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EASY Automation Appraisal Requirements

As e-commerce represents an ever-increasing percentage of orders within distribution and fulfillment centers, warehouse managers evaluate automation solutions to combat the increased operational costs associated with e-commerce orders. In a warehouse or fulfillment center designed for traditional pallet storage and picking, those orders being fulfilled through each or case picking can add up and get expensive.

Currently, many of the operations we have worked with have responded to the additional e-commerce orders by “throwing labor” at this issue. What happens during peak seasons? Do you throw even more labor at it? What about if there are changes in ordering patterns? Do you hire and train temporary workers? That is where automation can come in and deliver solutions for these challenges.

However, it can be challenging to decide the appropriate level of automation for your current operations. It can be even more challenging to determine the proper level for you in 3 to 5 years. Do you integrate more now and deal with the cost today or slowly build a system and integrate it into your operations?

We created our EASY Automation Appraisals, where our team can take a data-driven, engineered solutions approach to determine the best plan of action for your facility. After all, each operation is different, and we want to connect you with the appropriate set of solutions, never to oversell or stick you with a system that you cannot fully optimize.

So, if you are at that stage where costs are rising due to an increase in each or case picking compared to your rate of pallet picking, your operation may be an ideal candidate for an EASY Appraisal. But what all is needed to conduct one within your facility?

  • Order Line Data – The most critical data for us.
  • Inventory On Hand – Historical data showing what all are you storing & how much of each item?
  • AutoCAD Layout of the Facility – We want to know where everything is at, as it stands today.
  • SKU Item Master List – We want to know what size your products are, how big their cases are, and what size pallets or cases are currently being stored?
  • Labor Rates & Outlay – How much are you trying to process, and how much does it cost to do it?
  • Outbound Shipping Requirements – Do you need poly bags? Does your packaging require dunnage?

Not all that information is technically needed – we have enough experience to work around virtually any roadblock – but having all that information will give us a clear understanding of what to look for in your operations. From there, our engineering team can tour your facility and see your processes in action ourselves. You can learn more about our EASY Appraisals here.

Are You Ready for an EASY Automation Appraisal?

The changes associated with fulfilling e-commerce orders are going to affect the structure of your business. It is a question of “when,” not “if.” If you are unsure how to adapt to those changes or adopt best practices with these systems, that is where we come in. These appraisals are designed to fit your needs now with a growth plan. We also offer a business case for how these additions can deliver an ROI within a few months or years.

Give us a call today to share more about the specific challenges you see in your operations and allow our team to develop custom engineered solutions that can help you combat those rising labor costs while increasing throughput and order accuracy.

Contact us today to schedule your EASY Automation Appraisal!

EASY Appraisal

As fulfillment centers battle against labor challenges, increasing costs, and quicker fulfillment expectations, many explore the world of warehouse automation to lower expenses while meeting changing demand.

The problem is: where does one begin when it comes to evaluating how these tools can positively impact your operation? How does one determine which of the multitude of solutions that are available today is the right fit to meet their specific needs?

Easy Automation Appraisal LogoWith our EASY Appraisal, our team can work with you hand-in-hand to ensure the correct measures are being taken to help you achieve your goals.

Our EASY Appraisal is a simple process where our experts tour your facility and get to understand your unique operations. There, we can determine where your pain points exist, how your workflow takes place, and formulate a plan of action. Our ultimate goal is to create a business case that will deliver an ROI and set you on a path for growth.

We consider four variables into our process:

Engineering Theory: Our data driven approach to evaluating your storage and fulfillment needs.

Automation Hardware: The most appropriate systems designed for your needs, without overselling or overequipping.

Software Integration: Setting you up with the correct tools to manage these systems

Your Needs: We customize all our solutions to meet your requirements, meaning you will not get an out-of-the-box plan. We recognize each business has its own unique needs and challenges.

At an introductory level, we can deploy these solutions within hours, without the need for facility reconfiguration, IT systems, or WMS integrations. If your organization is interested in more significant automation levels, we can work with your organization to determine what is needed to meet operational challenges that can be resolved through automation.

Using our “Simple, Smart, Strategic” approach, we can work with facilities of all types to integrate automation solutions at any scale. Starting small, we design these systems to be flexible and scale as needs change.

Ready to get started?

Want to learn more? Our Solutions Engineering professionals are ready to answer any questions you may have about introducing automation into your facility. We have the expertise to deliver solutions, big or small, that can provide a return-on-investment more quickly than you may realize.

MHEDA Virtual Learning

We are excited to share that Storage Solutions has been allowed to present two sessions of the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA)’s 2020 Virtual Learning Event!

Our Executive Vice President, Sales & Business Strategy, Eric McDonald, will introduce opportunities for companies looking to start with automation on Tuesday, October 13th, with “Getting Started on the Path to Selling Automation.” Eric has years of expertise in the supply chain industry and leads our sales teams that consult and develop automation and technology solutions for our customers.

This first session aims to share lower-level automation solutions options, the applications, and benefits of each, as well as provide resources to find appropriate partners for these solutions, based on your organization’s needs. Register Now

Then, on Thursday, October 15th, McDonald will present “Technology Solutions Utilized in Conjunction with Automation.” This session will focus on technology solutions that are frequently integrated with automation solutions to address business challenges. Here, you will learn how to identify opportunities to introduce these solutions, along with the applications and benefits of each. We will also provide resources on potential partners who would be ideal fits to work with your organization. Register Now

We are proud to be presenting at this event and even more proud to be an expert in this growing field. MHEDA works hard to ensure their membership has access to learn from the best and brightest in their industry, and this Virtual Learning Event follows in line with that mission.

The full lineup of speakers includes:

  • October 13th: Getting Started on the Path to Automation – Eric McDonald, Storage Solutions
  • October 15th: Technology Solutions Utilized in Conjunction with Automation – Eric McDonald, Storage Solutions
  • October 22nd: Let’s Talk People! Staffing for Automation Solutions – Troy Carter, Daifuku Wynright and Tim Hoj, HOJ Innovations
  • October 27th: Determining the “Right” Level of Automation for Your Clients – James Emmitt, MH Engineered Solutions
  • November 5th: Voice of the Customer Automation Solutions Panel – Megan Smith, Symbia Logistics, Tim Siddiq, Merchandise Warehouse Co., and Matt McClure, United Facilities

These virtual events will be presented from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm CT, with recording available on-demand after the events. You can register for each event for $49 for MHEDA Members ($199 for non-MHEDA members), with bundle pricing available.

Click here for more info on this event! 

Creative Picking Solutions

Warehouse managers can take solace in knowing that they may not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to evaluating their picking strategies. There are some simple-yet-creative picking solutions available that can improve productivity, increase order accuracy, and reduce labor costs associated with the fulfillment process.

Identifying these simple, smart, and strategic solutions become even more critical as more warehouses and distribution centers adjust their operations to meet the ever-changing dynamics of the world we live in. We often see warehouses operating under the mindset of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, those working under that mindset may be overthinking – or underthinking – how to improve their operations. By finding the creative solutions that can deliver a near-immediate return-on-investment, managers can quickly and effectively improve the processes for their workers without breaking the bank.

Let us look at some of the simple, creative picking solutions that can smooth your processes:

Corrugated Bin Boxes

Corrugated boxes are like your typical, everyday cardboard boxes. However, they differ in that corrugated boxes are made up of three cardboard layers that make the boxes more durable, cost-effective, and offer a higher strength-to-weight ratio. They are created to be more heavy-duty than the boxes that may come to your home from an e-commerce giant like Amazon.

Because of their construction and heavy-duty nature, they are stackable, creating a better storage density for the picking items.

Corrugated Plastic Bin Boxes

Corrugated plastic bins offer pickers a lightweight but durable receptacle that is attractive, stable, and cost-effective. The layered design is similar to corrugated boxes and similarly provides a higher durability level than traditional boxes and bins. Corrugated plastic also does not absorb moisture and is dust-free, making it an ideal option when cleanliness is essential for a pick process.

High-Density Modular Storage

By incorporating high-density storage shelving, like UNEX’s Speedcell solution, workers can maximize their space, pick orders faster, and increase their order accuracy. These high-density storage options consolidate your picking area by dramatically increasing pick faces, bringing a higher SKU density, allowing for less travel and less time searching for the appropriate location.

Goods-To-Man Automation Solutions

The prospect of introducing automation seems like too large of an investment, but products like OPEX’s Perfect Pick® system offer a scalable goods-to-person picking solution that increases the pick process’s rate and efficiency. This, and similar systems, provide a low-risk entry to automation because you are introducing automation aisle-by-aisle to learn early if this investment is right for your operations. There are other options, like the Exotec system from our partners at Conveyco, that can bring a simple automation level to your picking process. These automated systems bring a high degree of sophistication to your operations and can be game-changers in the right situation.

Learn More, Start Today

We are here to help your warehouse incorporate solutions – big or small – to support your operations and keep your facility running optimally. You can introduce manual solutions that have a lower cost to entry and are easier to implement, or you could add more automation that brings with it a higher price and requires more training but brings a higher level of efficiency. Ultimately, the key is to find the right solution for where your operations are at.

If you are interested in these simple, creative picking solutions, or you like the idea of improving your warehouse’s operational efficiency, give us a call, and our team of experts can speak with you and identify solutions to improve the speed, safety, and accuracy of your operations.

Fetch Robotics Webinar CartConnect

We would love for you to join us next Tuesday, August 27th for our latest Fetch Robotics webinar on CartConnect. This dynamic solution can speed up your facility, therefore, increasing ROI in the long-run.

Many leaders in the manufacturing and supply chain industry agree that robotics and automation are the most effective ways to stay competitive in a dynamic marketplace. However, not all automation mediums are created equal. This technology can transform the way you go about your material handling solutions and can double productivity within your facility.

This new technology is called CartConnect. CartConnect is an autonomous material handling solution that picks up, transports, and drops off warehouse carts to any location, within any warehouse, factory, or distribution center. During the webinar, we will show how CartConnect can be used for multiple picking strategies and other applications such as put away, replenishment & retail stocking. In short, this Fetch AMR solution can give you a competitive edge in your operation.

Want to learn more? Join us on Tuesday, August 27th at 2:00 PM EST to learn how to launch your facility into the future. Sign up for the webinar today!

AMR vs. AGV

Due to market conditions such as labor challenges and increasing customer service demands, warehouse automation is a hot topic lately. Companies both large and small are looking into resources to move items throughout their operation more efficiently. If you’ve been following this trend, you’ve most likely heard the buzz around using AMR vs. AGV.

AGVs, or Automated Guided Vehicles, have been familiar in warehouses for quite some time now. AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) on the other hand are a little newer to the scene. It’s important to understand what you’re getting with each of these solutions.

AMR vs. AGV: What’s the Difference?

While on the surface the two may seem very similar, there are several key factors that set an AGV and an AMR apart. The most fundamental difference between the two comes down to how they move through a facility. A guided vehicle is just what the name implies, a vehicle that operates on a fixed and guided route. Usually AGVs run along some sort of path, such as embedded magnets or wires. With this set path, an AGV does not have the ability to make quick changes on the fly, and does not always have the intelligence to stop when something comes in its path. This can lead to expensive upgrades down the road as your operational needs change. It could also put you at risk for more work-related accidents to occur.

An AMR is an autonomously navigating robot designed to work collaboratively with humans. Therefore it offers a much smarter solution. With an AMR, you get a flexible solution that offers easy adjustments as your operational needs change. In addition, the implementation for an AMR is much simpler. There is no need to make costly facility adjustments to get started. Finally, another key point that sets an AMR apart is the safety factors. AMRs use vision systems and laser sensors to ensure that accidents are avoided in any environment.

Cost Standpoint When Addressing AMRs vs AGVs

When you hear the value that an AMR can bring your operation you probably assume that the cost must be much higher than an AGV, but that is not the case. Since AMRs help you avoid costly modifications, getting started with one is fast and relatively inexpensive.

Storage Solutions is proud to partner with Fetch Robotics as a Fetch Certified Solutions Provider. Through this partnership we offer a variety of AMR solutions that can be customized to meet your needs. Want to find out how a Fetch AMR solution can assist you in achieving optimal efficiency in your facility? Click here to learn more about the products or to schedule a free consultation with one of our Fetch experts today.

Fetch Robotics Shelf

In case you missed it, we recently announced our latest partnership with Fetch Robotics. Now let’s learn how can you benefit from it. With this new collaboration comes a wide array of products and services, and we are ready to pass that along to you! Whether you face staffing issues, increased shipping volume or flexibility challenges within your operation, we will find you the right robot solution to remedy those problems.

As the leader in the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) industry, Fetch brings numerous products to the table that can fit multiple ways in your solution. While most robotics companies specialize in a single type of robot and application, Fetch created smaller robots that can handle totes all the way up to larger robots that can move full pallets. With all varying in max capacity, we will work in collaboration with you to find the robot that works best in your solution.

Available Product Line

Fetch Robotics Products

Fetch Robotics also has their own cloud-based operating system called FetchCore. Fetch created this operating system to be as user-friendly and flexible as possible, from launch through operation. You can easily set the operation workflow for robots on the system and even pair it with your WMS software for complex solutions. However, having WMS software integration is not necessary, and therefore allows for a quick and seamless setup in any facility.

Of course, safety is of paramount importance when it comes to choosing a partner. Fetch products have received countless safety certifications. All robots are built with numerous protection features, making them extremely secure to work collaboratively with warehouse staff.

Above all, we strive to be your service partner. Therefore, we will ensure that we provide the best products and services possible for all your AMR needs.

Want to learn more? You can read more about our partner and contact us for more information here!

Fetch Robotics SSI Partnership

To round out a great 2018, we are excited to announce that Storage Solutions has completed the requirements to become a Fetch Certified Solutions Provider! This partnership will provide us with a wide variety of solutions that we feel will be able to help our customers work efficiently while saving them money.

Who Is Fetch Robotics?

Founded in 2014, Fetch Robotics is one of the leaders in robotics and innovation in the supply chain industry. Located in San Jose, CA, they benefit from the abundance of technological resources the Silicon Valley has to offer.

Fetch is the leading technology partner when it comes to Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). With a wide variety of options, we are able to find you the robot that fits perfectly with your solution.  Together, we will work as your one-stop-shop for robotic automation from small parts to large pallets.

We are beyond excited to start working with Fetch Robotics. This partnership allows us to provide you with an even bigger solutions catalog, thus optimizing your facility to its highest point. Want to learn more about our new partner? Contact us today and we’ll give you the full breakdown on what the partnership means for you!

The Fetch team was on-site this week for a training session, so stay tuned for more details. Until then, be sure to check out the pictures below of our site visit to Fetch’s headquarters recently.

 

 

Broken Case Picking Phases

There are many options available for Storage Solutions to address your broken case picking operational challenges. Therefore, it’s essential to make sure you are matching the right picking approach to what your warehouse needs. The more challenging your needs are, the more likely you are to be able to make a business case with a relatively short-term ROI for more complex solutions.

Our team uses a variety of criteria to decide what equipment, automation, and technology are best to optimize each solution. The volume of picked items is a crucial element of this process, so we’re going to walk through some examples of what we can do to tailor each operation for peak efficiency. We will break this down into four levels of pick activity, including low, medium, and high-volume operations, along with advanced systems for very high volume and complex processes.

Phase 1: Low Volume

In a low volume broken case picking operation, we typically see little or no automation and limited technology solutions. Limited labor requirements make it challenging to show an ROI for complex solutions. You are most likely dealing with bin shelving or hand stack pallet rack for a storage method. These operations often use paper pick lists or RF scanning technology to manage orders. With a low volume of items picked, frequently, the most cost-effective method would involve using a manual pick cart or gravity conveyor to move through the order selection process.

Phase 2: Medium Volume

For a medium-volume picking operation, simple automation and technology solutions are most appropriate. These systems lend themselves to incorporating more dense storage methods, such as carton and pallet flow. Often times, we have found lower-level automation options like powered conveyors and vertical lift machines (VLMs) to be cost-justified. Simple technology solutions like pick-to-light carts or put-to-light walls are other types of equipment that are optimal for a medium volume operation. Also, semi-automated tapers with void fill machines may also be the best option to maximize productivity in the packing area.

Phase 3: High Volume

Next, for a high volume picking operation, automation, and technology solutions will most likely be involved. While the storage methods may be similar to a medium-volume operation, the overall facility solution is typically configured differently. A multi-level pick module or pick zone-based solution will often make the most sense. Warehouse control systems (WCS) are often required to manage automation components. Packing and shipping are also more likely to rely on automation. The packing process could benefit from fully automated packing list insertion and fully automated tapers, weigh in motion scales & print & apply labeling tools.

Phase 4: Advanced

Lastly, advanced volume picking operations benefit the most from automation. This equipment can include various powered conveyors, sortation, semi-automated deep lane storage, ASRS, mobile robotics, or other “goods-to-man” solutions. The picking process will likely incorporate high-level technology solutions, including voice-directed picking. In addition, packing and shipping will also rely heavily on automation. Advanced pick operations can benefit from solutions such as automated unit sortation, weigh-in-motion scales, and automatic print/apply shipping labeling. Similarly, automatic carrier diverts are also substantial automation and technology options for advanced pick operations.

At the end of the day, every level of activity brings a different challenge, so it is crucial to plan for growth. We are here to help you implement the optimal facility to meet your current & future business needs. Our team will be with you throughout the process, making sure that we get you everything you need down to the finest details.

Click here to read more about how we can optimize your broken case picking facility!

Vertical Lift Machines

Vertical Lift Machines (VLMs) are the automation solution that could bring your operation to the next level. Automation is, of course, becoming necessary in modern facilities, making VLMs the perfect solution to add to your operation.

VLMs are a “goods to man” picking solution that allows users to pick orders efficiently while optimizing space utilization within a facility. Its internal software allows this seemingly complex machine to be one of the most user-friendly tools in your warehouse.

As an extremely customizable machine, VLMs can be catered to your every need. Their location sizes can be easily adjusted “on the fly”, and their functionality takes all the guesswork out of it, maximizing pick accuracy. In addition, the extremely high pick rates and space utilization will lead to labor savings and increased revenue. With its ability to move up to 120 trays per hour, multiple machines can be grouped for maximum efficiency.

Finally, VLMs can be an integral part in decreasing your footprint in your facility. For example, in a recent project, adding VLMs to the facility decreased our customer’s footprint from 5,000 square feet to 150. That’s over a 90% increase in space for other necessary equipment.

Want to learn more about Vertical Lift Machines? Click here for more information!