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.
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.
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).
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.
Labor management software (LMS) is an important investment for any distribution center (DC) operation. Choosing the right software provider can mean the difference between reaping the many LMS benefits and overinvesting in a solution that's incapable of meeting your organization's short- and long-term fulfillment requirements. As a leading LMS vendor and single-source provider of automated material handling solutions, Intelligrated can help you accomplish more with fewer resources and quickly deliver a return on your software investment.
Intelligrated GoalPost® LMS is designed to help you quickly get the most out of your workforce. So if you're looking to transform the productivity of your fulfillment associates, here are five things to consider when choosing an LMS.
1. Built-in labor standards — LMS integration largely depends on having engineered labor standards in place. Many vendors are unable to take advantage of LMS benefits until they’ve developed labor standards — a process that can take months. Intelligrated GoalPost gets to work immediately with built-in reasonable labor expectations that allow you to benefit from the LMS while precise labor standards are being developed.
2. Integration capabilities — Many LMS programs are offered as an add-on to a proprietary WMS, and are only capable of integrating with data in that system. Intelligrated GoalPost LMS is “system neutral” and capable of integrating with data from any system. Whether you’re already using a WMS, a homegrown system or looking to integrate with Intelligrated’s warehouse execution system (WES) software, GoalPost LMS integrates quickly with the system of your choice. And as your business changes to meet omnichannel demands, GoalPost LMS adapts and scales to meet your specific requirements.
3. Performance incentives — Calculating individual productivity and establishing benchmarks with which to incentivize performance are vital functions of any LMS. Intelligrated GoalPost LMS supports the continuous evolution of performance improvement initiatives with the ability to add or amend incentives as a program matures. This allows you to align individual, team and training goals with changing business-level objectives.
4. Coaching and mentoring — There are many ways to improve the productivity of your workforce, but proper coaching and mentoring are among the most effective. This is made possible by the ability to track productivity on-demand and through user-defined performance criteria. Intelligrated GoalPost LMS allows you to maximize training opportunities through the early identification of top performers and underachievers. You can also leverage this data to create a culture of transparency, healthy competition and fairness where individual performance tracking is made known across the organization.
5. Proven vendor status — Choosing an effective LMS for your order fulfillment operations is a strategic business decision. Not only do you need to make sure that all the required functionality is in place, you also need the assurance of working with a partner who has the experience to understand your objectives and evolve with your changing demands. Only Intelligrated has the broad spectrum of expertise to provide material handling equipment and warehouse execution system software that adapts to your needs. When you choose Intelligrated GoalPost LMS, you’re selecting a single-source partner who can maximize the efficiency and productivity of your entire order fulfillment operations.
While these aren't the only important criteria when selecting an LMS provider, they are five mandatory elements that could mean the difference between surviving and thriving in an omnichannel world. So if you're evaluating your options, be sure to contact us to learn more about what GoalPost LMS can do for you.