Taking a Phased Approach to Selecting DC Automation

Jennifer Maloney
May 26, 2020

Has your organization experienced a surge in e-commerce orders?

Due to the surge in e-commerce sales, companies in a wide range of industries are interested in making process and technology improvements to more efficiently operate their shipping operations. 

Companies that had previously experienced 10% to 15% in annual e-commerce growth are now struggling to handle a 3X to 4X surge in business-to-consumer (B2C) order volume. 

Additionally, many companies that were primarily shipping full pallet or mixed case pallets a few years back, are now challenged with shipping single cases or single SKUs due to exponential e-commerce sales growth.

However, steps can be taken to handle these challenges and streamline your business-to-consumer order (B2C) operations with flexible, scalable and efficient warehouse technology solutions.

The question is, where to begin?

It is well-documented that order picking is often a DC’s most costly and labor-intensive process, making it the obvious first place to evaluate. However, for B2C order fulfillment, efficiency is often more limited by the bottleneck in the packing, documentation, manifesting, and labeling process.

That’s why the Numina Group offers a phased, modular solution for warehouse order fulfillment automation. Numina’s RDS™ WES-WCS Real-Time Distribution Solution, includes a full family of pack and ship automation modules that can be used to solve a DC problem area or, if needed, automate the entire warehouse operation

Phase 1 – Evaluate and Plan Before You Act

Many integrators offer minimal advice on how to add productivity to your DC. The Numina Group can help you evaluate your entire fulfillment process and define a warehouse automation solution. 

During the evaluation step, we assess on all the components of your fulfillment operations. We can help you streamline the pack and ship area as the initial phase, or if your current picking process lacks the tools to operate an omni-channel operation, we can help you define complete requirements for e-commerce pick, pack, and ship processes. 

The Bottleneck in the Final 100 Feet of the DC

Numina’s family of advanced automatic print-and-apply labeling solutions maximizes order throughput to lower labor costs and increase operational efficiency. Our flexible and scalable labeling solutions are used in both manufacturing and warehousing facilities to automate the application of product identification, retail and e-commerce compliance, carton content, packing slips, and shipping labels.

We can help you replace manual operations with an in-motion high-speed print and apply labeling conveyor line to automate scan-weigh dimensioning and the application of pack sheets or removable packing slips and shipping labels. 

Efficiency Gained: A print-and-apply labeling system can eliminate the cost of four to five operators per shift, saving $28,000 to $30,000 a year per employee.

The automated pack line incorporates an in-line weight and vision audit scale, an auto pack sheet print, fold, and insert (PFI) station, an operator at a semi-auto void fill machine, and a semi-automatic or fully automatic adjustable taper/sealer to pack and seal cartons at rates of 6 to 12 CPM.

At the exit of the taper, the carton travels to the lowest cost and most proven robot for the distribution industry – print and apply label applicators. Print and apply labeling of compliance, packing slips/sheets, carton content, return labels, and shipping labels eliminates unnecessary manual touches and fully automates manifesting and shipping.

Efficiency Gained: The pack line allows a single operator to perform what is typically the task of 2-3 people in a manual packing process.

Implement 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, then scanned directly to a padded bag. The pack sheet is printed and inserted into the bag, 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 directly 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.

Print and Apply Labeling Tunnel

If your operation has a large percentage of full-case e-commerce shipments, you may benefit from a solution that automates outbound case shipping. In this scenario, at pick completion, pallets of the product or a pick-to-conveyor line transports the cases to the print-and-apply labeling tunnel.  

Efficiency Gained: Automated labeling systems process from 650 to 3000+ cases per hour to increase the DC throughput, and minimize manual handling, and improve order documentation and shipment accuracy. 

The labeling tunnel also includes a camera-based scanner and scales which capture the case SKU barcode and actual weight to verify picking. The case identification data is then used by the software to automatically assign the case to an e-commerce order. The series of print-and-apply label applicators applies the required shipping labels and packing sheet documentation to match the customer shipment rules for each case.

Labeling tunnels can also automate the shipping requirements for retailers such as Amazon, Wayfair, Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart and for third-party carrier manifesting requirements such as UPS, FedEx, or LTL. 

Efficiency Gained: When ready-to-ship cartons and cases are placed on an automated labeling tunnel conveyor line in the shipping area, you can eliminate 3 minutes or more of manual labor from every case e-commerce shipment. At $20 an hour labor cost burden – that’s over a dollar labor savings per shipment.

Solve Your Warehouse Optimization Needs with the Numina Group

Whether you envision your operation benefiting from our voice-directed picking solution, or an automated labeling tunnel to alleviate the current pack and shipping bottleneck, think Numina Group. 

Our warehouse technology solutions extend well beyond order picking automation. We’ll work with your team as a partner to evaluate and recommend the right blend of warehouse automation and tailor a solution for your specific requirements and ROI objectives. 

Imagine the impact and benefits that higher productivity, reduced labor needs, and happier, safer and more motivated employees would do for improving customer satisfaction and profitability. Together, we can make this happen. 

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

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