Tag Archive for: each picking

Increased Volume of E-Commerce Orders

According to Digital Commerce 360, e-commerce, as a portion of total retail sales, rose 44% in 2020, triple the rate increase of sales over the prior year. While the result has been increased convenience for consumers, warehouses, fulfillment centers, and distribution centers are looking to overcome challenges associated with that dramatic shift in consumer behavior.

Some are looking at building new facilities dedicated to fulfilling these types of orders. Others are looking to design and technology solutions that can help them meet the unique demands of their current facilities. Either way, they are seeking to resolve fulfillment challenges that are resulting from the rise of e-commerce.

With massive change in consumer behavior underway – and more change to come down the road – let us take a closer look at each of the significant pain points caused by the rapid increase of e-commerce on the supply chain.

The most accessible place to start in examining common challenges to facilitate more e-commerce orders is in the facility’s design. Warehouses are reaching storage capacity for their original intended design and function. After all, many warehouses were built to sustain and maximize full pallet orders. Now, there is a requirement to facilitate a more significant share of e-commerce orders, which means they need to react to higher order volume and store a wider variety of SKUs.

There are also inherent design hurdles to overcome regarding where – and how – the products are stored and retrieved. For instance, the warehouse goes from storing pallets and cases in static racking, where employees are driving powered equipment to travel to a location, pick a pallet or case, take it to a shipping area, and send it out the door. Now, they need to make individual products accessible, typically available at the floor level, and make it easy for someone to pick either a unit or multiple SKUs for an order.

They need to mold their processes to move from case-or-pallet picking to include the each picking required by e-commerce. In that transition, they are learning that it is very different to pick individual products.

With each picking, the process for fulfillment is nearly double the number of steps compared to case-or-pallet selection. Forklift retrieval for full pallet or case picking, where a high volume of a single product can be moved and shipped – process warehouses have made efficient for decades.

For a higher percentage of orders, workers must now pick, consolidate, pack, and then ship orders, all while customers are demanding their products be delivered more quickly than ever. Now operations will need to establish a consolidation process, packing process, and shipping process.

After all, e-commerce orders are requiring these businesses to double their processes. Are those processes optimized? How are they integrated with the full pallet orders? What tools are available to help with the transition?

Those are all reasons why the operational cost of fulfilling a single order for e-commerce is higher than that of a pallet or case order. Distribution centers and warehouses are already under increased wage pressure, and now they need to integrate these new, increased operational expenses that chip away at their bottom line.

In addition, the costs for labor rising are not only the costs for labor, but the availability of reliable labor is a real challenge that warehouses, fulfillment centers, and distribution centers are all facing. Whether it is due to the COVID-19 pandemic or other external forces, absenteeism is growing in this sector.

Combine all the above, then also factor that we are amid a labor shortage in the supply chain industry, which in part arose due to a sharp rise in demand for trained workers, among other external factors.

What Challenges Are You Experiencing?

What other challenges are you experiencing as a result of the rise of e-commerce? There are emerging trends that dynamic operations respond to, but we understand that each fulfillment center has its unique challenges, and we are here to help.

To adjust to the challenges caused by a rising share of e-commerce orders, a similarly increasing share of distribution and fulfillment centers are investigating adding automation, technology, and dense storage solutions. Autonomous mobile robots, automated packing solutions, and goods-to-person picking solutions all have applications to combat the challenges caused by the higher order volume and can be implemented without requiring an investment in costly infrastructure. These solutions also help relieve high labor costs and labor reliance while helping drive throughput and speed in the fulfillment process.

Whether you are experiencing labor challenges, seeking alternatives to manual fulfillment, or investigating long-term ROI strategies, give us a call. We have multiple partners who can provide solutions to these challenges in introduce increased labor efficiency into your operations. Our team has years of experience designing an ideal solution based on your data and our years of expertise.

Storage Solutions Each PIcking E-Commerce

“Each picking” is a common style of order picking in the rising world of order fulfillment through e-commerce channels. With each picking, individual products or SKUs are selected from a storage medium instead of choosing an entire case or pallet. Once the order is complete, the picker transports the order to a packing area to be shipped.

Especially at a high volume, this process can be relatively highly labor-intensive, add to rising labor costs, and potentially cause delays in order fulfillment. Plus, because order sizes are getting smaller – in line with a rising share of e-commerce orders – warehouses and distribution centers need to be aware of various storage solutions that support each picking. This knowledge is particularly valuable as we continue to adapt to a rapidly changing supply chain.

light-duty-cantilever

Cantilever Shelving

So, which storage solutions allow for your warehouse to be best equipped to facilitate each picking?

  • Cantilever – Cantilever arms can be attached to pallet rack uprights and be outfitted with wire decks to keep products like clothing and other soft goods within a multi-level system from a picking perspective. This configuration can make continuous picking and replenishment easier for workers. Cantilever shelving can also be utilized as a creative way to put small-cube and slow-moving objects on a shorter pick path.
  • Carton Flow – Primarily used in first-in, first-out picking situations, carton flow uses gravity to feed products forward from a rear-load design. When an item is picked, the next case or object with the same SKU moves forward with gravity’s help to the pick face. This style of racking is designed for high-volume each picking where you need to keep operator travel low.
  • Spantrak Carton Flow

    Carton Flow

    Hand-Stack Racking – Similar to cantilever shelving, hand-stack racks are traditionally used for storing products that may be too bulky or large for standard bin shelving. This racking style generally uses wire decking or a solid surface to act as shelves within selective pallet rack with variable heights per row to best fit products in cases or cartons.

  • Modular Picking Carts – Modular picking carts are great accessories for pickers as they fulfill an order. They can accommodate and organize the storage of one (or a few) products of several SKUs, a regular feature of e-commerce orders. These mobile carts can also be configured to be either single-sided or facilitate back-to-back storage, depending on your products’ sizes.
  • Vertical Lift Machines (VLMs)
    vertical-lift-machines

    Vertical Lift Machines

    – The primary benefit of a VLM is the maximization of vertical space in your warehouse. For instance, a VLM may be capable of storing the same amount of small cube items that take up 5,000 square feet of floor space in a warehouse and transfer that into about 150 square feet of floor space, giving you a 90% decrease in your footprint. This goods-to-man solution allows operators to pick orders accurately and efficiently at a high rate by delivering products in trays controlled by your already-existing Warehouse Management System (WMS).

Which Solution is Best for Your Facility?

For the most part, determining which storage solution is right for you depends on the size of the products stored in your warehouse and how quickly your orders need to be fulfilled. However, that time keeps shrinking due to changing customer expectations.

Having an expert by your side can help determine the best answer, especially if you are looking at adjusting pick processes, facility layout, and storage optimization.

Of course, our team is here to help! We would love to get a conversation started around the challenges you see in meeting customer expectations, rising labor costs, and storage needs. With our “simple, smart, strategic” approach, we can develop the optimal solution to meet your needs. Give us a call today!

Value of Fetch Solutions

Order fulfillment in today’s world is significantly different from even just a few years ago. With the rise of e-commerce, expectations for order fulfillment’s speed and accuracy make it hard for traditional warehouse operators to keep up.

In competing with the Amazons of the world, these traditional distribution centers are battling against now-slow fulfillment times, rising labor costs, and throughput challenges. Meeting those customer demands can be trying without introducing technology and dynamic solutions designed to meet those challenges head-on.

For those new to these emerging technologies, making that jump into automation can be scary. However, Fetch Robotics offers a line of products designed to assist with several operational variations without massive infrastructure investment.

They may not fully understand that there are introductory-level solutions available that allow incrementally beneficial solutions, many of which offer a return on investment relatively quickly. Plus, you do not have to deal with software integration or making a bunch of infrastructure changes. Instead, you can get a simple solution up and running quickly and easily. If you need something complicated or need a more comprehensive solution over time, these solutions can be more fully integrated to meet those needs.

Here are five ways that Fetch can incrementally add value to your operations:

  • Zone Pick/Batch Picking: Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are great tools to handle material movement, especially in zone or batch picking scenarios. They can physically move products from the pick area to another point in the process – perhaps to a conveyor or packing area. This usage saves your labor force from the physical toll of handling the material and traveling required, which also cuts down on travel time and allows your fulfillment to happen quicker.
  • Each Picking / Case Picking: People typically do not think of AMRs when handling each pick or case pick scenarios. However, that is a misconception. In fact, with the rise of e-commerce, these AMRs can similarly speed up the fulfillment process. Because each picking tends to associate itself with higher labor costs, integrating AMRs can be a great way to keep those labor costs down by reducing the distance traveled and the wear-and-tear on your workers.
  • Adaptability: As consumer demand continues to change, distribution centers that rely on heavy-duty pick modules or conveyors can fall behind. Why? Because they cannot change their processes quickly enough to meet those changes, the infrastructure they have constructed is too limiting and costly to move. Fetch Solutions allow your operations to quickly and easily adjust as needed.
  • Scalability: With a Fetch AMR solution, you can scale your automation quickly and simply by adding robots. Because workflows are developed within the FetchCore cloud operating platform, they can be programmed within just a few minutes. By adding more robots, you can increase your throughput as needed, allowing you to respond to demand changes as quickly as you need to.
  • Flexibility: Because these AMRs run on cloud-based software, they can be re-programmed at any point from anywhere that has an internet connection. That means, should your needs change – for instance, a new pick point needs to be added or removed, you can set those points without needing to re-program or re-map an entire facility.

Let’s Talk this Through

These solutions are not solely limited to support e-commerce, either. AMRs can support a wide variety of material handling needs and distribution concepts. Their adaptability, scalability, and flexibility can be explicitly designed to suit any number of needs.

If this is all new to you, know that we are here to help. Our team has years of experience in integrating these systems to fit a variety of industry models. Give us a call today, and we can talk about what challenges you face and determine the right course of action to give your organization that incremental value needed when you are first integrating dynamic solutions.