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Automated Packing Solutions Blog

As e-commerce continues to grow rapidly, fulfillment centers are exploring avenues to maintain or lower operational costs through process improvement, data-driven design, and technology solutions. For companies experiencing growth in their e-commerce fulfillment demands – or are new to e-commerce fulfillment altogether – it may be challenging to find a place to start.

The packing process is one of the more costly areas for most fulfillment centers in that stage. For the most part, freight, materials, and operational or labor costs all rise as order volume rises, and if there is no strategy in place to maintain or lower those costs, expenses can get out of hand quickly.

By investing in automated packing technology solutions, distribution centers, warehouses, and fulfillment centers can minimize these cost increases while boosting productivity, increasing fulfillment velocity, and improving your overall customer experience.

What Should I Look for with an Automated Packing Solution?

With any well-designed automated packing solution, it is essential to value the reduction of waste. Not only are you paying for material you may not be entirely using, but you are creating a messier working condition and requiring additional cleanup – two factors that can cause increases in labor costs over time.

To that end, some systems offer to automate tray forming, which allows enough material to ship the product with minimal scrap. Once the product is in the tray and any value-added services like coupons or marketing materials are included, the ideal packing solution can automatically measure and void fill an inflatable or paper cushioning to keep the product secure for shipment.
Another feature of an optimal end-of-the-line solution would include automatic lid placement and pack closure. After the lid is placed and the pack is closed, shipping information and any other required labels can be applied to the package, either by a packer or automatically by the packing solution.

Lastly, once the system is implemented, you will want to find a partner that offers ongoing customer service in the event of a disruption. The right solution partner should help you meet your customers’ needs and your operational needs long after installation. Some systems even offer remote repair and offsite monitoring, which can detect problems, perform routine maintenance, and conduct productivity analyses.

The result should showcase a product that looks similar to a product shipped from the most comprehensive e-commerce fulfillment centers, with tamper-evident, easy-to-open, and easy-to-return packaging. A right-sized package can also reduce freight costs, and customers are happy because the product is secure and delivered in line with their expectations.

Find a Custom Automated Packing Solution for Your Needs

Each business has its challenges, and the optimal solutions for those challenges genuinely depend on the organization’s distinctive needs. As part of an overall fulfillment strategy, the right automated packing solution should be uniquely designed to minimize freight, operational costs, and weight while improving productivity for a valid return on investment.

If you are interested in increasing your fulfillment velocity and meeting your customers’ demands for rapid delivery, give us a call. Our team of experts will learn about your business’s specific challenges and connect you with the right automated packing solution that best fits your operational needs.

Carton Flow Blog

Warehouse managers are often tasked with finding new and innovative ways to increase storage capacity while increasing speed and effectiveness in order fulfillment operations. Carton flow, also known as case flow or gravity flow, features various storage options that may be the right solution for your facility.

A carton flow system can be an ideal way to improve picking speeds and storage capacity within a warehouse. These systems consist of tracking and rollers that use gravity to push products through a pallet rack. As an item is picked from the rack’s front, the package behind it gravity feeds into the front position, ready to be selected.

This storage style is ideal for a warehouse set up for case picking or each picking. This process allows for each SKU to have a dedicated pick face, helping the picker with the accuracy of an order. Because a lot of SKUs can be presented for picking in a bay of rack, that means shortened travel with a reduced pick path, increasing throughput. It allows you to get more done at a faster rate because you are making a shorter run.

One additional benefit is that these can be installed into standard pallet rack, with the tracks being dropped into hangers that attach to the beams. These systems can be designed to fit multiple sizes of cartons, bins, and boxes to accommodate different SKU sizes.

Traditionally, there are two downsides to carton flow picking. Because someone (or something) physically places the boxes into storage, then another person retrieves them, there are additional material touches with each pick. The extra step may slow down some processes that require high throughput to remain effective.

With this storage method, products are automatically sorted for a first-in, first-out inventory system.

There are many different styles of carton flow available and finding the right mix of these may be the way to turn your warehouse into a more profitable fulfillment operation that maximizes its storage capacity.

Spantrak Carton FlowFull-Width Roller Tracks

Pros: Typically, this style of racking is suitable for heavy loads because of its durability and ability to withstand abuse. It offers higher capacity on a per-square-foot basis, so this type of racking is often found in beverage storage situations where there is a need to store heavy cases of product.

Cons: The downside of the durability is that this style of racking is rigid in its configuration. It offers almost zero flexibility after it is assembled (without tearing it down and re-assembling, of course). For instance, if you have 15″ wide lanes and the packaging size for that product changes, you have to get new lanes to accommodate the updated package.

Example: UNEX’s SpanTrack Carton Flow Lane

Carton Flow FlextrakPolycarbonate Skate Wheel Tracks

Pros: These polycarbonate skate wheel tracks essentially make a level of carton flow lanes a full flow bed. Since carton lanes are not configured ahead of time, this style of racking is very flexible in terms of the package sizes that can flow through the storage. Meaning, if your product size or packaging type changes, then you will not have to reconfigure this system. It is also relatively easy to install into new or existing racks.

Cons: Because there are no pre-defined lanes, this racking style makes it easier to change pick faces frequently. However, if your warehouse is relatively static in terms of the number of SKUs in inventory & their packaging, there may be lower-cost alternatives for carton flow storage.

Example: Engineered Products’ Flextrak Bed Carton Flow

Carton-Flow-Plastic-RollersSmall-Diameter Plastic Wheel Carton Flow In Shelves

Pros: Small-diameter plastic wheel carton flow is a light-weight shelf and track system that can be flexible in that it allows for adjustments as product or packaging changes. This style of racking is ideal for lighter-weight products that will not damage the light-duty carton flow during use. While it is used in a low percentage of carton flow applications today, this type of racking has historically been popular because of its low initial cost.

Cons: Because of the plastic wheel’s small diameter, this type of racking is not built to store large or heavy packages. It is also susceptible to damage due to its light-weight design.

Example: Gauer Metal’s Flow-Track Option

Carton Flow Heavy DutyHeavy-Duty Carton Flow

Pros: Heavy-Duty Carton Flow is an excellent option if you are storing very heavy or bulky items like automotive parts, and you have concerns about the durability of your carton flow racking. Like the polycarbonate skate wheel tracks, this carton flow style offers a full bed of rollers, though snap-in wire dividers are also available. The main difference is that the rollers are full steel, offering additional durability with an estimated 40% higher weight capacity.

Cons: With the added durability, there comes a higher initial cost in material and installation for heavy-duty carton flow.

Example:3D Storage Solutions’ Heavy Duty Carton Flow Applications

To find the option best for you, talk with an expert. Our team of Storage Solutions experts has decades of experience finding creative solutions for nearly any use case. We can walk you through what may be best for your warehouse and see if carton flow is ideal for increasing your storage capacity and optimizing your fulfillment operations.

dynamic-solutions-labor-costs

With wages projected to rise nationwide, along with costs associated with employee safety, warehouse managers are experiencing an uncomfortable environment of increasing labor costs. Labor cost issues are not unique to those in the material handling industry. The cost of labor in this industry is especially affected by variance when it comes to maintaining the high levels of service expected by customers today.

No one can predict the future. Accidents are avoidable but happen. Weather delays are not unavoidable. Production delays, changes in regulations, and “the human element” all factor into these variances in labor costs. So, how does one accurately forecast? Can you avoid any of these variances with the addition of automation?

Thankfully, the answer is yes. Our experts know how to solve these issues by introducing dynamic solutions to your operations.

Dynamic solutions like vertical lift machines, conveyors, or any of Fetch Robotics’ On-Demand Automation Solutions supplement your current labor force. These solutions allow for growth for your employees. Rather than having your team carrying items back and forth, dynamic solutions assist with the mundane, repetitive aspects of picking. With dynamic solutions in place, your team can focus its attention on more rewarding – and profitable – tasks and initiatives.

How Dynamic Solutions Help Your Business:

  • Cost Certainty: Adding dynamic solutions can help add cost certainty to your budgeting process. We create efficiencies by automating processes that typically are done by manual labor. With investments into automated solutions, you can streamline variable costs that come with human labor – salary, vacation, benefits, insurance, and more.
  • Right-Sized Investments: When it comes to investing in automated solutions, there is a typical misconception around the size of investment a business needs to make. When you work with a Storage Solutions expert, we will work with your team to address your needs and find the right solution, with an investment that matches your budget and fits within your current operation. Every client has unique challenges. However, we solve these challenges by eliminating unnecessary costs.
  • The “Human Element”: Let’s face it. There is a “human element” that comes with labor that often goes understated and underreported. For example, managers account for sick days, underperformance, and other indirect factors that come with employment. By introducing dynamic solutions, you can account for those lost costs and remove some overhead in the process, adding to your overall efficiency.
  • Maximize Potential – While the “human element” is real, your co-workers are still your co-workers. Now that mundane tasks are automated, what kind of work will your employees do next? How will additional attention toward safety, execution, and optimization improve your warehouse and workflow?

What is Next?

Dynamic Solutions are available to help you run your operations smoother. With a higher level of certainty and quality, where can you see your business in just a few months?

Our experts often see returns on our dynamic solutions within two years or less, because we put the right solution in front of our clients. We pay attention to the details so we can customize a solution to satisfy the exact needs of your operations.

Contact us today to learn more about our Dynamic Solutions and how these solutions can support your bottom line.