL’s distribution center in Port Wentworth, GA. Fast forward two years and Crossgate chose to make the capital investment and put a brand new AutoStore on the floor. Phase 1 outlined four robots and 6,400 bins, enough to generate so much productivity that it is impossible for human picking to keep pace.
Unfortunately, the AutoStore didn’t hit the ground running. The system was only operating at around 4% of what it’s capable of, picking a couple of dozen orders per day, rather than the initial goal of 100 picks per robot per hour.
As is typical in AutoStore deployments, a layer of software called a “Warehouse Execution System” (WES) was positioned between the AutoStore Control System (ACS) and the Warehouse Management System (WMS). The chosen WES had constant issues and interfered with site management’s objectives.
The forward-thinking team at Crossgate knew they could generate significantly more efficiency by removing the WES, and connecting the AutoStore directly to their Blue Yonder WMS. Enter MacGregor Partners.
“The AutoStore Control system is where the magic happens, and the WES often just gets in the way. It’s there for commercial reasons more than technical ones,” said Jordan Teplin, Vice President of Sales at MacGregor. “Crossgate has a fully featured WMS in Blue Yonder, and we knew we could retire the WES and do the job better without it.”
“This is when I first realized the MacGregor team is really good at their job,” said Patricia Gates, Director of Operations at Crossgate. “When we put them in front of the AutoStore folks, they were able to hold their own and explain what we were attempting to do with this brain surgery.”
For their part, AutoStore saw what an interesting approach it was. “We’ve never had anybody with the guts to do this.” Challenge accepted.
Early beta testing showed that reprogramming was possible. After years of not maximizing the investment, Crossgate handed MacGregor an abbreviated schedule. “It was a very aggressive timeline of about three months to make the complete switch and completely re-architect the entire thing,” added Gates.
With M.Conductor, the MacGregor-developed warehouse automation integration software, the accelerated timeline wasn’t an issue. AutoStore was connected to Crossgate’s WMS and the powerful Blue Yonder directed work engine through M.Conductor. By fully integrating with Blue Yonder’s WMS work queue, the Crossgate team was given full visibility and configurability of robotic mission profiles, moving all prioritization and task visibility within the WMS.
Gates summarized, “We launched April 4th of this year. The implementation itself went very smoothly as always. The MacGregor team has always been very responsive. They have been very professional. They have been very targeted with what they were doing. They knew what needed to be done and how the AutoStore needed to operate.”
With the brain surgery complete and the AutoStore thinking and acting as part of the WMS, what’s the performance goal? Gates would love to get to the initial goal of 100 picks per hour per robot. “That is doable. It’s realistic,” she says. “In fact, an aggressive number would be 140 or 150 picks per hour per robot. We just need to calibrate it further to get it to where it needs to be.”
To learn more about M.Conductor and connecting warehouse robotics directly to your Blue Yonder WMS, email MacGregor Partners at firstname.lastname@example.org.