WestTrac deploys Dematic robots

News Story
- 22 Feb 2024 ( #1167 ) - Tomago, NSW, Australia
3 min read
The robots have individual names for ease of identification
The robots have individual names for ease of identification

Caterpillar equipment dealer WesTrac has deployed a team of robots, including Cata-picker, Wall-E and Bumblebee, at its new distribution centre in Tomago in the New South Wales Hunter region.

The robots are part of a Dematic automated piece picking system for industrial supplies installed at the warehouse.

WesTrac ran a competition to name the 24 robots in the system to help identify them.

“The winner of the competition was Cata-picker and some other great names we had were Pickerella, Pickachu, R2D3 and Sir-Picks-A-Lot,” says warehouse supervisor Georgia Denton.

The distribution centre services the mining and construction industries in Western Australia, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

“WesTrac is one of the largest authorised Caterpillar dealers in the world and our Tomago warehouse in NSW has an essential role to play in this, as it is the central distribution centre for our 17 regional branches, as well as our seven main workshops here on site,” says Natalia Trewin, WesTrac warehouse operations manager. 

“The Tomago facility is a high-volume operation, storing 80,000 SKUs and we pick 40,000 lines a week here.”

The previous WesTrac warehouse was constructed a decade ago. It was operated manually and over time WesTrac had seen a 30% increase in inventory and customer base growth, resulting in a surge in orders to fulfil.

“We needed to maximise the use of our existing floor space and to diversify our storage solutions, so we looked at what we could do to manage more inventory within our existing space,” adds Trewin. 

The system features an AutoStore automated storage and goods-to-person (GTP) picking system, powered by intelligent Dematic software. 

Urgent orders can be now be completed within five to 10 minutes
Urgent orders can be now be completed within five to 10 minutes

It significantly streamlines warehouse operations, with one picker now achieving the work of four to five manual pickers. 

The AutoStore system features 15,350 segmented bins, 24 robots, four inbound conveyor ports for replenishing products into the system and six GTP workstations – all designed to optimise space efficiency and accelerate parts distribution.

“We're already exceeding our initial throughput targets, which were to be picking over 500 lines per hour or 30% more with our existing headcount,” Trewin says. 

“Previously, with the same amount of people, we were only able to pick 300 lines. 

“The speed and density of the solution means that we can get urgent orders out to customers within five to 10 minutes if needed.” 

Seth van Dijk, business development manager at Dematic, explains the system's operation: “When customers place their orders, the WesTrac warehouse management system (WMS) software sends those orders to the Dematic warehouse control system (WCS) software. 

“The WCS then directs the robots for maximum efficiency to retrieve all the items needed to fulfil those orders, and the robot delivers those items to the GTP workstations. 

“Screens at the workstations instruct WesTrac operators which items to place into the order totes. 

“Operators place completed totes on the conveyor, which brings them to a sorter. At the end of the sorter, orders are packed and dispatched for delivery.”

From a storage density perspective, the Dematic solution has significantly increased WesTrac’s available space by 1,000 square meters. 

This has facilitated decreased response times, quicker parts distribution, the capacity to provide a broader range of products and extended delivery cut-off times while still guaranteeing same-day delivery. 

“One of the great features of AutoStore is that we're able to expand the system without interrupting operations,” says Trewin.

“It's very easy to put more robots on the grid to, for example, have more throughput over a weekend. Additionally, the system is designed for us to add more grid and totes so we can grow storage.”

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