Merchants Distributors Moving to Mixed-Case Fulfillment System

Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Merchants Distributors Moves to Mixed-Case Fulfillment System Demantic Alex Lee Wholesaler
Seeing the need to expand its current facility, Merchants Distributors sought an automated mixed-case fulfillment solution from Dematic.

Wholesale grocery distributor Merchants Distributors, Inc. (MDI), whose parent company is Hickory, North Carolina-based Alex Lee Inc., will deploy an automated mixed-case fulfillment solution from Dematic as part of the upcoming renovation and expansion of MDI’s primary operations center.

Having added 33% more stores, with sales growing at 45% over the past five years, MDI saw the need to expand its current facility in North Carolina’s Caldwell County. That being the case, the company sought technology from Dematic that would enable it to reallocate existing employees to more productive, more ergonomic and higher-paid positions. The 200,000-square-foot expansion to MDI’s ambient-temperature facility and larger capacity will create 111 jobs.

“We are excited to continue to grow in Hickory, where we were founded nearly 90 years ago,” said Brian George, chairman and CEO of MDI. “The quality of life and the business support from North Carolina and our local community makes the Hickory area an ideal location to continue to grow our business.” 

When deployed, Dematic iQ software will manage and control an automated system that will palletize 165,000 cases daily — up from the current 125,000 — with the capacity to reach 200,000 cases daily to accommodate future growth. The pallets themselves will be more densely packed and shelf-ready for the quickest possible stocking at stores, resulting in a safer, more efficient work environment.

“Our partnership with MDI hits the sweet spot for us,” said Michael Larsson, EVP, Dematic Americas. “The solution will generate growth, improve service and empower employees — these are exactly the goals we have when making a proposal, and we will be thrilled to deliver on them for MDI.” 

The Dematic Flexible Mixed-Case Fulfillment System will feature a Dematic high-bay unit load AS/RS for pallets, the Dematic Multishuttle for case buffering and sequencing, and Dematic RapidPall palletizers to automatically build mixed-case pallets. Further, a goods-to-person piece-picking module will be integrated to deliver smaller order quantities. The full system, managed and operated by Dematic software, aims to provide a highly effective compact mixed-case handling solution.

MDI distributes both food and nonfood grocery items to more than 600 retail stores across the United States and other locations. Alex Lee, also the parent company of Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Lowes Foods, which operates more than 75 Lowes and Just $ave stores in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, is No. 62 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

Based in Atlanta, Dematic is a member of multinational KION Group, a global leader in industrial trucks and supply-chain solutions, and a provider of warehouse automation.

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