Small Scale Robotic Automation Drives a Big Impact for Gerrie Electric’s Distribution

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August 30, 2022

By Jacob Notten, Project Engineer, Bastian Solutions

“Our existing 26,000 square foot facility was just not enough.”

Gerrie Electric turned to small scale automation to unlock warehouse footprint and productivity opportunities quickly and reliably. The result – error-free picking, a boost in throughput, a trajectory to achieve and beat a targeted 3-year ROI and room to accommodate their immediate growth for additional robots and ports to handle the increased demand.

As the largest independent, electrical lighting and automation distributor in Ontario, Canada, Gerrie Electric serves customers ranging from car and steel OEMs, pharmaceuticals and individual contractors performing on-site electrical installations.  

“We chose Bastian Solutions to install this automation because they are an independent integrator, and they came with that impartial evaluation that we required to implement automation and remain sustainable for the future.” – Taylor Gerrie, Director of Strategic Transformation at Gerrie Electric.

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Small Scale Automation

Supporting 22 locations in southwestern Ontario, Gerrie Electric was handling a variety of electrical automation and lighting products. The AutoStore goods to person system provided high-density storage within a small footprint, clearing much-needed space in the warehouse facility.  Previously featuring a mostly manual operation, now, said Elaine Gerrie, Co-President and CEO of Gerrie Electric, “Not only does it improve our speed to market, but it really helps ensure that it’s 100% error free.”

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Featuring a small system, the AutoStore started with six robots and 7,600 bins that, despite its small size, houses about 60 percent of Gerrie’s 7,500 products.

Order picking is a straightforward process but with single pick orders and changes in speed of delivery, picking can quickly become a time consuming and inefficient process. Assisted by Illumpick, specific bin sections are highlighted to visually display accurate product selection at each AutoStore workstation. The visual cues reduce pick errors and ultimately results in fewer returns and unhappy customers. Additionally, both AutoStore and Illumpick are easy to learn systems allowing for warehouse labor to get started fast after implementation.

Other primary technologies implemented in this project included:

  • Bastian Solutions conveyor with automated sortation
  • In-line weigh scale for 100% double check validation
  • In-line taper for box sealing

Automation of these small and crucial tasks reduces walking and carrying of products throughout the facility, keeps products on a dedicated path and allows for human labor to be better utilized in less rote tasks.  

Software WES

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Bastian Solution’s Exacta software helps to bridge the gap between AutoStore and Gerrie’s inventory system. The WES provides multiple levels of data collection – diagnostic tools, graphics and reports – and works as a single point of communication to the host system. Overall, it creates clear visibility to work in all areas of the warehouse.

Investing in Ontario

To help support the local community and economy, FedDev Ontario, a federal program that promotes economic development, awarded Gerrie Electric a $1.4 million loan. With this, Gerrie invested in the future, investing in the planned distribution reorganization and new automated storage retrieval systems that would allow the company to grow domestic sales and compete in the industry globally. “Ontario FedDev recognized that not only were we supporting jobs here in Ontario but also supporting industry and businesses that were exporting around the world,” said Elaine Gerrie, Co-President and CEO of Gerrie Electric.

Designed to Unlock Productivity

Since the implementation of the robotic automation system and its quick, positive impact on sales, Gerrie Electric has already planned for expansion of AutoStore. The system was designed for growth, making it easy to add additional robots, bins and ports as needed with little to no down time. AutoStore and Exacta software’s modular designs make it possible to accommodate continued growth on an incremental basis.

With a focus on warehouse transformation that provided immediate benefit, together Gerrie Electric and Bastian Solutions were able to transform a mostly manual operation with an automation install over a 3 month period that provided immediate impact on warehouse productivity, efficiencies and sales.

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