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Increased Material Handling Speed and Efficiency Needed by Convenience Store Distributor


With tight margins and no room for error, complete accuracy is required for high-conveying speeds.


A material handling system integrator that helps distribution centers sort, track and load cartons using a combination of custom modular software and Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs).


A national convenience store distributor approached the system integrator asking them to install the newest technology of controllers and sorters that would allow for thousands of consumer products to reach their appropriate delivery docks quickly and accurately. In retail distribution, margins are small and demand that every item leaving or entering the warehouse is accounted for correctly. If an item is accidentally delivered wrongly, without record, the distributor could potentially lose $1,000/incident.


The system integrator was asked to develop a solution that would meet the distributor’s need for complete accuracy at high-conveying speeds. The company’s current programmable controller was limited to 16-bit instructions, which didn’t offer the same degree of flexibility and limited the systems capabilities.


McNaughton-McKay partnered with the system integrator to develop a Rockwell Automation solution using the Logix Control Platform to track fast-moving cartons as they traveled through the distribution center to trucks waiting to be loaded. The platform helped to increase functionality, scalability and flexibility while reducing costs. A digital camera was also added to the solution to capture barcode information and transmit it to a PC where the computer assigns a lane-specific sequence number and destination to each case enabling the tracking and routing of cartons to the proper shipping area. The ControlLogix controller allowed the customer to meet their high-speed demands because of its ability to process sequence numbers more quickly. The increased processing capabilities ensured that packages are more accurately diverted to the proper shipping area without the need to recirculate, even at increased speeds.


The new sorting solution had an increase of 50% sortation and provides a 99.9% read accuracy and displays real-time system status graphics at terminals throughout the distribution center. Detailed reports give management the ability to successfully operate within the industry’s tight margins. The customer achieved 100% ROI within one year of installation. The solution was so successful that it was implemented into six other locations.


  • Rockwell Automation Logix Control Platform
  • Rockwell Automation ControlLogix PACs
  • Rockwell Software RSLogix 5000
  • Rockwell Software RSLinx