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Introducing Momentum™ WES: Warehouse Execution. Simplified

Honeywell Intelligrated is pleased to introduce Momentum, the next generation in warehouse execution systems (WES). Momentum is a feature-rich software platform built on a unified code base to greatly simplify e-commerce fulfillment, store replenishment and wholesale distribution center operations.

We know that fulfillment requirements are becoming more complex every day. With customer expectations rising and cycle times getting shorter, your business is under continuous pressure to meet delivery schedules and protect profit margins. As you look for ways to improve efficiencies, automate manual processes and fully optimize fulfillment operations, you're left with an exceedingly complex environment.

That's why we took a clean-sheet approach to software development with Momentum: to help the industry address these escalating complexities. Our goal was not to be the first in the WES space, but to be the best. 

Instead of entering the market with a patchwork of custom software and machine controls, we set out to build a single platform that realized the full potential of a WES - one that offered unparalleled configurability, stability and extensibility to help you run your operations the way you know best.

With Momentum, the days of unsupportable, one-off customizations are replaced by predictable upgrade paths. Simply select from an ever-expanding list of robust modules to meet your requirements. 

Momentum delivers transformative benefits to fulfillment center operations: 

  • Improved equipment and space utilization
  • Increased throughput and labor productivity
  • On-time shipments with improved order accuracy
  • Reduced labor costs and requirements
  • Shortened cycle times and faster deliveries
  • Fewer customer returns and complaints

Matching the Speed of Commerce, Today and Tomorrow

Regardless of your business model or operational requirements, the speed of commerce is driving up fulfillment complexities across the board. This is especially true for traditional retailers entering the e-commerce arena that find consumers who expect nothing less than the same service levels they receive from online retail giants. This translates into shorter delivery windows and cycle times, more demanding service level agreements (SLAs), and an increasing variety of SKUs, order profiles and seasonal demands. 

Add in labor shortages, costs and productivity challenges, and you can see why many operators are beginning to introduce increasing levels of automation. Regardless of where you currently sit on the spectrum of manual and automated processes - or where you plan to be in 10 years - Momentum is designed to address these challenges and reduce the complexities of order fulfillment

  • Real-time allocation of resources to meet demand
  • Incisive visibility to orders in process
  • Seamless connection with host systems and fulfillment processes
  • Integration with disparate material handling equipment and automation systems

Unlike other WES offerings in the market today, Momentum is designed to be the cornerstone of a next-generation fulfillment infrastructure that delivers on the realization of the industrial internet of things (IIoT) connectivity, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

It starts with connecting DC assets through machine-level sensors that monitor system health and capture performance data. Then, by leveraging Honeywell Sentience, a cloud-based IIoT platform, this data can be transformed into insights that give businesses the operational intelligence to make informed decisions about how to drive efficiencies and improve profitability.

Most importantly, Momentum is designed to scale to meet the specific needs of your operations. And, if you're seeking to evolve your operations to incorporate increasing levels of automation, Momentum can help you seamlessly make that transition.

Click here to learn more about how you can gain momentum in your operations.

Smart palletizing drives more efficient supply chains

Robotic palletizing is often the last process before products go out the door. The combination of robotic integration, software and auxiliary automation systems work together to create a palletizing solution that can have a profound ripple effect - setting up later supply chain processes for greater efficiency. The way pallet loads are constructed can affect how quickly and efficiently drivers can make convenience store deliveries and retail employees can re-stock shelves.

Today, a practically unlimited number of SKUs are available to accommodate ever-changing consumer preferences, pressuring businesses to maintain larger, more diverse inventories. This, combined with the industry-wide challenges of finding and retaining labor is driving up the demand for automation solutions flexible enough to handle complexity and capable of both saving labor inside the four walls and making it more efficient elsewhere in the supply chain.

Mixed pallets offer improved productivity

To meet consumer demands for various products, quantities and packaging, mixed-case or mixed-load pallets have become more prevalent. Automation solutions designed to create these loads allow manufacturers, retailers and distributors to replace repetitive, manual handling processes with greater efficiency and accuracy.

Palletizing software solutions allow pallet loads to be built-to-order, produced in the exact sequence in which employees will unload it or retail display specifications dictate, down to the cases in each layer. These custom, mixed-load pallets greatly enhance labor productivity, expediting each stop for delivery drivers and speeding up replenishment operations at stores.

The right tool for the job

Maintaining performance as products and packaging evolve requires choosing a robotic mixed-load order fulfillment solution with end-of-arm tooling capable of handling a wide range of packaging sizes, shapes and materials. End-of-arm tooling is a highly specific component that represents a large percentage of the overall costs of the palletizing system, so understanding the application and designing accordingly is critical.

What types of product and packaging? What are the target throughput rates? Working with the right partner will ensure robotic palletizers have the capabilities that match your operation's needs - custom-designed tooling included. For example, certain tooling types can even handle more than one product at a time, greatly increasing throughput and efficiency. 

With downtime needs in mind, smart palletizing operations can drive returns both on-site and at the point of sale, ultimately reducing costs and increasing throughput. To learn more about how your company can benefit from robotic palletizing solutions, contact a Honeywell Intelligrated representative and read the Picking the best robotic tooling for palletizing white paper. 

Offset labor challenges with AS/RS shuttle automation

Rapidly-increasing customer expectations are creating a challenging fulfillment landscape. E-commerce order volumes are three times higher than the retail industry as a whole. Consumers want greater product variety, creating larger and more volatile inventories, and they expect fast - and free - delivery. Mass urbanization adds additional challenges by shrinking available space and making prime locations more expensive.

These demands are compounded by a shrinking labor pool, placing upward pressure on wages. U.S. warehouses currently face 600,000 unfilled jobs and a 25% turnover rate. The cost of finding and training a replacement can easily reach 25% of a lost worker's salary - not to mention lost productivity, stress on other associates while a position is being filled, training time and reduced efficiency during onboarding. In an environment like this you need to make the best use of the valuable labor you have, and keep them sufficiently engaged so they aren't tempted to jump ship.

Automation and fulfillment technologies can help you achieve both of these goals by shifting your picking workflow from the traditional operator-to-goods (OTG) model to goods-to-operator (GTO) fulfillment.

The operator-to-goods workflow can be compared to shopping in a supermarket. Workers currently spend up to half their time walking between pick locations before picking. Adding more workers offers only diminishing returns as overcrowding and aisle congestion creates higher cycle times. The benefits of low capital investment are quickly lost to high operating costs, which are increasingly unsustainable in today's competitive market. 

Costly walk time is completely eliminated in the goods-to-operator fulfillment model, which uses automation to retrieve inventory and deliver it to employees. Think of the carousels that bring clothing directly to the worker at the front of a dry cleaner and you have the basic idea behind GTO.

The GTO workflow tackles the continual problem of souring labor by enabling significantly higher pick rates, which reduces overall labor requirements. GTO facilities maintain high efficiency as order volumes rise - when demand spikes require boosting the system's capacity at a moment's notice. Workers also reap the benefits of improved ergonomics, higher safety, increased focus and greater long-term productivity. 

While GTO systems require more capital investment, their operational benefits and lower operating costs drive real long-term savings. More orders are fulfilled with greater accuracy in less time, using fewer employees. 

Automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) shuttles are the key to the GTO model. They enable:

  • Greater storage density
  • More storage capacity
  • Layout flexibility
  • Easier scalability
  • Quicker access to inventory to feed downstream processes

Shuttles deliver these benefits by retrieving inventory in cartons, totes, cases or other storage media from narrow aisles. End-of-aisle lifts enable shuttles to travel between rows, and multiple shuttles can operate in the same row to increase throughput capability. Compared to other AS/RS solutions, shuttles offer the most efficient way to satisfy the growing demands of e-commerce distribution.

While AS/RS is a big investment, the current industry environment and the ROI benefits like these justify adoption more quickly:

1. Ease of finding, training and retaining labor

2. Reduced operating costs

3. Deferred need to invest in new facilities

4. Increased throughput

View the full webinar to learn additional details on how GTO systems driven by AS/RS shuttles can help you increase throughput by 500% or more, and overcome fulfillment labor challenges. 

Robotics developments produce game-changing innovations for material handling

In the last decade alone, workflow innovations and technological advancements have permeated every aspect of our personal and professional lives - the way we communicate, manage our home, conduct meetings and especially the way we shop. 

The dramatic rise of e-commerce and its impact on the material handling industry and the supply chain at large has been remarkably transformative. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the second quarter of 2017 was an estimated $111.5 billion, a 4.8 percent increase from the previous quarter. Manufacturers are scaling up output, and distribution and fulfillment operations are pushing more product out the door in an effort to serve ever-increasing order volumes. This growth drives a need to reduce order cycle times, increase accuracy and enable greater efficiency throughout the supply chain. In response, we've seen extraordinary industrial innovation over a very brief period.

Robots are not a new phenomenon. They've been around since the '60s performing various tasks in the factory, such as welding cars on assembly lines. Robots made inroads into logistics in the '90s in the form of robotic palletizing and case packing applications. All of these applications share a common thread of a consistent, known environment and material which yields optimal performance in repetitive manufacturing processes. Traditionally, robots have struggled with uncertainty and unstructured environments such as those seen in the warehouse as well as distribution and fulfillment operations. This is changing rapidly. Advancements in computer vision serve as excellent examples of the diffusion of innovation in robotic material handling solutions. However, some vision sensors for robotics systems weren't originally developed for industrial use. Any guesses?

The Microsoft Kinect (now discontinued - RIP) Xbox gaming consoles allowed players to direct the action of a game simply by moving their bodies, but researchers quickly realized this tech could be used to greatly improve how robotic systems "see." These sensors provided 3D data which proved to be extremely valuable since robots move in the real world. Fast forward a few years and we now have industrial sensors providing similar information that enables robots to function in new and more challenging environments like those seen in warehouses and fulfillment operations.

Coupling the advances in computer vision with the increase in computing power and adding the advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), robotic systems are becoming more capable every day. But, what can robots do in the warehouse now?

Applications like robotic tote or case palletizing and depalletizing are such examples of robotics in the warehouse. Building on the robotic palletizing core, robotic tooling to pick-and-place totes leverages both traditional robotics and advanced sensors to stack and de-stack totes for a wide variety of end use cases, driving greater efficiency in downstream supply chain processes. 

Fully automated robotic applications like each-picking are now becoming viable solutions, with the necessary degree of precision, processing power and handling capability becoming available at a cost-effective price point. Advances in perception, motion planning and grasping enable picking capabilities that approach the speed and ability of manual operators, while offering the superior predictability, scalability, accuracy and efficiency of automation. Although impressive, these robots still cannot yet handle the extreme variety of products seen in all e-commerce fulfillment operations, but they are showing quite some promise for the right product mix.

Building on many of the recent advancements from the massive investments in self-driving cars, indoor mobile robots have been making inroads into the warehouse. These vehicles are capable of navigating autonomously in the warehouse by using a suite of sensors much like a self-driving car drives on the street. These vehicles can do some of the walking required of warehouse workers, freeing them up to provide more value-added services unique to the worker's skillset. 

Though still in their infancy, small carrier robots are currently on the sidewalks of San Francisco and a handful of other test cities delivering hot meals to hungry customers. Autonomous drones are also being evaluated for use in inventory warehouses and external deployment as last-mile and direct-to-consumer delivery solutions. And that's just one of many recent technological developments. This up-close and personal consumer interaction with autonomous machines is a relatively new phenomenon and still needs to mature. 

As technological breakthroughs continue at an extraordinary rate, it becomes less clear where the next material handling innovation will come from. Self-driving cars? AI? Alternate / virtual reality? Only time will tell. 

For more information on how robotic solutions from Honeywell Intelligrated can work as part of your distribution, e-commerce fulfillment or manufacturing strategy, contact a Honeywell Intelligrated representative, or reference the robotics solutions brochure. 

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