Pan Pacific Pet’s new distribution center: Building operations around automated order fulfillment

A new goods-to-person robotic technology is the heart of Pan Pacific Pet’s order fulfillment strategy.

Katy Whitt/Getty Images for Peerless Media

A new goods-to-person robotic technology is the heart of Pan Pacific Pet’s order fulfillment strategy.

Pan Pacific Pet

  • Location: Balzac, Alberta
  • Size: 120,000 square feet
  • Throughput: 400 bin presentations an hour
  • Products Handled: High quality pet foods and pet-related accessories 
  • SKUS: 18,000 SKUs, with 9,000 handled by Attabotics system 
  • Shifts: 2 per day/5 days per week

In Pan Pacific Pet’s new distribution center near Calgary, a goods-to-person order fulfillment system automated order picking for about 50% of the company’s 18,000 SKUs with the capacity to deliver 400 bin presentations per hour to workstations. The system is positioned in the center of the building, with reserve storage located around the perimeter. The facility is designed to stock seven weeks of inventory, with a two-week supply stored in the robotic picking system.

Related Feature Article: Pan Pacific Pet learns new trick

Receiving and putaway

Newly received product is scanned when it arrives at receiving (1). Pan Pacific Pet’s in-house warehouse management system (WMS) determines whether the product will be delivered to the reserve storage area (2), the Attabotics system (3) or the temperature-controlled area (4) for frozen and refrigerated product. Full pallets are delivered to the reserve storage area, where they are scanned into a storage location.

For product that will be inducted into Attabotics, the system determines how many bins will be needed for that product based on the velocity of the product and which compartment size within the bin will be needed. For example, the fastest-movers might be stored in four bins to minimize replenishment while slow movers might only be stored in one bin. Similarly, smaller items are kept in their shipping carton while larger items are dumped into the bin. The Attabotics system then determines a random storage location where it can be accessed to fill orders. The system’s shuttles have access to every storage container in the system.


There are two picking processes: Manual picking from the reserve storage area for non-conveyables that are either too large, too fragile or too heavy for the automated system and goods-to-person picking from the automated system.

Manual picking

Manual items include items like large bags of dog food, aquariums and dog kennels; in addition, items with low demand are maintained in the reserve storage area to free up more space in the automated system for the fast-moving items. While most items are accessed from ground-level pallet locations, some items are stored on the upper levels of the pallet rack and are accessed from a stock picker. Those items will eventually be transferred into the Attabotics system. The order selectors are directed by the WMS as to what items are picked and in what order for the pallet. Picks are scanned to a pallet.

Automated picking

The WMS order management system is integrated with the Attabotics control system. When order selectors log into their assigned workstation and choose the picking process, the WMS begins releasing orders to the automation. The system is set up for discreet picking rather than batch picking, so selectors are picking an order complete. When a bin is presented, the computer screen highlights the compartment where an item is stored along with a description of the item to be picked. The order selector then scans the required item or items into a shipping tote. Initially, order selectors are picking to one shipping tote, but as they gain experience with the system, they will pick into up to four shipping totes. To maximize the throughput of orders through the system, Attabotics queues five storage bins at a time.

Packing and shipping

Once a shipping tote has been picked complete, it is conveyed to a staging area (5). There, associates from the manual pick area will collect shipping totes that are required to complete their orders. Once all of the items for an order have been palletized, pallets are stretchwrapped and delivered to shipping (6).

Layout of the recently updated Pan Pacific Pet distribution center.

System suppliers

Katy Whitt/Getty Images for Peerless Media