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Four ways LMS helps create an engaged workforce

Attracting and retaining a productive, engaged workforce are two of the greatest challenges distribution center (DC) operators face. As previous generations continue to exit the labor pool, they leave a vacuum that's being filled by millennials who bring a unique set of values to the workplace. Employers must appeal to their desires for autonomy and meaningful employment, making sure they feel empowered and know the worth of their contribution to the company's greater success.

By creating a culture of fairness and transparency, Labor Management Software (LMS) helps DCs create an environment in which employees thrive and stay engaged. LMS helps managers identify employee strengths and weaknesses to set achievable work assignments, find the right resources for specific tasks, and tie worker performances back to results. Here's how:

1. Create an engagement model. Engaged employees need well-defined and transparent goals, ongoing coaching and mentoring, and an employer that's dedicated to their continuous improvement. Not only does LMS help improve operating processes and establish key performance indicators, it enables the sharing of individual performance data to create a healthy spirit of competition. It also identifies when specific employees may need focused coaching and mentoring to elevate their productivity. 

2. Establish trust in leadership. It's not always easy for DC leadership teams to instill the company's vision, mission and purpose. LMS helps leaders demonstrate these values through open lines of communication and the ability to make decisions based on facts. The net result is a more visible leadership team with more effective relationships and interactions with staff. 

3. Provide opportunities for growth. It's a known fact that employees who feel like they have opportunities for growth and clear pathways for advancement are more engaged. With its transparent, accurate assessment of worker performance, LMS encourages employee success and nurtures individual growth. DC managers can clearly reward employees based on merit alone, either by providing fair opportunities for advancement or instituting pay-for-performance incentive programs. 

4. Foster a supportive work environment. We know that favoritism, nepotism or any form of preferential treatment are detrimental to workplace culture and employee satisfaction. LMS is a workplace morale multiplier. Since effort and performance are the baseline for rewards and recognition, LMS helps foster a diverse and inclusive workforce and a culture of teamwork. This paves the way for other important incentives that build a positive work environment, such as flexible scheduling options or on-site perks for achieving specific team goals. And for those who are not meeting performance standards, LMS helps managers step in and provide focused training.

A common misconception about LMS is that it will create an environment where employees may feel that they can never quite measure to performance expectations. On the contrary, the opposite is true; employees actually appreciate the transparency and fairness that LMS enables. 

To learn how LMS can drive productivity while creating an engaged workforce, read more about Honeywell Intelligrated's GoalPost® LMS or contact one of our labor management experts

How zone skipping can take omnichannel operations to new heights

As e-commerce titans like Amazon continue to re-shape the retail landscape, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers turn to omnichannel strategies to find a competitive advantage and increase operational efficiency. This includes running e-commerce fulfillment and retail replenishment from the same facility and leveraging stores for near-immediate fulfillment. As this line between physical retail and digital commerce continues to blur, delivering a convenient, consistent and compelling customer experience across all channels becomes paramount.

This final segment of our three-part blog series on zone skipping looks at its impact on omnichannel retail. For a refresher, check out part one on the basics of zone skipping and part two for tips to ensure a proper implementation.

It's an omnichannel world

Competition in modern retail means meeting consumer preferences to research, buy and receive merchandise in the manner of their choosing, whether in store or via direct delivery. These choices have serious consequences for logistics operations, challenging retailers to make the most efficient use of existing inventory and delivery capacity. 

From brick-and-mortar to shared quarters

Consolidating supply chain operations to run retail replenishment and e-commerce fulfillment from the same facility is a proven solution to root out redundancy and reduce supply chain costs. And while this approach does present challenges to make the most of warehouse space, increase throughput volume and handle greater complexity, it also provides opportunities to find extra value from retail delivery routes.

Enter zone skipping

Retailers already have trucks running regular deliveries to replenish inventory at brick-and-mortar retail locations. They also have e-commerce orders destined for the same regions. Zone skipping in these omnichannel operations involves sorting e-commerce orders according to region and loading them into gaylords, accompanying existing retail deliveries headed for the same area. This allows retailers to take advantage of latent delivery capacity and avoid redundant shipping costs.

Retail replenishment trucks can deliver pre-sorted e-commerce orders to regional carrier facilities located near the final destination. This reduces the sorting and shipping done by parcel carriers and improves delivery time by getting items as close to the final delivery location as quickly as possible. 

Real ROI

Zone skipping can save up to 75 percent per parcel by reducing reliance on parcel carriers for both sortation and transportation. These savings are more crucial than ever, as operations face dimensional weight pricing (DIM) and other pricing pressures from parcel carriers. Assuming a conservative savings estimate of $0.20 per item in shipping costs, multiplied by 200,000 to 500,000 orders per week, operations can generate $40,000 to $100,000 in weekly savings from zone skipping.

In addition to improving profitability, these reduced shipping costs are passed on to consumers, providing a real competitive advantage and potential sales boost. According to the 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, of the more than 90 percent of buyers who reported abandoning shopping carts, at least half cited unexpectedly high shipping costs as the reason for doing so.

This concludes our blog series on zone skipping. For further information on the advantages of zone skipping and how it can benefit your operation, read the Honeywell Intelligrated white paper, Zone skipping strategies to reduce e-commerce shipping costs or contact us

10 steps to improve operational efficiency

As rising order volumes place increasing pressure on labor resources, e-commerce order fulfillment (e-fulfillment) center managers are always looking for ways to improve operational efficiencies. Compared to traditional distribution centers, these e-fulfillment centers require significantly more labor resources to get orders out the door, according to promised customer service level agreements (SLAs). 

To meet SLAs without cutting into profit margins, managers need to be able to quickly identify underperforming labor resources and process bottlenecks. In a recent On The Move webinar co-hosted by me and Mark Steinkamp, Honeywell Intelligrated's director of solutions development, we discussed 10 ways companies can identify operational inefficiencies and address them before they impact the bottom line.

1. Know your operation. Managers often overlook the value of regularly walking the floor to evaluate areas that are labor-intensive or where traffic may be congested. In addition to this simple step, more formal audits, metrics analysis and even business intelligence tools are useful to evaluating operations.

2. Train, train and train again. Regular training (and cross-training) on systems and processes or associates and management alike is critical to running efficient operations. Posting cheat sheets, documenting SOPs and establishing a "coaching" methodology are also training best practices. 

3. Put people first. To train, grow and retain employees, never forget that it's still a people-centric business where relationships are important. To keep labor focused on productivity, establish five key metrics as common ground. Then, reward top performers while discouraging unproductive habits. 

4. Keep an order fulfillment focus. With increasing order volumes and SKU types, give your operation the proper tools to meet the challenge. From regular MHE maintenance and system design evaluation to mobile devices and golden zone slotting, your goal is to create an environment that helps pickers perform at their best.

5. Improve customer service. It's a service-oriented industry, and even the smallest of details can make a measurable difference. Reducing internal backlogs and ensuring vendor compliance are two easy-to-implement examples of how to do this.

6. Remove barriers to success. Perform process analysis to track problems and and identify opportunities for improvements. Pareto charts are useful for uncovering extremes and determining where to make changes. This is not a "set-and-forget" mentality, but an ongoing process.

7. Raise the bar. Even after you've made improvements, it's important to not settle for a new status quo. Instead, always strive to incrementally improve results and raise the productivity of low-performing associates.

8. Review processes. You would be surprised how many e-fulfillment centers don't have proper process documentation. Once in place, these can be evaluated and updated for continual process improvement, or entirely revamped to incorporate new workflows or automation.  

9. Benchmark against your peers. Network within the MHE industry to gain insights and learn strategies that others have already successfully deployed. Engaging with your vendors and suppliers gives them opportunities to add value to your operations.

10. Assess the power of your system. Conduct a technology review to assess the efficiency of your MHE system. Is it delivering the throughput your operation requires? Then familiarize what offerings are available in the market place, and decide if an upgrade is necessary.

Even taking a few of these steps can quickly help your operations become more efficient. We urge you to view this webinar in its entirety, then reach out to us for more information on how we can help you meet your process improvement goals.

New On The Move webinar: 10 steps companies can take to improve operational efficiency

Challenging market dynamics like limited labor availability and the increasing demands of e-commerce order fulfillment (e-fulfillment) are placing extraordinary pressures on distribution centers, warehouses and fulfillment operations. As businesses invest millions of dollars annually to design, build and operate these facilities, they must also become skilled at quickly identifying when these challenges are impacting customer service levels or chipping away at profit margins.

In our next On The Move webinar - which will take place on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT - Luther Webb, Intelligrated's director of operations & solutions consulting, and Mark Steinkamp, Intelligrated's director of solutions development, will explain how companies can identify operational inefficiencies and address them before they impact the bottom line.

Compared to traditional distribution centers (DCs), e-fulfillment centers not only have significantly more orders to fill, but also require more labor - and up to four times the parking spaces as traditional DCs. With so much at stake, and so many resources to manage, maintaining operational efficiency becomes even more critical. 

Luther and Mark will begin their webinar by covering the unique challenges these e-fulfillment centers face, including:

  • Reducing order cycle times while increasing throughput and accuracy 
  • Dealing with SKU proliferation and the rise of each-picking scenarios
  • Managing inventory availability vs. inventory costs
  • Attracting, training and retaining a skilled workforce

To show attendees how to evaluate the effectiveness of their operation, Luther and Mark will discuss the importance of data and trend analysis around key data points, such as: product flow (and bottlenecks); available space; customer complaints and returns; interviews; organizational goals; and facility design capabilities. 

Luther and Mark will consolidate all this information into a 10-step approach designed to help operations identify opportunities for improvement today and in the future.

So, if you're ready to learn how to audit operational performance, improve training functions and streamline order fulfillment processes, please join Luther Webb and Mark Steinkamp for the next On The Move webinar on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT. 

More palletizing flexibility - hold the hassle

SKU proliferation continues to drive change and innovation in virtually every part of the supply chain, in distribution centers and manufacturing operations alike. For palletizing operations, this spurs a need for greater adaptability as moving a more diverse product mix to more markets around the world dictates new package handling requirements, pallet types and pattern configurations. 

Making adjustments to account for these changes can be a cumbersome process, requiring complex programming and technical support. Even basic adjustments for product changeovers may require a service call or external software programs. 

But what if these adjustments didn't have to be so complicated?

Complexity takes time, an increasingly scarce resource for operations with high throughput goals and tight production timelines. And the challenge to find staff with the advanced skillsets necessary to execute palletizing changes is exacerbated by the well-documented talent gap facing supply chains.

These challenges call for simplicity. What if operations could take advantage of the palletizer's standard control system to make adjustments? Using the local human machine interface (HMI) can reduce the extra work and enable user-friendly, flexible adjustments of pattern and load configurations according to changing product dimensions, pallet types and other variables. 

Make adjustments a cinch and move into the fast lane

IntelliGen™ palletizing software comes integrated with the palletizing cell's standard control system and allows personnel to create pattern configurations with a simple drag-and-drop interface, greatly simplifying the introduction of new products or changes to existing SKUs. It also enables easier creation or modification of existing layer patterns by utilizing searchable templates. If case size changes slightly, or an extra layer or tier sheet needs to be added, the pattern and load configuration can be adjusted straight from the operator terminal - a far more efficient process than rebuilding from scratch. Making these new patterns and load configurations quickly and easily is critical to maintain tight schedules, keep output high and maximize efficiency. 

Any brand, any tool, any pattern

The IntelliGen platform offers wide-ranging compatibility across major robotic arm brands and a variety of end-effectors, including vacuum, clamps and bag tools. This reduces integration startup challenges, and produces an automated solution capable of handling everything from corrugate cases and plastic totes to bags. The software also supports advanced palletizing functionalities like row-forming, case-turning, partial row picks and multi-drops, all of which enable pattern flexibility - yielding higher throughput rates and maximum flexibility. 

The right combination to get ahead

This seemingly contradictory combination of expanded capability and simplicity is critical for successful palletizing in the warehouse and manufacturing environments. As an RIA-certified robot integrator and single-source provider with over 20 years of robotics experience, Honeywell Intelligrated brings the expertise and experience to provide material handling solutions tailored to operational challenges that deliver results. IntelliGen allows operations to focus on what they do best - protecting customer satisfaction and the bottom line. 

For more information on palletizing solutions designed for the challenges of today and tomorrow, read the Honeywell Intelligrated blog Picking the right pieces for a successful palletizing solution.