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.
From cosmetics and apparel to food and beverage, palletizing plays a critical role for material handling operations in virtually every industry. But as operations look to ditch the high employee turnover and injury risk of manual palletizing for the speed and reliability of automation, they meet a new challenge. With so many choices - conventional automated machines, robotics, hybrid solutions - how can they pick the right palletizing equipment for their needs?
Get the right help
Once operations know their current and projected requirements, they need a proven partner with the palletizing expertise to find the right solution. Look for experience, third-party certifications and aftermarket support to ensure ongoing performance decades after installation.
Through its Alvey® equipment brand, Intelligrated draws from more than 60 years of palletizing experience. This offers end-users a thorough product line with choices tailored for different speeds, packaging types, infeed configurations and other requirements.
For newer technology like robotics, certification programs from trade associations help customers identify partners with the necessary expertise. After completing a comprehensive audit by demonstrating the ability to execute robotic palletizer projects in a safe, efficient and economical manner, companies can receive accreditation as a RIA-certified robotics integrator.
The best bet to keep mission-critical palletizing systems running at peak efficiency is a preventive maintenance program designed to head off any issues before they cause disruption. Just in case an issue does arise, look for 24X7 technical support and regionally-based technicians ready to respond in the event of an outage. Working with an OEM lifecycle management group and a computerized maintenance management system offers data-driven preventive maintenance programs and quick-response service.
Right tool for the job
Today's palletizing operations are subject to a variety of forces that present unique palletizing challenges. SKU proliferation means an increase in the variety of packaging types and sizes. As retail supply chains become leaner, more and more work is pushed upstream to the distribution center. For example, some operations also produce specially-arranged pallet loads used for end-of-aisle displays. Though they reduce time spent stocking and arranging store shelves, these pallet loads require that products be palletized in specialized "labels out" configurations. And of course, there's speed. High-performance supply chains cannot afford insufficient capacity to meet demand and missed shipments.
Of all the palletizing solutions available, what are the strengths of each technology? What operations are they best suited for?
Automated palletizers - Conventional automated palletizers are reliable, high-throughput powerhouses with superior package handling, pattern forming and reliability. A variety of case infeed, pallet feed and load discharge configurations are available to accommodate different layout requirements. These are often good choices for food and beverage operations that need to keep pallet loads flowing to wholesalers, grocers and other high-volume retailers. Some high-speed models can achieve throughput rates of up to 220 cases per minute.
Robotic palletizing - These systems use a robotic arm, integrated with end-of-arm tooling to pick product from infeed conveyor and place it onto pallets. End-of-arm tooling includes clamps, vacuum tooling, forks and other styles, even configurations capable of handling entire layers. Robotic solutions offer maximum pattern and product flexibility with fast, easy reconfiguration. For this reason, they make good choices for use in distribution centers or manufacturing operations with a variety of product, packaging types and sizes to meet more complex downstream demand.
Hybrid palletizers - Hybrid machines combine a conventional automated palletizer with a robotic arm to offer gentle product handling and precise, repeatable pattern forming at high speeds. This makes them ideal for industries with small or lightweight packaging and a high number of complex patterns. As more industries adopt reduced packaging in efforts to reduce costs and bolster sustainability efforts, the precision and soft handling of hybrid palletizers offers an effective choice for stability and throughput.
For more information on how industry forces affect palletizing, read the Intelligrated blog, Six key considerations when choosing a palletizing strategy.
The holiday season has come and gone, and early returns pointed to prosperity. But this also meant increased challenges for e-commerce fulfillment operations.
The National Retail Federation predicted an online sales increase between 7 and 10 percent this holiday season, and that 56.5 percent of holiday shopping would occur online. Now more than ever, holiday shoppers consider shipping as a factor when choosing retailers, and it all happens in crunch time, primarily between November and December.
Applications for peak season and beyond
Goods-to-operator (GTO) order fulfillment is a workflow that relies on automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) to retrieve product in preparation for picking processes.
This system allows facilities to house higher storage volumes and handle them with increased efficiency. This effectively raises fulfillment capacity, offering a solution for operations with 250 orders per hour or more. With enough space, shuttle-based GTO systems can scale up to handle increased volumes as operations grow.
Part of this scalability comes from individual GTO stations that can be activated or left offline based on demand. So for example, an e-commerce operation could scale higher for more orders during the holiday peak, but then scale back once the rush is over.
Resilient and flexible
Using shuttles as the AS/RS technology for a GTO system offers resiliency and reduced risk of unplanned downtime. If a shuttle goes down, the whole system is not in jeopardy because another shuttle can assume the workload.
Flexible configurations can accommodate a variety of workflows such as batch picking, discrete picking and even picking from both ends of the shuttle system.
From seasonal peaks to sustained demand increases, this flexibility allows operations to adopt the most efficient workflows to meet throughput requirements.
Get up to speed
For more information, read the full white paper, Conquer high-volume e-commerce with goods-to-operator order fulfillment. To learn more about Intelligrated's AS/RS solutions, click here.