Facility managers place a lot of focus on improving the productivity of their distribution and manufacturing environments. The importance of effective palletizing, which is often the last process that takes place within a facility, is sometimes overlooked. But when problems arise in the palletizing process, they create a ripple effect throughout the entire facility, often backing up other areas critical to maintaining productivity. Regardless of the operation, facility managers must try to minimize this pain and determine what the best palletizing method for their operation is.
Knowing when to incorporate or upgrade an automated palletizing solution is a difficult decision for facility managers. If you're struggling to keep up with increasing order volumes, unable to adapt to evolving packaging methods or outgrowing your manual pallet-building processes, these are indications that it may be time to reevaluate palletizing automation. From conventional systems and state-of-the-art robotics to hybrid options with varying degrees of sophistication, today's palletizing options can be difficult to sort through.
In our next On The Move webinar, Frank Pellegrino, vice president of machine products, and Matt Wicks, vice president of product development, will explore several key drivers for palletizing automation and help you decide which solutions are the best match for your unique throughput and capacity challenges. This webinar will take place on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. EDT. Attendees can expect to learn the following:
- How palletizing automation is helping manufacturers increase production
- Why distribution facilities are integrating palletizing solutions into their fulfillment workflows
- When it's time to transition from manual pallet building to automated solutions
- How to decide which is the best palletizing option for your operation
For facility managers whose operations have outgrown their manual palletizing processes, the decision to move to an automated solution is a matter of keeping up with production volume. It's as simple as realizing that there just aren't enough labor resources to meet manual palletizing demands.
There are also many changes in the market causing facility managers to reevaluate their palletizing strategies. First, rates are increasing, driving the need to maximize pallet efficiencies. Second, packaging materials and pallet profiles are changing, creating issues for older palletizing equipment that is incapable of accommodating them.
The primary packaging change is the reduction of secondary packaging materials, typically the outer shell that protects the product. In many instances, this secondary packaging is going away altogether, causing the consumer product itself to be palletized with a much thinnner layer of alternate packaging material, such as loose paper or film that offers little protection. While this may increase the volume of product on the pallet, the low coefficient of friction is more difficult to control.
To add to the challenge, some pallets are designed to display the palletized product in the store, often allowing one side to be open or perforated. And as packaging materials become thinner to improve sustainability - such as plastic bottles - it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid product damage or loss. All this adds up to a loss of productivity and efficiency, and the need for increasingly flexible palletizing options.
If any of these challenges sound familiar to you, register now to join Frank and Matt for this timely On The Move webinar.
Think of conveyor as the streets and canals of the distribution center. Automated conveyor solutions are the essential infrastruture required to keep orders flowing to the right place at the right time. From pallet transport conveyor to case, tote and polybag varieties, each component - even down to conveyor parts and accessories - plays a critical role to meet operational requirements.
And just as city streets must accommodate motorcycles, cars, trucks, pedestrians and bicycles, every industry must accommodate more variety thanks to SKU proliferation. Big box retailers are expected to sell every brand of every product, from toothpaste to refrigerators. Every food and beverage distributor must offer year-round variety, seasonal specialites and health-conscious options. But besides product, packaging makes a difference, too. With the advent of dimensional weight pricing, most conveyor and transmission solutions must handle packaging types like polybags and bubble mailers that represent a significant departure from the rigid corrugate cases for which they were originally designed.
This places a premium on flexible conveyor solutions capable of fueling a facility's high-speed sorting procedure reliably and efficienctly. This means picking the right technology - conveyor belts and parts - matched to the requirements of the application.
And just like avoiding road closures and construction detours keeps traffic flowing, minimizing unplanned downtime and ensuring system availability is critical. This means a preventive maintenance program to head off issues before they happen and quick-response, 24X7 support in the event of an outage. Working with an OEM lifecycle management group and a computerized maintenance management system provides data-driven decisions and the necessary level of detail - even covering how to aggregate conveyor parts.
To learn more about advanced conveyor applications, read the Intelligrated blog, Understanding accumulation technology choices leads to better solutions for operations or contact a representative.
In a competitive omnichannel fulfillment era where retailers are constantly trying to meet rising customer service levels, flexibility in order fulfillment processes and distribution operations is mandatory for survival. It means having the ability to continuously adapt to a dynamic mix of order profiles and proliferating SKU counts, while always maintaining a keen awareness of their impacts on fulfillment processes and inventory consumption. It means effectively balancing retail, wholesale and direct-to-consumer requirements. And it means being nimble enough to adapt and respond in real time to spikes in demand.
If you think this all sounds difficult to achieve, you're right. But to successfully navigate these omnichannel requirements, retailers need real strategies to enable this degree of flexibility. This was the focus of a recent On The Move webinar I moderated, titled "Addressing the needs for flexibility in current distribution operations." It's a holistic approach that encompasses facility design, picking and putting processes, and the importance of effective labor management. Following is a summary of the webinar's high-level points:
Profiling, slotting and facility design. It's important to design your distribution facility to not only meet today's demands, but also have the flexibility to adapt to future requirements. Warehouse profiling, which seeks to maximize space utilization by determining which types of slotting options are best-suited for particular products, is vital to fully utilizing available facility space and reducing replenishment costs. Well-profiled items make the most efficient use of shelf and rack space.
Picking technologies. The selection of picking technologies and methods, or some combination thereof, is an important operational decision that helps enable flexibility in the warehouse. While some technologies may provide increased flexibility, there may be trade-offs in productivity and costs. Retailers must weigh the pros and cons of these methodologies and select options that meet their operational objectives and order and inventory profiles.
Putting strategies. Putting refers to the processes that support order consolidation through the gathering of multiple, independent storage or picking areas into a single, shippable container. Minimizing worker travel and touches, and "golden zone" allocations to increase accuracy and throughput are all part of an effective putting strategy necessary for adapting to e-commerce and store replenishment requirements.
Labor management software. LMS helps retailers match resources to the day's expected demands while maximizing the efficiency of all tasks throughout the warehouse. Demand planning, execution monitoring, resource allocation and continuous performance improvements can be achieved with LMS - establishing both process predictability and the flexibility to move resources to adapt to variations in a given plan.
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. For a more detailed explanation of each of these strategies, please visit our On The Move webinar archives and view my presentation in its entirety.
In late 2015, Intelligrated launched its On The Move webinar series, an educational platform designed to provide material handling industry insights about emerging trends, new technologies and best practices impacting distribution and fulfillment operations. We are thrilled with the level of engagement our webinars have achieved and sincerely hope they have helped you navigate today's challenging omnichannel landscape. Based on the success of this program, we are excited to announce its expansion into a comprehensive video series.
The On The Move video series builds off the subject matter presented in the webinars by featuring targeted discussions with Intelligrated's industry experts and experienced practitioners. As a complement to the webinars, this new video series will expand on our commitment to industry education by exploring the key topics you can use to develop winning fulfillment strategies. Whether you're interested in seeing the next generation of distribution operations, curious about emerging fulfillment system technologies or seeking to maximize your current investments in material handling equipment, the On The Move video series has something for you.
To kick off this new series, we've developed the first five video installments and posted them to our YouTube channel. There you'll find informative discussions on these topics:
- Utilizing labor management software to accelerate ROI
- The importance of establishing DC-like operations in retail store outlets to meet rising customer service levels
- How Voice picking solutions can accelerate training and facilitate live coaching
As new videos are developed, we will continue to release them here on our blog, complete with a bio of the presenter and a brief synopsis of the content. We also encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can be notified when new videos are posted. Currently, we are in the process of producing videos on the following topics:
- Warehouse execution systems (WES)
- Lifecycle management
- Omnichannel distribution
- Conveyor and sortation systems
- Consulting and design services
Together, the On The Move webinars and video series provide a wealth of information that our customers, partners and industry constituents can use to succeed in an increasingly competitive omnichannel world. We hope you make the most of these resources and look forward to your contribution on these important topics. As always, be sure to register for our upcoming webinars and feel free to check out our growing archives. We're officially On The Move with our new video series, so stay tuned for a new installment coming soon!
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.