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Honeywell Intelligrated InSights

Five keys to "click and collect" order fulfillment

To meet consumer demand for more convenient delivery options, many retailers have adopted the buy online and pick-up-in-store (BOPIS, or "click-and-collect") order fulfillment model. Depending on your service level agreement (SLA), customers expect orders to be ready for pickup usually within 1-3 hours. Unfortunately, many retailers make this promise without first having the in-store workflows in place to keep it. And, by turning a potential customer convenience into a frustration, their first missed SLA might be their last. 

Another common "click-and-collect" mistake retailers make is setting the SLA time too long and driving the customer to abandon the cart and possibly purchase from a competitor. 

So, if you're thinking about offering click-and-collect to your customers, it's important to be prepared for the associated order fulfillment challenges. What follows are five keys to ensuring a successful consumer experience, and five ways our Store Solutions can help.

1. Plan the perfect pick route - Picking products in a retail store can be a lot like trying to find your way through a labyrinth: it's important to choose the most efficient pick path for every order, every time. What you need is a system that batches orders to create optimal routes for picking orders in a steady flow. Store Solutions plans the most optimized pick route and directs store associates along that path; i.e., no more doubling back for missed items.

2. Determine order fulfillment cycle time - If you don't know how long it's going to take to fulfill an order, there's really no way to consistently meet SLAs. Even before a worker begins the pick process, Store Solutions accurately determines an order's cycle time. This adds predictability and certainty to the SLA expectation by estimating how long it will take to complete each order.

3. Drive productivity and accuracy - Workers who have well-defined pick paths will not only know how long it should take to pick a specific order, but will also complete the task at hand with fewer errors. By providing optimized pick planning, performance expectations and item picking validation, Store Solutions helps drive worker productivity and accuracy on every order. 

4. Allocate in-store resources - So, now that you're meeting BOPIS SLAs, are your everyday, in-store customers still receiving the service levels they've come to expect? Store Solutions provides the labor management tools to plan accordingly and effectively allocate resources to cover all your customer service bases. Labor planning is optimized to not disrupt other store activities and customer needs while filling orders.

5. Gather transactional data - Now that you've effectively solved the click-and-collect order fulfillment problem, there's an opportunity to take efficiencies to the next level. Store Solutions allows you to continuously fine-tune picking processes and worker performance by gathering valuable transactional data, such as: travel time and distance; planned pick time vs. actual pick time; path deviation, incorrect product locations and dwell times at product locations.

By following these steps, Store Solutions can help you predictably and efficiently meet click-and-collect SLAs - and even shorten them for an additional competitive advantage. To learn how you can deploy Store Solutions in your retail outlet, please visit the Store Solutions section of our website

Four ways labor management software makes the workplace more appealing to millennials

Every year, the millennial generation makes up an increasingly larger portion of the global workforce. Born between the early 1980s and 1990s, these individuals are expected to comprise up to 75 percent of workers by 2025. Millennials are characterized by having a unique set of employer expectations that differs greatly from the baby boomer and Gen X generations. Understanding the value of this current and future segment of your staff - and how to keep them happy and engaged - is vitally important. Labor management software (LMS) has a proven toolset that helps facility managers create a workplace environment in which millennials thrive. 

A recent Forbes article explored four things you should know about millennials to create an attractive workplace in their eyes:

  • They want to grow, even if that means growing out of your company.
  • They want a coach, not a boss.
  • They don't want to waste time on the little things.
  • They want balance and democracy. 

Let's look at each attribute and how LMS can address it. 

1. Provide growth opportunities.

The average tenure of millennial employees is two years, compared with five years for Gen X and seven for baby boomers. Millennials have demonstrated that they will change jobs quickly if they feel they are not receiving any personal benefit or growth. How can employers keep up? By not slowing them down. By providing the recognition and advancement opportunities that you can validate through labor metrics. LMS provides a way to fairly rank and track top performers to provide advancement opportunities to those employees who have earned it. 

2. More coaching, less bossing.

Millennials need an environment where they feel supported and valued. Through the ongoing performance and coaching interactions that LMS automates, millennials will receive the continuous feedback they desire through a less formal process than an annual or quarterly review. The more frequent feedback drives their confidence and engagement without alienating them to the process.

3. Help them understand their contribution.

LMS allows employers to directly link the role of an individual's performance to the overall business goals of the company. This helps millennials connect their contributions to the larger success of the company, ensuring that they understand the importance and priorities of the work they perform. LMS also automates several items such as: report generation, time tracking and the performance feedback process.

4. Give credit where credit is due.

LMS ensures that work credit is assessed accurately, commensurate with the quality of the work performed. By fairly rating the work against a standard - and not other workers - an LMS greatly reduces the potential for nepotism and other unfair practices that can arise. As a result, low-performing workers can be identified quickly for training or re-assignment while top performers get the recognition and advancement opportunities they deserve. 

To learn more about how an LMS can help you create a workplace that's conducive to millennial values, please visit the GoalPost® LMS section of our website

New On The Move webinar | Offset labor challenges with AS/RS shuttle automation

Today's e-commerce retailers face a perfect storm of market challenges. While order fulfillment complexities are on the rise, the pool of qualified labor continues to shrink. According to a recent report by the National Retail Federation, the growth of e-commerce order volumes is expected to triple those of wider industry growth rates. This emerging e-commerce reality is forcing DC operators to look for new ways to deal with rising SKU counts of varying velocities and the subsequent inventory, storage and picking difficulties. 

In our next On The Move webinar, we will discuss how many retailers are deploying automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) shuttles to address the mounting pressures of e-commerce order fulfillment. This informative webinar will take place on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST. 

In addition to looking deeper into the forces behind this trend, we'll also explain how the rules of thumb for deploying shuttle automation is evolving - from its historic use of addressing inventory storage challenges to a more pragmatic solution to offset labor shortages.

To better understand how e-commerce growth is driving the need for greater efficiencies, we will compare traditional operator-to-goods (OTG) workflows to goods-to-operator (GTO) automation. While OTG represents a lower capital investment, it is often characterized by labor-intensive, inefficient and inaccurate processes. In fact, workers can spend up to half their time walking between pick locations rather than actually picking. For SKUs that are ordered less frequently in an e-commerce scenario, OTG might require an associate to walk five minutes to a remote area of the DC to retrieve them. 

In contrast, a GTO shuttle system would greatly reduce labor requirements and potentially eliminate much of this walk time. And although a shuttle system calls for a higher capital investment, it delivers significant gains in pick rates, order volumes and accuracies. 

Attendees of this webinar will learn:

  • Impacts of labor challenges on e-commerce order fulfillment processes
  • Overview and benefits of the GTO shuttle fulfillment model
  • How AS/RS improves fulfillment efficiency, accuracy and throughput
  • The various factors driving the AS/RS ROI equation

So, if you would like to learn how AS/RS shuttle automation can help address your labor shortages and improve order fulfillment productivity, please register for our next On The Move webinar and join us Thursday, Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST. 

Top 5 ways AS/RS benefits inventory management during holiday peaks

The months of November and December are more critical to your retail distribution center (DC) than any other time of the year. As consumers make a run on retail stores and websites in search of the perfect holiday gift, a lack of preparation can spell certain disaster for your operation. 

Order fulfillment has become more complex than ever before. Consumer orders are more frequent, consist of many diverse SKUs and offer several options for delivery or in-store pickup, forcing effective, efficient omnichannel operations. To ensure your holiday peak season goes off without a hitch, consider adding automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) to streamline inventory management and accessibility for dramatically increased efficiency. 

Shuttle systems offer a fully-automated storage solution to store and retrieve inventory, controlled by software interfaces tailored to exact specifications. Here are five ways AS/RS can make your holiday peak a merry one.

1. Fast access to inventory - During hectic holiday peaks with everything on the line, being able to access product quickly to make same- or next-day delivery commitments is vital. Shuttle solutions provide faster access to inventory compared to manual processes with foot and forklift traffic, enabling more efficient inventory flow and ultimately allowing reduced inventory levels. With inventory carrying costs ranging as high as 40 to 45 percent of overall value per year, AS/RS not only can reduce operational costs but also free additional operational space for other processes during peaks. 

2. Better predictability - Manual inventory retrieval processes are not only less efficient, but also expose operations to vulnerabilities of inconsistency. Lapses in product flow can strike during employee turnovers, shift changes, refueling or battery replacements. Shuttle systems offer a more reliable solution for the inventory storage and retrieval process, arming management with more predictability and reliability with which to plan and execute operations integral to a successful peak season. 

3. Greater labor productivity - Because order fulfillment during holiday peaks is a race against the clock, optimizing labor is a critical component of success. With lowered inventory levels, fulfillment centers can reduce the staff needed to manage inbound transportation of product into storage. And unlike traditional operator-to-goods picking, AS/RS shuttle systems in fully-automated solutions bring product to pickers - eliminating walk time and enabling employees to spend more time filling orders. 

4. Greater storage density - AS/RS systems optimize existing warehouse space by enabling operations to build up - maximizing the use of vertical space - rather than out. Shuttle systems do not need to allow room for pedestrians or vehicles, nor are they limited by the reach of an employee or forklift. Instead, fulfillment warehouses can use taller, narrower storage aisles to access inventory thanks to the shuttles. Saving space comes in especially handy during peaks, as it leaves room for operations to bring in extra labor and house specialized seasonal SKUs or more inventory to maximize throughput and selection. 

5. Loss prevention - The 2016 National Retail Security Survey revealed that inventory shrinkage averaged $45.2 billion in total losses. What's more, a University of Florida study found that employee theft from retailers - including warehouse theft - amounted to 45 percent of that inventory shrinkage. With such a significant portion of this theft occurring internally, one option is to reduce the number of manual touchpoints in fulfillment processes. Inventory stored in an AS/RS shuttle solution is inaccessible to employees until its release for order picking operations. The technology tracks exactly what merchandise leaves the AS/RS and how much of it is required, allowing operations to keep a closer eye on its inventory.

The impact of e-commerce and the evolving labor pool continues to affect distribution and fulfillment operations, and holiday peak season magnifies the effect of these forces. When navigating your operation's busiest time of the year, an automated storage and retrieval system is a critical piece of fulfillment technology to maximize throughput and uptime. 

To learn about how Honeywell Intelligrated's AS/RS shuttle technologies can enhance your DC's efficiency, click here

The new space race: How conveyor solutions keep pace with urbanization

The transformative effect of e-commerce on order fulfillment operations is well known. Rising consumer expectations for convenience and shipping speed have left many operations struggling to keep up. The increased number of direct-to-consumer fulfillment paths threatens to inflate shipping costs and the number of delayed shipments, spurring dissatisfied customers to take their business elsewhere.

But these are not the only forces driving change. Rapid urbanization fueled by flight from suburban areas and small towns to larger urban centers shows no sign of slowing down - especially among millennials with technology preferences that favor e-commerce. Already crowded cities are getting bigger and denser by the month.

This mass migration to urban areas means e-commerce supply chain operations must follow suit, and increased competition for limited space by residential and commercial interests drives up land costs. This, coupled with SKU proliferation and expanding inventory requirements, all conspire to give operations no choice but to optimize the limited space they do have. 

Flexibility is key

Urbanization pressures order fulfillment operations to embrace flexibility. That is, the flexibility to optimize existing layouts and handle a wide array of package shapes and sizes, all coming together in a well-oiled e-commerce order fulfillment system to keep orders flowing to the right places at the right time.

A motor driven roller (MDR) conveyor right angle transfer enables such a material handling solution, offering the best payback in facilities with a high concentration of merge and divert operations working in a limited footprint. Using a compact, efficient design, these transfers facilitate a 90-degree change in direction for cases and totes, as well as some polybags.

Polybag handling can present added complexity to systems because of their inherent physical characteristics. Detecting the leading and trailing edge of the bag can be difficult due to inconsistent shapes, and bag corners add additional catch points that can lead to throughput-killing jams. Understanding what your system can handle, in terms of packaging types and the items within, is critical to success. An experienced partner or internal engineering resource can provide the expertise to ensure that equipment can reliably handle polybag-packed e-commerce orders.

Keep up with growth without sacrificing efficiency

As products and packaging types used for home deliveries continue to evolve, vital fulfillment infrastructure like sortation and conveyor systems must adapt. The right MDR transfers can adjust roller and band spacing to accommodate wide varieties of packaging types and sizes. For polybags, this can help minimize catchpoints and risk of jams without the need for margin-crushing modifications.

And as demand grows, best-fit fulfillment workflows change. Goods-to-operator fulfillment maximizes labor productivity and makes the most efficient use of available space to serve growing order volumes. In this workflow, MDR transfer works in tandem with an AS/RS shuttle system to keep inventory flowing smoothly and efficiently. 

When not in use, the transfer's run-on-demand technology minimizes wasted energy, resulting in longer equipment life and a fraction of total energy use. For operations already strained by higher land costs, these reductions offer welcome cost savings to minimize overhead and protect margins.

Designed to avoid downtime

With such tight delivery schedules, demanding service level agreements and competition only a click away, unplanned downtime is lethal. But in the event an outage does occur, a swift resolution can mean the difference between repeat business and losing customers. MDR transfers are maintenance-friendly by design and use fewer unique replacement parts, which means operations spend less time on maintenance and less money on replacement parts. Simpler designs with fewer parts also reduce risk of an outage and hasten a resolution in the event that an outage does occur.

For more information on how MDR transfers, conveyors and other sortation solutions can work as part of your e-commerce order fulfillment strategy, contact a Honeywell Intelligrated representative or read the Conquer high-volume e-commerce with goods-to-operator order fulfillment white paper.