Good news! Your business is growing! Now, what do you do?
Growth in business is often nonlinear. Instead, growth comes in stages. Like a staircase, businesses grow until it is time to invest in more people, technology, or equipment needed to advance to that next stage. Then, repeat.
Usually, the move to each new “stage” occurs when the cost of labor becomes higher than the cost associated with investing in new equipment. Especially when it is time to make that jump from “small” to “midsize” business, managers often debate which investment they need to make.
For those businesses in any growth stage, there are some excellent fulfillment optimization tools out there. These tools are mature, proven pieces of equipment and/or technology with a proven return-on-investment attached.
Let’s take a look at a few that we have seen be particularly useful to improve warehouse operations:
Modular Pack Stations
Modular pack stations are simple workstations that allow packers to efficiently right-size a box to a series of products, add void-fill, tape, and send down a conveyor to shipping once packed. A proper modular pack station will have everything ergonomically located and within arm’s reach from a packer. These pack stations optimize product flow, boost productivity, and improve your packing area’s floor space by keeping everything clean and organized. Workers are happier because they have everything they need at their fingertips, and accessories like ergonomic floor mats can be added to absorb shock and take the stress off joints.
Gravity Flow Racks
Gravity Flow Racks are perfect for packing environments in which identical kits are created from the same sets of products. The racks are comprised of a mobile cart with angled flow wheels on each level that allow gravity to deliver the next part in line to you seamlessly. If you have a gravity flow rack next to a pack station or area, you could put all of the components one would need for a day’s worth of packing, and then allow the packer to ergonomically access whatever part is required next. These are mobile, sturdy, and adjustable, with the ability to be accessorized to meet whatever challenges your worker has.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
Automated material handling is another resource available to improve productivity in picking areas. Our partners at Fetch Robotics, a leading provider of On-Demand Automation, offer AMRs that do not require an integration with a WMS/WES and can be programmed to move carts from the storage/kitting area to the point of use line side. The carts could also be programmed to pick up packing materials or totes and return them to another area of the warehouse to be reloaded with new products/packages.
Value-Added Solutions via Simple Conveyor Lines
Conveyor lines offer a dynamic solution to improve productivity, quality assurance, and safety for a warehouse or distribution center. Conveyors also can give facilities the ability to move totes at higher speeds. However, conveyors bring with them the opportunity to add Value Added Services (VAS) to your packing process. VAS includes items like coupons, magazines, or marketing pieces that encourage the end customers to make another order. Adding VAS through conveyor has become increasingly popular in recent years and has helped e-commerce companies stand out among their competitors.
Pick-to-Light / Put-to-Light Solutions
Pick-to-Light and put-to-light technologies help with order accuracy and fulfillment speed by indicating when a specific product needs to be placed in (or picked from) a specific area. We recently put a spotlight on these technologies in an earlier blog (https://storage-solutions.com/pick-to-light-put-to-light-systems/), but these systems have proven successful for businesses in e-commerce or direct-to-consumer industries in which there is a high volume of orders.
While these products and technologies all may vary in their ideal use for your business, they are all mature pieces of equipment with proven returns-on-investment attached. There may not be one perfect solution for you, but rather a combination of solutions that can custom fit your operations while leaving room for growth. If you need help getting started or making that decision to hit the next stage of your business growth, give us a call, and we can help find you solutions for every square foot of your facility.