Numina Group Blog

E-commerce Fulfillment Technologies with Rapid Efficiency & ROI Results

April 25, 2024

Testimonies abound about how e-commerce is the go-to strategy for companies to reach new markets and quickly boost sales revenues. Not surprisingly, the predicted growth of online retail sales is expected to far outpace traditional brick-and-mortar store sales for the foreseeable future.

According to a report by Business Insider Intelligence, e-commerce sales accounted for 15% of all retail sales worldwide in 2021 – up from just over 10% in 2017. As we have seen, surges in e-commerce can come from exposure to new markets, new shopping platforms, social media influence, and sudden changes such as the pandemic.

As a result, virtually all retailers and retail suppliers are adapting their operations to manage e-commerce order fulfillment. Many are grappling with the pivotal question of cost-effectively handling online orders’ exponential growth, adapting their existing facilities, and/or designing new operations to manage omnichannel fulfillment efficiently.

Is Your Distribution Operation E-Commerce Ready?

The challenge lies in ensuring your distribution center is ready to efficiently and cost-effectively manage e-commerce fulfillment. Adding e-commerce order fulfillment to an existing DC operation can be complex, mainly because e-commerce orders have a markedly different order profile than orders shipped to retailers and B2B operations.

Blog: Key Factors in Integrating Traditional and E-Commerce Order Fulfillment Operations

However, steps can be taken to resolve these challenges and convert a traditional distribution operation into an omnichannel warehouse automation solution that efficiently handles business-to-consumer (B2C) and B2B orders.

The question is, where to begin?

It is well-documented that the order-picking process is typically the most labor-intensive and costly process in a distribution operation, making it the obvious first place to evaluate. Picking operations make up 50% or more of total warehouse labor costs when accounting for order picking, quality control, and packing activities.

Voice-picking technology or pick-by-voice is one of several proven ways to reduce manual picking tasks, increase throughput, lower labor costs, and increase profitability.

Blog: The ROI of Voice Picking

However, once picking is streamlined, the bottleneck often merely shifts to the packing and shipping area, which, without automation, cannot absorb the workflow.

This pinch point prevents companies from realizing building-level throughput improvements achieved by optimizing order picking.

Eliminating The Bottleneck in the Final 100 Feet of the DC

Especially for e-commerce order fulfillment, the packing, documentation, manifesting, and labeling process in the last 100 feet of the warehouse is labor-intensive and frequently becomes a bottleneck that slows down throughput.

By optimizing this post-pick area with automation, e-commerce fulfillment can be handled efficiently alongside traditional fulfillment activities.

The Availability of Modular All-in-One Pack-and-Ship Solutions

The Numina Group offers a cost-effective, phased, modular solution such as Pakt™, its all-in-one modular, scalable, post-pick, end-of-line pack-and-ship solution. Pakt is a component of Numina’s RDS™ WES-WCS Real-Time Distribution Solution, a Tier I Warehouse Orchestration Automation Platform offering a family of modules to automate the entire warehouse operation.

Pakt automates the final 100 feet of a DC’s order fulfillment operation. Pakt includes predeveloped modules that streamline labor and eliminate fulfillment bottlenecks in the pack-and-ship operation.

Several of Pakt’s automation modules can be implemented all at once or in the combination best for your operations, including:

  • Scan, Weigh, Vision Audit (SWD): To ensure the right products have been picked into the correct shipping container based on weight and provide image-based traceability via cameras.
  • Print, Fold, Insertion (PFI)/Document Insertion: To automatically insert any packing slips, marketing materials, or compliance documentation
  • Void & Auto-Taping: To have rules-based, system-directed void insertion and automatic taping of the shipping container.
  • Print and Apply (PANDA): To automatically manifest, print, and apply labels for shipping, ASN, UCC, packing slips, packing sheets, and more.
  • Shipment Sortation: To automatically sort shipping containers based on parcel carriers, LTL, FTL, and exceptions.

DOUBLE Order Packing Throughput with a Speed Pack Station

If your business ships a high volume of single-line e-commerce orders, you can double order packing throughput by implementing a speed-pack station.

In this configuration, orders are batch-picked to the speed-pack station and scanned directly into a padded bag. The packing sheet is automatically printed and inserted into the bag using the Print-Fold-Insert system, and the carton is sealed and placed on a conveyor.

The bag is automatically weighed with scan-weigh-dim technology. The weight is passed directly to the carrier’s manifesting system for rate shopping, and the shipping label is printed and applied to the bag. The label is scan verified with RDS’s FDA-rated level of tracking and validation software, then sorted directly to the gaylord.

Efficiency Gained: Speed-pack padded bag lines can achieve rates of 18 to 24 cartons per minute with a single print-and-apply applicator.

Evaluate and Plan Before You Act

Before investing in warehouse automation solutions, working with an independent warehouse systems integrator such as the Numina Group, which is singularly focused on warehouse optimization and automation, is crucial.

Learn More About Numina’s Systems Integration Services

The Numina Group can help you evaluate your entire fulfillment process and define a warehouse automation solution comprised of the best technology components for your operations.

As a first step to reduce project complexity and risk, we perform a detailed engineering assessment with you and make unbiased recommendations to match your business goals. We also have warehouse automation design and engineering services, in-house controls and software, and implementation services to ensure project success.

During the evaluation step, we assess all aspects of your fulfillment operations, including processes, labor requirements, and technologies. We can also help you identify priority projects and develop a plan.

For example, based on the evaluation results, you may find it necessary to automate the pack-and-ship area as the initial phase, or if your current picking process lacks the tools to operate an omnichannel operation, we can help you define complete requirements for e-commerce pick, pack, and ship processes.

Solve Your Warehouse Optimization Needs with the Numina Group

Whether you envision your operation benefiting from our voice-directed picking solution or all-in-one pack-and-ship solutions such as Pakt, think Numina Group.

Contact us today to discuss phase one of defining the right blend of automation to accelerate your DC’s performance.

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