You almost have to see it to believe it: The 60-foot tall, fully-automated system that’s only the second of its type in the United States. It dramatically boosts efficiency, translating to faster product turnaround for Acme Corrugated Box customers.
There’s a longstanding challenge in corrugated box manufacturing: Where to store works in progress, or WIP – the flat sheets of corrugated board waiting to be made into boxes.
Until last year, Acme Corrugated Box’s WIP storage solution was the same as most domestic manufacturers’: Scan a unit’s barcode tag then move it via forklift to a designated location on the warehouse floor. Safety standards at Acme Corrugated Box limit unit height to three pallets; this meant maximum WIP storage capacity of 3 million square feet at our facility. Beyond space limitations, WIP floor storage made unit identification difficult, occasionally leading to misplaced materials. Forklifts often damaged corrugated sheets, resulting in product waste.
A BETTER WAY – WITH WARAK
For these reasons and more, when planning Acme Corrugated Box’s 80,000-square foot expansion, an updated WIP storage system was one of the top priorities. Vice President of Operations Jeremy Cohen traveled to Europe with Production Superintendent Kevin Beynon and Manufacturing Services Supervisor Project Manager Ryan Stashko to observe various automated WIP storage systems (European corrugated manufacturers, unlike their American counterparts, have widely adopted automated WIP technology). Ultimately, Acme Corrugated Box chose to have its WIP storage system custom-engineered by Warak, Spain-based experts in corrugated board manufacturing solutions.
“It is astounding to see Warak’s systems at work,” Stashko says. “The degree and caliber of automation and technology are incredible.”
The high rack was shipped to the United States in pieces and fully assembled onsite by Warak-led engineers and technicians. Equipment began arriving in April 2022 and the system debuted in mid-October.
Its mechanics are straightforward: WIP material is transported from the corrugator to a storage rack via a conveyor system. From there, one of two stacker cranes lifts the material into its designated storage cell.
The system’s automation and related calculations, on the other hand, are next-level: Cloud-based intelligent tracking software uses size calculations and forecasted timelines to optimize time and space across the entire operation.
“The system knows when and where each piece of corrugated material will be converted. It places, organizes, and retrieves sheets with the bigger picture in mind,” Stashko explains. “I compare it to smart elevator control systems: They don’t necessarily send an elevator to the closest floor; rather, they look at the entirety of needs and direct each car in a manner that makes fewer stops and uses less time and energy.”
When it’s time for WIP materials to be converted, software sends a stacker crane to the right rack. The retrieved material travels to its designated converting equipment via an interconnected conveyor.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this degree of automation has eliminated the need for some operation personnel previously integral to Acme Corrugated Box’s WIP storage process. We’re proud to say that all of those employees have been reassigned to new roles within the company.
“Our President, Bob Cohen, has always believed great people and innovation are key elements to our past, present, and future success,” says Heidi Morrison, Director of Human Resources. “In that regard, we value every member of our team and were glad to identify transferable skills and interests, allowing us to move great people on to new challenges and continue their impact at Acme Corrugated Box.”
BENEFITS FOR TODAY’S CUSTOMERS – AND TOMORROW’S
The high rack system triples Acme Corrugated Box’s WIP storage capacity, taking it from 3 million to 9 million square feet. Better yet, it offers heightened efficiency that translates to improved products, services, morale, capacity for innovation, and – most acutely – faster product turnarounds. On-time product percentages are currently close to 100%.
“Acme Corrugated Box is committed to staying one step ahead of what customers need, want, and expect,” Stashko says. “Our high rack system reflects that line of thinking. America’s large integrated plants have yet to adopt WIP storage automation en masse. As an independent box manufacturer who has, we’re squarely at the forefront of where our industry is headed.”
Discover the benefits of working with an on-time, dependable partner who prioritizes continuous improvement and whose top focus is the customer. Learn more at acmebox.com or contact us today.