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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

9 ways modern pick-to-light systems increase order fulfillment productivity

While pick-to-light systems have been used for three decades or so, today's distribution centers (DCs) face omnichannel pressures that didn't exist when they were first introduced. In addition to the needs of traditional store fulfillment, DCs also face the challenges of e-commerce, including a growing number of SKUs, seasonal demand peaks and the high expectations of service level agreements (SLAs).

Unfortunately, most pick-to-light systems available today don't take advantage of abundant opportunities to improve productivity throughout the distribution chain. What's worse, some systems can't cope with the rigors that seasonal surges and other demand spikes place on picking processes - even to the point of failure.

Here are nine ways modern pick-to-light systems are keeping pace with today's fulfillment challenges - and anticipating the future:

1. Higher-volume picking - Modern pick-to-light systems are the industry's gold standard, increasing productivity rates by up to 50 percent compared to traditional paper systems. That's double the gain offered by voice and radio frequency (RF) systems, which average around 25 percent.

2. Less training time - Today's pick-to-light technology is intuitive and easy to learn. This reduces the need for extended training, while making it easier to manage turnover and maintain flexibility in your labor force. 

3. Flexible technology - Many pick-to-light systems can't adapt to rapidly changing order profiles, volume or picker workflows. Intelligrated offers the industry's most comprehensive hardware options to meet any DC's unique requirements. 

4. Dynamic shelf space optimization - Intelligrated's xD (extended display) ensures proper picking and slotting size, adapts to smaller SKUs, eliminates un-utilized shelf space and saves order fillers unnecessary walk times. 

5. Full system integration - Warehouse execution software (WES) software enables the seamless integration of pick-to-light with a wide variety of hardware, technologies and systems. This also makes it easy to respond quickly to hot or accelerated orders, which traditional systems often struggle with. 

6. Live monitoring and predictive planning - Real-time data allows DC managers to track individual work or zone productivity while optimizing throughput and responding to daily demand fluctuations. Historical data is used to properly allocate your workforce, evaluate shift structuring and look for new ways to maximize productivity. 

7. Easy troubleshooting - Onboard diagnostics report events in real time while generating a "stay alive" heartbeat signal, allowing problems to be pinpointed and resolved quickly.

8. Hardware durability - From pick faces built from aluminum or high-impact polycarbonate, to anti-vibration connectors and strict "burn-in" testing, modern pick-to-light components are designed to withstand the abuse of day-to-day warehouse environments. 

9. Bypass options - Backup options allow order fillers to keep working, even if a pick-to-light hardware component fails. The system software adapts immediately to prevent large-scale disruptions, often limiting outages to a single shelf. In the meantime, pickers can get the information they need from a separate display, RF device or voice system.

The tight integration of Intelligrated's pick-to-light hardware and software enables optimum workflow and simple scalability, offering your business a competitive advantage. 

New On The Move webinar: Your store is a DC. Get used to it!

Modern e-tailers and omnichannel retailers have permanently changed the order fulfillment game. Many customers have traded the in-store experience for online shopping, and as a result, brick and mortar retailers are struggling to compete. To support their customers' willingness to order products online (sight unseen), e-tailers have built their operations with a network of distribution centers placed in strategic locations. Instead of putting a store in every town, their distribution networks are enabling expedited delivery to their customers.

This paradigm shift to online order fulfillment has left many traditional retailers in an existential quandary. Many are asking, "What should I do with my existing network of brick and mortar stores intended to support an entirely different model?" The truth of the matter is, stores are still an important part of the customer experience; there's no substitute for being able to see and feel a product before actually buying it.

And for some customers, any delivery expectation is just too long to wait. The only way for them to fulfill that need for instant gratification is to physically go to the store and buy it. One method retailers are using to support this preference is by allowing customers to order online and then pick up the product at their nearest store. The only problem with this scenario is that some stores are unprepared or ill-equipped to efficiently deliver on this promise.

So, even though traditional retailers may not have regional distribution centers in every strategic location to enable same-day deliveries, they do have an opportunity to leverage their existing network of stores to their full potential. 

In Intelligrated's next On The Move webinar, Sean Wallingford, senior director of strategic operations from Intelligrated Software, and James Hendrickson, senior product manager, retail solutions from Honeywell, will explain how retailers can level the playing field by turning their stores into distribution centers - and in the process create a customer experience that drives brand loyalty. From receiving, staging and put-away to picking, packing and shipping, Sean and James will explain how stores can improve the tactical execution of their everyday processes to enable them to focus on strategic objectives such as improving the in-store experience of their customers. Attendees will learn:

  • The advantages of a physical storefront over a virtual one
  • The importance of "buy online, pick up in store" order fulfillment
  • The similiarities between DC and store processes
  • How to improve tactical execution to improve the customer experience
  • Why DC-like efficiencies are critical in stores

Register now to join Sean Wallingford and James Hendrickson on Thursday, December 15 at 2 p.m. EST for this important webinar.

Video blog: Executive InSights from the MODEX 2016 show floor

In the first Executive InSight video blog of 2016, Kevin Roach, executive vice president and general manager, Intelligrated Software, discusses Intelligrated’s vision for warehouse execution systems (WES). 

Intelligrated webinar series kicks off with labor management discussion

On Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. EST, Intelligrated will launch a new webinar series called On The Move.  This informative educational platform is designed to address the many fulfillment challenges and trends that are taking place in the material handling industry.  Our intent is to give attendees access to insights and unique perspectives from Intelligrated's many internal experts and distinguished guest speakers.

On The Move will utilize an interactive webinar format that allows attendees to submit questions to the presenter throughout the event which will be answered during a Q&A session immediately following the presentation.  If a question is not addressed within the allotted time, attendees will receive an answer via email.  In addition, we will post previously aired episodes in an archived section here on our website and on our YouTube channel for on-demand viewing.  

As fulfillment operations adapt to major transformative forces, such as e-commerce, omnichannel retail and supply integration, we're excited to provide the industry with an educational forum to help us assess the challenges and collaborate to create effective solutions.  We hope you'll join us in this important effort.  Now, on to our first webinar...

Responding to labor management challenges in an omnichannel world

Our industry is experiencing significant labor challenges.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 60 million baby boomers will exit the workforce by 2025, while only 40 million will be entering the labor pool.  Another report by Bain & Company states that 25 percent of warehouse supervisors are older than 55 years old.  The result is what's referred to as a "hollowed-out" workforce.

Jason Franklin, our labor management and business intelligent expert, will lead the first installment of On The Move.  Jason has a deep understanding of labor challenges modern fulfillment operators face.  From the skilled labor shortage and competitive wage pressures to high turnover and seasonal demands, distribution centers are experiencing a labor crisis at a time when service level expectations are higher than ever.  He will discuss several approaches to maximizing the engagement of the available worforce through labor management system (LMS) technologies that drive a commitment to accuracy, speed and productivity.

Among the topics Jason will discuss include:

  • Incentivizing performance to deliver increased productivity and accuracy
  • Creating an environment of employee engagement through commitment to their success
  • Leveraging LMS systems to improve the onboarding process
  • Rewarding high-performing associates to instill healthy competition
  • Using analytics to identify employees who may need additional training
  • Providing equipment and tools to help employees thrive

We hope you'll join us on Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. EST for our inaugural On The Move webinar episode.  To learn about the latest labor and performance management technologies, click here to register for this important and timely event.

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The information you provide is solely used by Intelligrated. Intelligrated will not distribute email addresses to third party organizations. For more information, please read our Privacy Information.