Best Practices 2017 Best Warehouse Innovation: Oregon LCC

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) had a major problem: it was outgrowing its conveyor system. The agency’s Milwaukie-based warehouse was struggling to keep up with increased demand. So rather than move to a brand new facility, the OLCC chose to install a $5 million state-of-the-art conveyor system, resulting in the ability to double the warehouse’s overall shipping capacity.

“We knew for several years that we were outgrowing our facility,” says Christie Scott, spokesperson for the OLCC. “We were only able to ship from one warehouse door at a time. It wasn’t as much of an issue when we didn’t have such high volume, but things have changed a lot over the years.”

As the agency is currently in the middle of a retail expansion program, limited warehouse capabilities created multiple problems and backlog, making a new system essential in order to continue growth. Partnering with the company R.H. Brown, the OLCC worked to develop a customized conveyor system designed to meet its very specific needs, which was implemented in the warehouse in August 2016.

By installing the new conveyer system, four doors of the warehouse are now used for shipping purposes, and the OLCC has the option of increasing that number down the line if needed. Efficiency has increased dramatically as a result: employees no longer have to pick one order at a time traveling from one end of the warehouse to another. The new process is much more streamlined and allows staff to pull product from the same pallet for multiple orders at once. Also, if a carrier runs late, the other working doors prevent the rest of the deliveries from falling behind schedule.

The new system has also eliminated the need for warehouse staff to work excessive amounts of overtime to complete orders. During peak seasons, particularly around the holidays, the warehouse sometimes ran 24 hours per day in order to keep up with such a large amount of orders. Now the agency is saving money on employee overtime, and did not eliminate any staff positions after the new system was in place.

The OLCC operates on a bailment system, and the new software created a better inventory management system. It also features a barcode-reading sorting system and smart technology.

“If something breaks down on the system, a sensor immediately sends a message to one of our technicians on their cell phone alerting them to the nature and exact location of the issue,” Scott explains. “The technician can then locate the problem quickly and solve it without drastically slowing down operations.”

Overall, the new conveyer system has been a huge success for the agency, which can now meet the demand of fulfilling more orders and ensure that deliveries are made on time.

“We now have the opportunity to continue to grow with the industry and to provide better service,” Scott says. “This is very good for retailers, for consumers and for the state of Oregon.”

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