Meeting the Demand for Faster Order Fulfillment

Meeting the Demand for Faster Order Fulfillment

The use of automated, software-driven picking technologies such as horizontal carousels, vertical carousels, vertical lift modules and vertical buffer modules for inventory picking can slash fulfillment times, labor needs, and warehouse footprint requirements, while vastly improving throughput and worker productivity. This supports sameday and next-day delivery objectives and boosts customer satisfaction.

Throughout the retail, distribution and manufacturing sectors, competitive pressures are driving the demand for faster, more-accurate order fulfillment. Consumers everywhere are demanding faster access to the retail goods they purchase — with next-day delivery having practically become the norm, and same-day delivery and in-store pickup on the rise. Similarly, for many manufacturers and operators of industrial processes, demand is growing for near-real time access to replacement inventory and spare parts to ensure uninterrupted operation.

To meet this customer demand, a growing number of distributors and centralized inventory-management
warehouses are seeking improved warehouse-management. The goal is to use a combination of automation
technologies and improved workflow processes to reduce the time required to pick, pack and ship items. Such an
approach can help warehouses and distribution facilities to overcome the many shortcomings that are associated
with the traditional storage and retrieval paradigm — an inherently slow and inefficient approach that typically
stores inventory in or on static shelving, drawer systems, pallet racks that hold both palletized loads and single
items, and cartons, and relies on a manual picking and order-fulfillment process time-consuming.

The process of manually retrieving and consolidating highly individualized orders within any warehouse or
centralized distribution center is extremely labor- and time-intensive, typically involving a legion of workers walking
multiple laps throughout the facility (sometimes on multiple floors), for hours at a time. Such plant workers
handpick items according to their unique “stock keeping units” or SKUs and then transporting each order to the
shipping zone. Adding more workers only compounds the problem, since it’s been shown time and time again that
overcrowding causes picking rates to fall, as logjams force workers to wait, and the increased head count inevitably
invites socializing, further hindering productivity.

A variety of automation technologies are available to improve both the speed and accuracy of the picking process.
When such dynamic storage systems are coupled with improved workflow procedures related to order-fulfillment,
picking and shipping, facilities are able to drastically improve picking times and accuracy — often enabling next-day delivery with later daily cutoff times. This improves overall inventory management within the facility and boosts
customer satisfaction.

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