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Tag: fulfillment

Wall-to-wall utility: Versatile put walls serve many purposes

Whether your DC relies on operator-to-goods batch-picking, zone-picking processes or an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS), put walls drive order fulfillment efficiency by providing convenient demand consolidation points. But exactly where and how put walls should be integrated can vary widely, depending on the needs of your operation.

Typically, the upstream picking or sortation method used in a facility will determine the most efficient way to utilize a put wall. Here are four of the most common scenarios, organized by the level of throughput they provide.

1. Batch-pick

This scenario minimizes picking execution by allowing pickers to aggregate demand in batches. For example, 10 units might be picked, then distributed to 10 different put wall cubbies. Case picking, where cases of one SKU are picked and distributed to multiple orders, is enabled in the same way. 

2. Zone-picking

In facilities with designated product zones, this scenario allows batch or "eaches" picking to take place in each zone. Pickers send totes from their zones to the put wall, where items are then distributed and consolidated by the operator. While still a relatively simple process, picking efficiencies are maximized by breaking order line items into individual zone-picking tasks.

3. Mechanized picking

In this highly efficient scenario, picking is handled by automated storage and retrieval systems, shuttle, carousel or mini-load automation technologies, minimizing the amount of operator movement required. For example, if 25 percent of a retailer's SKUs come from an AS/RS system, these items are automatically batch-picked as needed and delivered to the put wall.

Put walls can also be integrated into the sortation automation process, allowing sorted goods to be conveyed to the designated put wall station.

4. Cross-dock (receiving to order fulfillment)

To expedite delivery of high-demand products, put walls can be deployed in the cross-dock receiving process. In this scenario, items are taken out of cases and distributed directly to the put wall. Orders are conveyed to a pack-out station once demand is filled at the put wall. 

What's next?

Most of today's put walls are designed with fixed, uniform cubby sizes. The next generation of put wall technology will enable customizable configurations to address the challenges of SKU proliferation and changing product and order profiles. 

By combining the ability to customize put wall cubby sizes (hardware) with user-friendly programming (software), integrated put wall and light solutions give operators the ability to modify cubby sizes to accommodate varying product and order profiles in the same put wall. 

Intelligrated is leading the development of these customizable put wall solutions. With user-friendly software that automatically configures the light-directed confirmations of the cubby sizes, our modular put walls allow DC managers to expand their operations without having to do major material rework to their facilities. 

To learn more about how Intelligrated's enabling put wall technologies can enhance your DC's efficiency, click here

7 myths of labor optimization debunked

With order fulfillment and replenishment activities accounting for up to 65 percent of total warehouse expenses, labor management software (LMS) proves invaluable in offsetting escalating labor costs. From increased efficiencies, accuracy and throughput to reductions in errors, training time and turnover, LMS repeatedly demonstrates its ability to transform omnichannel fulfillment operations. But despite these obvious benefits, many warehouse and operations managers have reservations about utilizing an LMS in their facilities.

Intelligrated has deep experience implementing LMS in a variety of fulfillment operations. During these engagements, we've heard many of the misperceptions that persist about the limitations of implementing an LMS. What follows are the top seven LMS myths we encounter as well as explanations to set the record straight about these incorrect assertions.

1. We don't need labor optimization because we don't have enough direct labor resources to get a reasonable ROI. Even with a smaller number of resources, LMS can often provide sufficient process improvements by getting more out of the current workforce, thus putting off the need for making capital investments or other large cash outlays. Improving a resource from 50 percent to 75 percent performance effectively adds a half-resource to the area with a minimal investment in coaching. 

2. My WMS provides me with all the productivity information I need. A WMS reports only on single metrics like cases-per-hour and doesn't account for foot travel and product attributes. Unlike an LMS, a WMS also does not enable a cultural change or ways in which to maintain a continuous increase in performance (via coaching).

3. My processes are well defined, so I don't need an LMS. The old management adage, "you can't manage what you don't measure" applies here, in that there's no way to know if processes are efficient if you are not tracking them. LMS reveals which employees are (and are not) following processes, and can uncover individual organic process changes that should be shared and added as a standard operating procedure. 

4. Real-time feedback is needed to make proper staffing decisions. The truth is, there is an opportunity cost for evaluating labor movements in real time. Staffing decisions should be based on longer (15- to 30-minute) time frame "trends" to avoid losing the time it takes to move from one area to the next.

5. LMS provides only metrics around activities that have already happened. By continually gathering key performance data and other metrics, LMS allows warehouse managers to predict with high accuracy how they will process work in the future. This provides benefits to both short term, daily plans as well as longer-term staff planning for seasonal or other high volume events. 

6. My wave process drives efficiency through planning and execution. While wave processes can drive process efficiencies, LMS also addresses the peaks and valleys as other priorities make their way into the daily product flow. 

7. Optimizing each area separately optimizes the entire facility. Without a complete view of the entire facility, operations managers are unable to see how different areas feed or starve other sections with work. LMS takes a holistic look to tune the entire facility.

In addition to solving all the above challenges, Intelligrated's GoalPost® LMS is designed to address the ever-increasing complexities associated with omnichannel and e-commerce order fulfillment. Consult with one of our labor management experts to learn how you can realize the many benefits of LMS. 

Put wall consolidation boosts DC throughput and accuracy

Put walls play an increasingly vital role as a growing number of distribution centers (DCs) take on the challenges of fulfilling e-commerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) orders. By providing an effective way to consolidate diverse products across multiple channels within a DC, put walls make it easy to enhance efficiencies, especially when integrating manual and automated picking workflows with enabling technologies. 

Simple concept, dramatic results

A put wall is a cabinet-like structure divided into a series of compartments or "cubbies." One side is typically staffed by one or more operators who put product into assigned cubbies for their respective orders. On the other side, operators pack out the orders or place them on a takeaway conveyor that whisks them off to shipping.

Where and how put walls are integrated into the workflow can vary widely, depending on the operation. The basic idea is to consolidate demand from various upstream picking processes into the appropriate cubby. This enables efficient multichannel fulfillment of both mixed- and single-SKU orders, making put walls ideal for DCs that handle multi-line orders with regular promotions, flash sales or seasonal specials.

What's driving put wall adoption?

As consumer expectation and the number of online orders continue to rise, the pressure is on retailers to address several significant challenges:

SKU proliferation - Consumers continue to buy more online, and even infrequently ordered items must still be accounted for in the fulfillment process. Put walls make it possible for DCs to optimize upstream picking processes and take on more SKUs, while still maintaining accurate and efficient order consolidation and pack-out processes.

Changing order and product profiles - From small to large products to orders of widely varying sizes, product and order profiles are dictating ever more flexible order processing and handling requirements. The newest generation of configurable put wall technology offers a ground-breaking shift from fixed to customizable cubby sizes, delivering slotting gains of up to 35 percent just by optimizing existing rack space. 

Omnichannel diversification - To keep up with the demands of omnichannel fulfillment, many retailers are converting their existing facilities to incorporate e-commerce distribution into their supply chain operations. Retailers are integrating put walls to deal with these complexities, reduce order errors and increase throughput. 

Enabling technologies enhance put wall efficiency

Put walls can be enhanced by technologies that direct the operator to place items in the correct cubby, then confirm when an order is complete. These enabling technologies - including radio frequency (RF) scanners, and voice- and light-directed systems - deliver return on investment relatively quickly by significantly improving operator productivity and order accuracy. 

In picking and putting scenarios, these technologies enable intelligent order batching, adjustments and order allocation among wave, pick and put. Built-in slotting logic also provides ergonomic benefits to pickers, minimizing fatigue by keeping as much movement as possible inside the "golden" zone. 

To learn more about put wall solutions and the enabling technologies that enhance them, click here

New On The Move webinar - Uncovering opportunities for improvement in your labor force

The evolution of business intelligence (BI) has brought visualization and self-directed data investigation to labor management software (LMS). While LMS may generate mass amounts of data, this information is only as good as its ability to present it in a manner that is easy to interpret. Without BI, knowing which areas to focus on requires multiple levels of investigation. With BI, you're able to to not only reveal the root cause of a trend or problem, but include other necessary data points to see the full picture.

In our next On The Move webinar, Jason Franklin, Intelligrated Software's product manager of labor and business intelligence, will discuss the potential for using BI in LMS applications. The webinar will take place on Tuesday, June 27, 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT and demonstrate how BI is used to investigate and uncover what's typically unseen data. Jason will demonstrate this capability with common labor scenarios that can help organizations improve their labor pool's performance.

Attendees will learn how to:

  • Better optimize temporary labor resources
  • Identify top performers and transfer their knowledge to others
  • Improve labor planning processes through better planning and execution
  • Predict and prepare in advance for daily throughput peaks

Jason will use three common labor scenarios as case studies to demonstrate how BI can be used to uncover actionable intelligence that will allow you to get the most out of your labor force. The first case study will show how the poor performance of full-time employees is tied to temporary workers, and how BI helped uncover the root cause of the issue. The next case study will highlight a star performer, and demonstrate how BI can identify and teach the behaviors that are helping that individual excel. The last case study will discuss the importance of effective labor planning and how BI can help monitor current progress and predict daily production peaks and valleys.

Register now for this informative On The Move webinar to learn how BI and LMS can help you maximize your labor force productivity. 

4 ways to make high-velocity, pick-to-light fulfillment more accurate

Accuracy plays a critical role in the success of any modern distribution center (DC). In fact, for some businesses such as pharmaceuticals, accuracy outweighs every other aspect of the DC, including cost. No matter what the product, accuracy can help to build a loyal client base, while even one incorrect pick can cost you a valuable customer.

Yet as crucial as it is to any business, ensuring order accuracy has become an even bigger challenge as the complexities of omnichannel fulfillment have multiplied in recent years. To make matters worse, many pick- and put-to-light systems aren't designed with the ability to assist pickers in making sure every order is accurate. Too often, order fillers can't even ask the system basic questions about SKU numbers or order IDs, while managers can't easily trace errors to particular workers.

Here are four key ways modern pick-to-light systems give pickers and DC managers the tools they need to ensure order accuracy:

1. Empowering pickers - Order fillers can query the system to determine the correct SKU, order ID, store ID and last put location. They can also report important conditions back to the system, such as out-of-stock items, damaged merchandise or requests to suspend stock locations.

2. Management insight - Managers investigating the sources of order inaccuracies can trace errors back to specific order fillers. Labor locations, pick rates and accuracy rates are available 24/7 via virtually any type of digital display device, from smartphones to tablets and laptops. This gives managers the ability to find the sources of any problems through labor management software and, if necessary, provide additional coaching or training to individual order fillers.

3. Checking the weight - For an additional quality measure, Intelligrated's pick-to-light systems can perform a weight check, comparing an order's actual weight to its expected weight. This simple step can identify mismatches before an order is shipped to the buyer, giving the DC a valuable backup strategy to ensure the order is correct. 

4. Adapting to variable product sizes - Modern pick-to-light systems include trays designed to accurately handle a wide variety of product sizes and shapes, increasing picking and putting accuracy in high-velocity, high-SKU omnichannel and e-commerce fulfillment environments. This allows retailers to optimize shelving and racking allocations to accommodate different product profiles throughout the year, always keeping relevant items within a picker's reach.

Whether your business is focused on e-commerce, store replenishment, retail, omnichannel fulfillment, manufacturing or route distribution, advanced pick- and put-to-light technology provides scalable, flexible solutions that drive maximum throughput and order accuracy. To learn more about how Intelligrated's intelligent pick-to-light systems can make your DC's fulfillment more accurate, click here

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