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  Manufacturing Insights   |   April, 2010
Musical Instrument Companies Automate Distribution Centers
by Thomas R. Cutler

Basic goals are the hallmark of any world-class manufacturer. State-of-the-art production facilities driven by the combined disciplines of Lean and Six Sigma put these three goals at the center of ISG’s process for musical instrument distribution centers as well as all manufacturing and distribution companies.

Fender Musical Instruments is one of many musical instrument firms that turned to Integrated Systems Group, ISG, ( as a method for organizing and automating their distribution center. The 550,000 square foot General Merchandise Distribution Center consists of:
  • Full Case and Broken Case Order Selection
  • Receiving System
  • Shipping and Sortation System
  • Four (4) order selection modules (Guitars) –floor level, each 260 feet long
  • One (1) order selection module (Parts and Accessories) –3 levels high by 260 feet long
  • Over 21,000 pallet locations and over 18,000 pick locations
  • Over 2 miles of conveyor, transporting and sorting a range of products from 52 inch long guitars and large amplifiers to small cartons.

This 550,000 square foot distribution facility was completed by ISG. It contains approximately 2 miles of conveyor, a broken case order selection module (floor plus two levels) and a full case picking module. It has Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) selective racking providing over 13,000 of the 21,000 pallet positions in the facility. The conveyor and automatic sortation system efficiently handles cartons from 9 inches long to 52 inches long at substantial throughput rates Fender chose to keep equipment and technologies that were working well—wireless printers and handheld scanners, a warehouse management system (WMS), very-narrow-aisle turret trucks for bulk storage—and to introduce some significant upgrades:
  • 2 miles of powered conveyor,
  • a high-speed sorter,
  • a multi-level pick module, and
  • significant software changes
Fender increased throughput by 30% while improving order accuracy, all without adding labor. The system recommended is scalable, so adding capacity will be easy if sales continue their double-digit growth.

Sweetwater is another musical instrument company that also required some distribution center organization assistance from ISG. They have a 32,000 square foot Distribution Center for Musical Instruments and Sound Equipment consisting of:
  • Data and Operational Analysis
  • LEEDS Compliant Design & Installation
  • Broken Case Order Selection with approximately 525 SKU locations
  • Bin Shelving Pick Area with approximately 1350 SKU locations
  • Order selection and packing conveyor system
  • Sortation and Software
  • Packing and Manifesting Stations
  • Pallet racking with approximately 1800 locations
  • Guitar racking with approximately 1300 locations
According to John Hopkins, Vice President of Operations for Sweetwater Sound, Inc., “Professional but practical and down-to-earth, that is how I describe the people at ISG. They did a wonderful job on our project, from initial consulting to equipment selection, and complete installation. I could not be happier with the results we got from ISG.”

Integrated Systems Group (ISG),, a division of Speedrack Products Group Ltd., is an integral part of a company with decades of material handling experience. It is one of the largest companies in the industry and enjoys a very strong financial position. ISG’s “forward thinking” engineering, design, and project management staff make it possible to design, develop, and deliver highly functional and cost-effective quality material handling systems to meet client’s specific needs every time.

According to Tim Bastic, Vice-President of ISG, “We follow a meticulous step-by-step process that starts with a complete analysis of a client’s current operations and end objectives. Time is spent to determine what operational enhancements and technologies are needed to frame the system configuration for present and future distribution requirements. This thorough analysis guards against false starts and the ill-timed development of budget-wasting, non-functional system concepts.”

ISG knows that no two projects are alike. The results are system designs, implementations, technology and project management strategies specifically based on short and long term objectives. While there is enough technology in the industry to move the world, ISG will only design and implement applications that will help achieve clients’ objectives.

ISG is a division of Speedrack, where facilities are dedicated exclusively to the production of storage systems. The latest equipment is backed by production methods developed and refined for over fifty years and millions of pounds of storage rack. Precision tube mills, robotic welding, and dual powder coat paint lines ensure consistent quality and efficiency. Bastic noted, “The results are selecting the right technology to ensure the best fit, best results and least amount of investment.” Without pre-conceived ideas, ISG chooses from an almost endless list of applications from Conveyor and Sortation, Voice, RF and Pick-To-Light, Batch and Cluster Picking Methodologies, Warehouse Control Software, Barcode and RFID Scanning, Carousels, Cubing Software, Weight Technologies, Automatic Labeling applications and many more.

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc, ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of three thousand five hundred journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 300 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is also the developer of lean technology C.E.O (Continuous Experiential Optimization). Cutler can be contacted at See More Details.

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