Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe is a global bread and roll manufacturer headquartered in Chambersburg, Pa. From humble beginnings in a 1950s family garage turned bakery, the company’s products are now sold through grocery stores, big box stores, restaurants and institutions in 16 countries. After installing a robotic materials handling solution, the company improved virtually all warehouse metrics while adding the flexibility to adapt to seasonal spikes.

Summer is one of the best times of the year for Martin’s, but the seasonal spike presented major distribution challenges. Completely manual processes for order picking and fulfillment took considerable time, so they needed to plan and prep loads hours in advance of dispatch, which created further problems when there were last-minute changes.During peaks, the facility struggled to accommodate a higher volume of goods and increase seasonal staff. In addition to risk of errors in order fulfillment, managers had concerns over employee safety while bending, lifting and moving products around the warehouse. After extensive research into warehouse automation solutions, the company selected a combination of high-density pallet storage and retrieval along with a robotic picking system for totes and trays. The new picking system (Cimcorp) has a storage capacity of 19,000 trays and 66 SKUs, from which it picks 21,000 trays per day. The automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) for pallets (Westfalia Technologies) replenishes the inventory under the robotic system.

In the robotic picking system, two gantry robots move above approximately 1,300 stacks of inventory located in storage positions on the floor. The robot picks trays required for the customer order, which are formed into multi-SKU stacks and placed on an outbound conveyor to an automated palletizer. Pallets are then accumulated and sequenced on a separate conveyor, which enables the company to live load trailers.The solution stores, processes and fills orders in 50% of the space and with 30% fewer man-hours than the manual approach. Martin’s can now schedule and prepare orders within an hour of a truck’s anticipated arrival, enabling faster truck loading and more on-time deliveries. Last-minute order changes no longer disrupt operations.

The company now also has visibility across its order fulfillment process to facilitate order planning. The system collects data on the movement of all goods—from the production line, through the warehouse, to the store shelf—providing 100% traceability.

“We feel very confident in the efficiency gains as well as the labor savings and order accuracy that we’ve enhanced through use of these systems,” says Tony Martin, executive vice president and grandson to the original founders, who plans to implement automated solutions in the company’s other plants and facilities in the near future.