NorthShore Care Supply is a national direct-to-consumer company that specializes in premium adult incontinence supplies, as well as infant and pet sanitary pads and products. The company was founded in 2002 as a catalog internet retailer catering to a regional customer base but has evolved into a top brand in this industry. Today, NorthShore Care Supply is a leading e-commerce supplier of high-absorbency adult diapers and incontinence supplies in the U.S., mostly available under its private NorthShore label.
As part of their growth, NorthShore Care Supply has shifted many of its supply chain and logistics functions to a warehousing facility that allows them to meet on-demand customer and shipping requirements.
The brand has undergone significant expansion, growing over 30% per year since 2017. Because NorthShore distinguishes themselves with same-day shipping options, they had to invest in a bigger and faster facility. In 2020 the company completed a new 173,000 square foot warehouse — that’s nearly four acres — and knew that scaling up operations to that level would require some level of automation. Compounding that need was a sudden and drastic increase in demand; customers were now purchasing 6–12 months of supply at once due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
NorthShore Care Supply turned to Waypoint Robotics and systems integrator The Numina Group to help them automate part of their workflows to meet demand without compromising quality. Using Waypoint’s warehouse automation expertise, NorthShore looked to improve speed, accuracy, and safety while minimizing potential fulfillment issues with demand swings.
To accomplish this, NorthShore added Waypoint’s autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and The Numina Group’s WES-WCS Advanced RDS Voice Picking System to multiply output while retaining their valued, existing workforce.
NorthShore began using Vector AMRs equipped with Kingpin top modules to pick up high-capacity custom carts that workers use in the picking process. The Kingpin add-on enables the Vector AMRs to automatically load and unload payloads, as well as connect to the high-capacity carts; this speeds up order fulfillment while saving workers from having to continuously walk long distances to pick orders from throughout the warehouse.
To optimize picking workflows, Numina’s specialized RDS system was used to connect the in-house order management system to the AMRs. The Numina RDS systems use real-time customer orders to direct the AMRs and people throughout the warehouse, for loading and transporting carts from the pick aisles to the pack stations. This seamless functionality enables workers to pick in a designated area within the warehouse while AMRs continuously travel to their location and transport carts until all orders are depleted at that location. To ensure little to no downtime, the AMRs autonomously charge at nearby EnZone wireless charging stations.
Just months after deploying the AMRs and voice picking system, NorthShore has seen measurable results. By optimizing replenishment, receiving, picking, packing, put away, and cycle counting, the company has made a 100% improvement in efficiency in outbound boxes per labor hour. Workers tripled their order picking throughput when they moved from manual metro carts to picking with the Waypoint Vector AMRs, Kingpin, EnZone wireless chargers, Numina system, and high-capacity custom carts. Overall, NorthShore doubled output with a 99.9% accuracy rate. And with NorthShore workers still playing a vital role in optimizing the picking, packing and automation processes, NorthShore anticipates they will see an additional 25–50% improvement in operational efficiency.
An unexpected but important benefit of automating the picking process has been the workers’ ability to social distance while continuing to do their jobs. Utilizing Waypoint AMRs with RDS Voice Picking ensures that there is only one picker per zone, and carts no longer need to be handled by people. This has allowed NorthShore to greatly reduce touchpoints within the warehouse, therefore reducing risk of possible contamination and increasing safety for their employees.
You can learn more about this project by accessing the Modern Materials Handling webinar that features leaders from NorthShore, Numina Group, and Waypoint Robotics discussing the project highlights, immediate benefits gained, and how small businesses can easily take advantage of these type of systems for their facilities.