In Q4 of 2015, Intelligrated debuted a webinar series designed to offer material handling industry insights about trends, technologies and best practices impacting distribution and fulfillment operations. Since then, we've conducted 11 webinars in the series, each focused on a different topic and presented by Intelligrated's top subject matter experts. If you were unable to attend the live sessions, we encourage you to peruse the webinar library on our website and review any topic on demand.
No doubt, On The Move has already imparted a wealth of information, addressed some of the industry's biggest concerns and answered many lingering questions. While it would be impossible to list all those insights in one blog, here are the top 10 takeaways from a year's worth of webinars.
10. Labor management software (LMS) is an effective way to address spiraling workforce and service level challenges by incentivizing performance and establishing process predictability.
9. Voice technology is an efficient means of automating warehouse processes to accomplish more with greater accuracy.
8. Effective lifecycle management is the key to maximizing the return on material handling system investment.
7. Shuttles and robotic picking technologies are more commonly being integrated into order fulfillment and inventory management applications.
6. Polybags are replacing cartons as a preferred packaging method, but DCs must be prepared to handle their inherent challenges.
5. Store networks are utilizing LMS systems to drive labor cost savings and help prepare for in-store fulfillment of online orders.
4. Flexibility in order fulfillment processes is mandatory for survival in today's omnichannel distribution operations.
3. Palletizing automation is helping manufacturers increase production and distribution facilities respond to a myriad of omnichannel challenges.
2. Brick-and-mortar retailers are turning their stores into mini-DCs to enable "buy online, pick up in store" order fulfillment and level the playing field with e-commerce retailers.
1. Sortation automation solutions can be deployed for fulfillment operations of all shapes and sizes to increase throughput and improve order accuracies.
Whether you attended any of these live sessions or reviewed them on-demand at your convenience, we appreciate your participation. One advantage of attending the live event is the Q&A session immediately following the presentation portion of the webinar. Here, attendees can interact with subject matter experts for clarification or get answers to their specific questions.
We look forward to seeing you at the next On The Move webinar on Tuesday, February 21, when Bridget Burkhardt, manager of business development for Intelligrated's Lifecycle Support Services will discuss 7 parts best practices you can start using today. Registration is now open on our website.
Keeping a distribution center running at full capacity requires having access to the right parts at the right time. Even though 50 percent of the average maintenance, repair and operations budget is spent on spare parts, many DCs either don't have the correct spare parts onsite or are unable to find these parts when they're needed most - during planned maintenance, or worse, an unexpected outage that's cutting into DC productivity.
But many best practices, if followed, can help avoid such pitfalls and maintain DC uptime objectives.
In our next On The Move webinar, titled, "7 parts best practices you can start using today," Bridget Burkhardt, Intelligrated's lifecycle support services business development manager for parts, will discuss these best practices in detail. As a full-service equipment manufacturer of automated material handling solutions, Intelligrated has extensive experience helping clients employ effective spare parts management programs.
This informative webinar will take place on Tuesday, February 21 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST. By attending this webinar, attendees will learn about the following topics:
- CMMS / EAMS - Computerized maintenance management systems / enterprise asset management systems are critical to automating maintenance operations and keeping track of spare parts requirements
- Spare parts lists - Recommended spare parts lists from OEMs help DC managers stock the right parts to avoid unplanned downtime and quickly replenish parts after use
- Budgeting - It's important to develop realistic budgeting models based on the age of the equipment in your DC and prioritization of critical parts
- Parts cages - Every spare parts management program must include organization strategies and processes to check parts in and out of inventory
- Inventory processes - Know when it's time to re-order a part and have the safeguards in place to identify when a part is out of stock
- Value-added vendor - There are many advantages to using a value-added vendor, from ease of ordering and same-day shipping to technical support and obsolescence planning
- Training of maintenance staff - Ongoing training is imperative to ensuring adherence to processes and staff participation in improvement of these activities
Register now to join Bridget Burkhardt on Tuesday, February 21 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST for an important discussion on spare parts management.
Warehouse operations depend on varying degrees of automation to maintain process efficiencies. Getting product out the door and into customers' hands requires the predictable execution of repetitive tasks - from picking, putting and sorting to shipping, receiving and storage. Even slight deviations from standard processes can put customer serivce levels at risk. And while many operators know that automation will help them avoid these pitfalls, they are unsure about which automation solution is best suited for their business.
In Intelligrated's recent On The Move webinar, titled "Sort it out! Making smart sortation automation decisions," I discussed the full range of sortation automation solutions available for modern distribution and fulfillment operations. Making the move to automation is a difficult decision, requiring careful evaluation of all variables, including:
- Pick density - how closely things are stored together
- Peak to average order volumes
- Number of SKUs, unit movement, orders across SKUs
- Conveyability of product - liquids, fragile, eaches, full cartons
- Customer service levels and delivery commitments
- Orders per day
- The cost and accessibility of labor
- Product volume
- Expected future growth of the company
- CAPEX budget requirements
- ROI expectations
While these are all important factors, order volume is often the first thing operators consider when selecting a sortation automation solution. Unfortunately, there is no cookie cutter equation to help operators select equipment purely based on order volume. Their expectations, key performance indicators and business requirements - now and in the future - are equally important factors.
It's the marriage of people, processes and equipment/automation that drives the automation decisions and solutions required. The investment in automation should provide long-term capacity, including the scalability to grow and adapt to changing requirements. Only then can operators ensure a return on their automation investment.
To help demonstrate the options available to today's DC operators, the webinar presented automation options from entry-level, manual types to sophisticated sortation and conveyance systems. For e-commerce retailers who must sort 25,000 items per hour to fill up to 150,000 orders per day, a state-of-the-art, tilt-tray conveyor and sortation solution is required. But for mail order or catalog companies, voice, GoKart and pick-to-light picking technologies may be just what they need to increase throughput and reduce errors.
To determine which sortation and automation solution is suitable for your operation, please visit our On The Move webinar archives and view this session in its entirety.
Making smart automation decisions in today's fast-paced distribution center (DC) environments requires careful evaluation of all variables, with pick densities, peak/average volumes, number of SKUs, conveyability of product, accessibility to labor and ROI among the deciding factors. Often, the number of orders that need to be fulfilled per day dictates the degree of automation required.
Regardless of your DC's specific requirements and throughput rates, the right sortation automation solution helps enable the process efficiencies needed to meet rising service level agreements. From receiving and put-away to picking and packing, sortation technology plays a role in nearly every aspect of DC operations.
In Intelligrated's next On The Move webinar, titled "Sort it out! Making smart sortation automation decisions," Satyen Pathak, senior product manager, will discuss the full range of sortation automation solutions that are available for modern DC operations. He will cover various options, from manual methods well-matched for lower throughput rates to advanced sortation technologies designed to accommodate up to 150,000 orders per day.
This informative webinar will take place on Thursday, January 26 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST. Attendees will learn:
- Which areas of the DC are the top candidates for sortation automation
- Which automation method is best suited for low, medium and high throughput rates
- How to scale a sortation automation solution to your specific requirements
Framing the discussion around increasing throughput rates, Satyen will begin with an explanation of sortation and conveyance solutions used to manage up to 10,000 orders per day. Belted conveyors provide a cost-effective means for transporting items over a significant distance while ensuring good product control. Modular sweeper sorters can be installed above the conveyor to enable the sortation of large quantities of smaller products. Software-driven cart picking solutions are ideal for entry-level automation systems that can be scaled to grow with DC operations and ramped up for peak order periods. Put-walls also enable directed putting and packing efficiencies capable of meeting lower throughput rates.
Satyen will then explain how zone routing - with pick-and-pass and sortation - can achieve throughput rates of up to 50,000 orders per day. By integrating pick-to-light, RF or voice-directed pick modules with intelligent conveying and sortation systems, zone routing automatically routes product to the best available picking station. Push tray sorters - which can sort a combination of disparately sized products - can efficiently increase capacity within a small footprint. A variety of sortation technologies can be used for shipping, cross-docking, line balancing, defect rejection and order consolidation.
For throughput levels up to 150,000 orders per day, Satyen will demonstrate how major e-commerce retailers are utilizing tilt-tray and cross-belt sortation solutions to sort up to 25,000 items per hour. These systems utilize manual, automatic and semi-automatic induction methods and rely on advanced software to oversee supply and demand order consolidation.
Regardless of your objectives for seeking a sortation automation system, this webinar will help you evaluate the best system to suit your specific selection criteria. Register now to join Satyen Pathak on Thursday, January 26 at 2 p.m. EST / 11 a.m. PST.
Today's traditional brick and mortar retailers are faced with the reality that modern internet retailers (e-tailers) have permanently changed the order fulfillment game. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the percent of e-commerce retail has grown from 3 percent to 9 percent in the last decade. Among the Millennial and Generation X demographics, this trend is rapidly increasing. As a result, e-tailers have changed their business model and built distribution networks to provide the seamless execution needed to deliver on increasingly high consumer expectations. Two-day delivery or less is the new norm. With price and speed becoming the lowest common denominator, the customer experience has been redefined and brand loyalty is taking a back seat.
The question for traditional retailers - whose business model is based on the premise that customers prefer to purchase items in stores - is this: How can we effectively utilize our store network to exploit these new opportunities? In Intelligrated's most recent On The Move webinar, James Hendrickson, senior product manager, retail solutions from Honeywell, and I explained how retailers can level the playing field by embracing their stores as distribution centers and realizing that their physical storefronts are a huge advantage.
To begin making this transition, it's important for traditional retailers to remember that their customers still have a need for instant gratification. There is no substitute for going to a local store to evaluate and purchase items - customers still want the product knowledge and expertise from sales associates. The ability to return items easily and to avoid shipping charges is also driving customers back to the store.
Today's consumer also still wants to shop online from any of their connected devices. For traditional retailers to stay relevant and offer the best of both retail worlds, they need to support this e-commerce preference and offer new shopping methods, like buy online pick up in store (BOPIS). Covering both of these bases is absolutely necessary to taking back market share.
Improving store efficiencies - while excelling at BOPIS and other complex tasks - requires embracing the role of the store as a mini-DC and deploying the behaviors that drive DC execution. It starts by understanding the similarities of order fulfillment processes used in both DCs and stores, such as receiving, staging, put-away, picking, packing and shipping. It also means employing the same laser focus on processes execution to ensure inventory and order accuracies, capture transactional data and direct work along every step of the fulfillment process.
In our webinar, we recommended starting this transition by focusing on the processes that cause the most pain for traditional retailers. Typically, this is the fulfillment of e-commerce orders, whether that's BOPIS, or buying online and shipping from the store. This can be accomplished by focusing on three order fulfillment building blocks:
- Systemically direct all work to optimize order release and task execution. If retailers don't direct the work, they will not hit their goals.
- Build a foundation of transactional data around each process by tracking, scanning or speaking every activity. Not only can this be done without slowing the process down, it will also build a "chain of custody" of inventory in the stores that results in true inventory accuracy.
- Set labor standards for all work and track against these standards. This drives predictability in task duration and performance, such as knowing exactly how long it should take to do basic tasks like picking an online order or unloading a truck.
By employing these principles, retailers can become unpredictable in the fulfillment of e-commerce orders and achieve the execution efficiencies to compete on a level with the e-tailer giants. To learn how to turn your stores into DCs, please visit our On The Move webinar archives and view the session in its entirety.
To learn more about Intelligrated Store Solutions, visit booth #2434 at NRF's Big Show on January 15-17 in New York City. Demo the Voice solution to be entered in a drawing to win an Apple MacBook Pro.