What’s certain is that Ecommerce is growing considerably each and every year. What no one is able to predict is how much it will grow in the future. The reason for the growth is obvious: we are increasingly shopping online. It’s convenient, there’s unlimited variety, it’s possible to compare prices and there are lots of good deals.
This trend also has a major impact on the logistics of Ecommerce and omnichannel businesses. They must be increasingly prepared for the ‘unpredictable’. Peak days like Singles Day, Black Friday or Cyber Monday, and not forgetting peak returns. In order to prepare for these complex challenges, businesses need to have an excellent strategy. “No one is doubting that automation is the key to success. It’s no longer a question of ‘will we automate’, but of what level of automation is the right choice,” says Joel Garbutt, Head of Sales Northern Europe at TGW UK.
“The key question is: ‘what is the business case for automation?’. Labour is becoming scarcer, and customer’s expectations are increasingly demanding. In omnichannel, accuracy and speed in order fulfilment is really important. Automation can make this process more efficient, but one also needs to have the right solutions and strategies with automation. Taking into account the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and analysing where and how automation offers the best solution is absolutely essential,” Joel Garbutt adds.
TGW offers solutions where manual systems can be seamlessly combined with a lower or higher degree of automation. These solutions are FlashPick and OmniPick. In more and more warehouses, they are being deployed in systems where humans and robots work together.
FlashPick is a smart goods-to-person (GTP) order fulfilment solution for single piece picking. It is based on a shuttle system for automated storage and retrieval (AS/RS) of containers. The second part is a high-performance picking workstation, where a person or a robot picks. The process is very simple for the picker: The system presents one SKU container to pick from and one order container to pick into. After the picking process, SKU containers return to the system while order containers are routed towards the shipping area.
FlashPick is a one-touch solution for orders that can be picked directly into shipping cartons or totes. If the system is combined with Rovolution, TGW´s intelligent robot for automated picking, the solution turns into a zero-touch system. With order lead times between ten and fifteen minutes, FlashPick can be used for push and pull operations and for all distribution channels (retail, wholesale, omni-channel and direct) and all business models.
In certain scenarios, high Ecommerce ratio for example, OmniPick is a better solution. OmniPick operations and performances are based on individual items and the picking strategy is based on batching orders. It can be used as a person-to-goods (PTG) order fulfilment solution, but one usually gets the highest benefits by using OmniPick as a goods-to-person (GTP) order fulfilment solution. The latter is based on a shuttle system for automated storage and retrieval (AS/RS) of SKU containers and a high-performance pocket sorter system. When using the system in GTP operations, the order lead times are between ninety minutes and three hours.
OmniPick is a two-touch solution, if the system is equipped with manual induction stations and manual packing stations. It is a one-touch solution, if the system is equipped with manual induction stations and automated unloading stations for the orders that can be directly fed into shipping cartons or totes. The most interesting version is a zero-touch solution, whereby the system is equipped with automated induction stations – using TGW’s automated PickCenter Rovolution and automated unloading stations. In this case, no one needs to touch the processed items.
If you are planning to build a new distribution centre or to extend, upgrade or modernise your existing warehouse, consider what is the added value of automation in the very early stages. Which system provides the maximum efficiency and what is the Return on Investment of automating?
TGW advises its customers from planning through implementation and lifetime services after the go-live, knowing that this decision to automate has not been taken lightly.