Tag: order fulfillment
To meet rising customer service levels, modern omnichannel distribution operations must perform a balancing act among retail, wholesale and direct-to-consumer requirements. It's a challenging task that means constantly adapting to a dynamic mix of order profiles while maintaining keen awareness of the impacts these variations have on fulfillment processes and inventory consumption. Navigating this ever-changing landscape requires a high degree of flexibility - to adapt and respond in real time to changes in demand, not continue down a path that ignores the continuous fluctuations of order fulfillment requirements.
In short, DCs need not only to become more flexible in their slotting, picking and putting operations, but also in allocating labor resources to meet the demands of the day.
In our seventh On The Move webinar, Doug Mefford, product manager at Intelligrated, will discuss the importance of implementing flexible execution methodologies to better navigate omnichannel challenges. With more than 20 years of supply chain management experience, Doug will impart his real-world knowledge from a practitioner's perspective. You'll learn about the following key factors that enable DC flexibility in order fulfillment processes:
Slotting. The two most important variables in an effective slotting strategy are pick frequency (the number of times pickers go to a specific location) and cubic velocity (the size of the storage location). To better respond to changing order profiles, DCs should implement flexible methodologies that are capable of adjusting slotting sizes to accommodate a range of product mixes.
Picking. Distribution operations should not only optimize the size of pick locations, but also strive to minimize labor spend by reducing the number of footsteps workers need to reach these fast-moving items. Establishing flexible picking zones can help accommodate and ease the transitions from bulk-, case- and each-picking scenarios.
Putting. Put walls with cubbies that can adapt to changing order profiles allow DCs to integrate bulk-pick workflows for multiple single-line orders. When order consolidation via split-case picking is required, additional coordination is needed to maintain throughput and minimize dwell time in the put wall.
Labor management. The ability to move resources within the facility to high-volume, high-demand areas is critical to maximizing throughput and meeting demand. Only through real-time visibility to warehouse resources can DC managers know when to flex workers and make appropriate resource adjustments.
Mefford will present these strategies within the unique context of the omnichannel distributor. Balancing traditional brick-and-mortar retail replenishment with wholesaler channel distribution and the increasing demands of e-commerce places many disparate demands on a single DC. It also necessitates the importance of handling the full gamut of distribution methods, from cases, mixed and full pallets to eaches in totes, boxes or individual parcels. These order fulfillment functions require DC flexibility to manage seasonal variations, demand spikes and continual channel reprioritization.
With Doug's experience managing omnichannel distribution centers, all of the concepts he'll describe will be backed by his own real-world examples. You won't want to miss this On The Move webinar; join Doug on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. EDT.
Voice technology has come a long way since it was first adopted in warehouse operations in the 1990s. This first generation of Voice technology was characterized by cumbersome speech recognition methods, proprietary device lock-ins and a limited vocabulary capable of supporting only a small range of mobility tasks. Today, speech recognition technology advancements have ushered in a new era of Voice applications in our day-to-day lives — and expanded potential for Voice in the warehouse. In our second On The Move webinar, Doug Brown, product manager of order fulfillment (Voice), Intelligrated Software, and I discussed this potential in detail.
The webinar, titled "Unshackle your DC operations with modern voice recognition technology," demonstrated how the technology used in modern warehouse Voice solutions has leap-frogged legacy Voice systems to deliver positive impacts to businesses. Not only do modern Voice systems deliver 99.99 percent accuracy and up to 45 percent productivity improvements, they also provide key differentiators that allow Voice to be used in a much more meaningful way in the warehouse, including:
- Rapid new user onboarding (no speech training required)
- Unparalleled remote support capabilities
- Powerful coaching options coupled with the ability to listen and replay any end user's audio tag
Modern speech technology changes the game
Doug and I explained that these impacts are made possible by modern advancements in speech recognition technology that are found in our smartphones, smart TVs and other Voice-enabled devices. We demonstrated how these technologies are leveraged to deliver significant improvements in modern warehouse Voice applications. Here are few of the transformative capabilities enabled by the current generation of technology that were discussed:
- Network-based service - Rather than being limited by the computing power of a mobile device, this cutting-edge speech recognition technology leverages powerful servers and advanced algorithms. This eliminates the need for expensive, proprietary devices and opens the door to features not previously available. Now DC operations managers can monitor and support multiple distribution centers from a centralized location in real time, including individual end user interactions with the system.
- Out-of-the box speech recognition - With more than 70 leading languages and dialects built into the system, Voice solutions can be immediately put to use without requiring cumbersome creation of "voice templates" by each individual employee. This enables rapid user acceptance and achievement of corporate productivity goals.
- Advanced warehouse capabilities - Large vocabulary and advanced, configurable software enables the automation of complex mobility tasks. Modern Voice technology also improves warehouse efficiencies through the consolidation of multiple pieces of information into a single spoken response, by interleaving separate work tasks into a common flow. They also allow multiple users to be active on the same task together, to facilitate role-modeling from the best workers, streamlining training initiatives.
What all this means to typical warehouse operations is that modern Voice systems more easily and rapidly achieve success when compared to their predecessors. As a result, DC managers can immediately put Voice to work on a larger selection of critical processes, instead of dealing with the distraction of trying to implement outdated technologies. Finally, because it is scalable and flexible in nature, modern warehouse Voice systems can blend a broad spectrum of different mobile worker technologies, including: pick- and put-to-light; RF scanning; robotics; and location-based services.
With the increasing complexity of omnichannel fulfillment scenarios, DC managers can utilize modern Voice systems to usher in a new era of productivity and efficiency. To learn more about how you can exploit Intelligrated Voice in your DC operations, please visit the archives section on our website to view this webinar in its entirety. While there, be sure to register for our next episode that will explore how to maximize your material handling system’s ROI with effective lifecycle management.
In recent years, speech recognition technology has become more commonplace in our everyday lives. From mobile devices and computers to car navigation systems and TVs, voice-enabled interfaces are tapping the potential of hands-free efficiency and mobility. Distribution center (DC) order fulfillment processes are no exception.
For the past 20 years, warehouse voice systems have helped improve order fulfillment pick and put-away accuracies, as well as increase workforce productivity. Unlike the personal voice assistants in our smartphones awaiting our beck and call, the utilization of voice technology in order fulfillment is much more structured. And with recent advances in speech recognition technology, it's now even easier for DC operators to leverage the power of voice-enabled systems to transform the efficiency of their operations.
On Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. EST, Doug Brown, Intelligrated's voice product manager; and Sean Wallingford, senior director, strategic operations for Intelligrated Software will present our second On The Move webinar entitled, "Unshackle your DC operations with modern voice technology." In this informative webinar, Doug and Sean will discuss the current state of voice technology and explore its many benefits in warehouse order fulfillment and labor management processes.
Unshackle your DC operations with modern voice technology
The primary advantage of today's speech recognition technology is the integration of network-based processing power that utilizes Internet servers to translate voice input. Instead of being constrained by limited device-level resources - such as CPU, memory and battery - leading warehouse voice systems tap into a network of servers equipped with best-available speech recognition technology. This provides advanced mutliple language support, even adapting to regional dialects and individual speech patterns.
The upcoming webinar will discuss how this network-based technology can be used to transform warehouse accuracy and productivity:
- Automate work processes to accomplish more with greater accuracy - its large vocabulary enables DC operators to perform the most complex tasks within or beyond the four walls, without the restrictions of Wi-Fi networks. This opens up the potential to interleave worker tasks to improve process accuracies, such as cycle counting and real-time replenishment.
- Integrate quickly and easily - network-based voice technology works right out of the box and drops into existing operations, enabling rapid user acceptance through simple role-modeling and remote support from DC experts. Order fillers have the option to pause and ask for help, while DC operators can review audio playback to evaluate productivity and troubleshoot issues.
- Avoid technology lock-ins - unlike voice technology that's enabled at the device level, network servers are upgraded as new technology becomes available. This eliminates the problems of being "locked in" to stagnant technologies and dictated to use specific mobile devices or operating systems. This flexibility allows voice systems to easily scale with changing business needs and blend with other order fulfillment applications - all while remaining compliant with speech industry standards.
So if you're interested in learning more about the latest voice technologies and how you can use them to improve warehouse processes, join us on Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. EST for our next On The Move webinar. Click here to register and save the date for this informative and timely event.
We recently presented the first installment of Intelligrated's new On The Move webinar, an educational series designed to address the fulfillment challenges and trends taking place in the material handling industry. In our inaugural episode, entitled "Responding to labor management challenges in an omnichannel world," Jason Franklin discussed how the convergence of a dwindling warehouse workforce with increasing consumer product delivery expectations is creating a perfect storm for distribution center (DC) operators.
In a world where online shopping, in-store pickup and same-day (and free) shipping are typical consumer scenarios, DC operators are facing complexities on both labor and order fulfillment fronts. But as Jason explained in the webinar, these are problems that Intelligrated's GoalPost® labor management software (LMS) is specifically designed to address. This blog is a summary of the key aspects discussed.
Meeting the challenge of omnichannel consumer expectations
Whether online via a computer or mobile device, picking up the telephone or going to the store, today's consumers purchase goods from multiple channels and expect a seamless shopping experience at every turn. This adds complexity to the order fulfillment process, and subsequent strain on the labor force to meet customer service level agreements (SLAs). With multiple channels to deliver product through, a diverse mix of order priorities and the challenge of e-commerce driving more labor intensive "each" picking scenarios, DC operators must maximize the productivity of their workforce.
Adapting to an evolving workforce and labor shortages
The complexity of omnichannel order fulfillment requires a higher skill level than traditional DC labor tasks. While order fulfillment and replenishment account for 50-65 percent of labor costs in warehouse operations, the industry is in the midst of a labor transition due to several factors:
- Aging of traditional workforce and loss of "tribal" knowledge
- Introduction of millennial generation with a different set of workplace expectations
- Increasing wage competition
- Difficulty retaining employees and recouping lost training efforts
- Accommodating a multigenerational workforce
LMS is the key to addressing modern labor and omnichannel challenges
This combination of market forces is driving retailers to improve the speed and accuracy of measurable tasks such as picking, packing and replenishment and develop clear performance standards. Retailers are also deploying DC-like processes in their stores to maintain these efficiencies and help meet customer SLAs. To tackle these converging challenges, LMS helps DC managers implement a culture of accountability while creating an attractive workplace where performance is incentivized. Here are just a few of the ways Intelligrated LMS can be used to achieve these objectives:
- Develop engineered standards to create clearly defined expectations
- Communicate shared objectives to get employees working toward common goals
- Establish a fair and transparent evaluation system to urge employee accountability
- Incentivize performance through monetary and other reward programs
- Uncover areas of improvement and deploy them to the rest of the team
- Predict staffing requirements and precisely match labor needs to incoming orders and tasks
One of the true advantages of an LMS is its flexibility to adapt to your process requirements and provide immediate improvements. To realize its full potential, DC operators should seek out an LMS provider with both software and labor management expertise.
If you were unable to attend this webinar, please visit the archives section on our website to view it in its entirety. While there, be sure to register for our next episode that will explore how modern voice technology can unshackle your DC operations.
The Christmas season will soon be upon us, and distribution centers (DCs) everywhere are gearing up for the e-commerce order fulfillment push. Ever increasing SKU numbers and “piece” picking requirements combined with rush orders and an influx of temporary employees can spell disaster for retailers trying to keep customers happy during the all-important holiday season. With so much at stake, operations managers are looking for new tools to gain a competitive edge. Intelligrated Voice — with its advanced speaker-independent speech recognition technology, exceptional workflow scalability and superior employee onboarding capabilities — can give you a powerful edge.
In my last blog, I talked about how Intelligrated Voice picking technologies can deliver significant improvements in order accuracy and overall DC productivity. These advantages are always critical, regardless of the season or evolving business requirements. But the unique challenges that operations managers face during peak fulfillment periods bring the true benefits of Intelligrated Voice to the forefront. Here are five things it could do to transform your holiday fulfillment productivity:
1. Onboard new employees in a half-day - Training seasonal and part-time employees to quickly become productive picking team members is a recurring challenge for operations managers. Intelligrated Voice utilizes VoIP technology to enable coaching and assistance via three-way conversations, even if the supervisor or help desk is remote. Industry-leading, multilingual speech technology does not require training to establish speech recognition. This means your seasonal workforce can be trained and ready to hit the floor in less than half a day.
2. Achieve 99.9 percent order accuracy - Order errors during the holiday season create a domino effect of returns, inspection, re-stocking, re-picking, re-shipping, time lost and the potential loss of customer loyalty. The key to achieving order accuracy during seasonal pushes is an efficient and adaptable picking strategy. With 99.9 percent order accuracy, Intelligrated Voice picking systems all but remove fulfillment errors at a time when it matters most.
3. Adapt to seasonal workflows - Maximizing seasonal order fulfillment requires all aspects of the DC working in harmony. These fast-paced operations can’t always pause to replace outdated picking technologies. With multi-modal Intelligrated Voice, you have the option to blend it with other processes, such as scanning and pick/put-to-lights. And its rapid adoption rate provides staffing flexibility that makes it ideal for ramping up to meet seasonal requirements.
4. Gain visibility to labor performance - Labor management is especially important during seasonal crunches and new (or temporary) employee onboarding. With Intelligrated Voice, managers can incentivize performance, coach new employees on the job and drive compliance through real-time visibility and playback of actual worker audio. It also pairs with the Intelligrated Labor Management System to provide advanced analytics and enhance business intelligence, streamlining the entire labor management process.
5. Improve productivity by 45 percent - Meeting the seasonal push is not an excuse to let order fulfillment productivity slip. On the contrary, operations managers want nothing more than to maintain and even improve upon normal productivity levels. Compared to legacy paper picking and RF scanning approaches, Intelligrated Voice delivers a 45 percent improvement in productivity —while keeping pickers’ hands free, eyes up for fast work and safer from potential missteps.
While these examples show how Intelligrated Voice addresses the challenges of the holiday order fulfillment season, it’s the technology infrastructure that makes it all work. Instead of legacy proprietary hardware Intelligrated offers an open choice of leading rugged smartphones and wireless headsets, avoiding unnecessary hardware lock-in. An innovative VoIP-based architecture enables a unique training and support model where new workers can be fully productive in a week with as little as 2-3 hours of shadowing with an experienced worker. VoIP technology also provides for easy remote help while novice workers are mid-task, and great supervisory coaching by enabling playback of a worker’s actual audio where they may need guidance. With this flexibility, Intelligrated Voice can be utilized to automate any mobile process inside (or beyond) the four walls of the DC.