If you attended Modex in Atlanta last month, a few points were hard to ignore. The first was the realization that you were experiencing one of the most comprehensive material handling shows in the world – that was pretty cool. The second was how much you’ve heard that nearly every DC warehouse and operation still faces the same challenges: processing more labor-intensive e-commerce orders; tighter execution cycle times; and the difficulty in finding enough labour.
And the solution? Automating.
As we’ve heard across the board, execution pressures will continue in 2022, and flexibility and scalability will be more important than ever, with a focus on software adoption, automated systems, next generation robotics, mobile solutions and emerging technologies to integrate new levels of resilience.
This month in Modern, we aim to continue that momentum around the benefits of automation through three stories. Beginning on page 18, editor Bob Trebilcock has collected five examples of DC operations that have chosen the path of innovation to evolve and meet today’s challenges.
“We need to keep in mind that disruptions such as labor and supply shortages tend to be time-limited and will pass,” says Trebilcock. “However, the exponential increase in online sales and direct-to-consumer deliveries is permanent. In this new reality, what happens inside a warehouse and DC has now moved from the bottom of the boardroom agenda – if it was even on the agenda – to the Mountain peak.
As Trebilcock points out this month, order fulfillment is key to delivering on the promises made by sales and marketing teams. “And delivering on those promises requires new levels of automation and technology, and different approaches to warehouse processes,” he said.
Chances are you spent some time at the show visiting one of the many new parts-picking robot vendors, all part of the next wave. Beginning on page 36, editor Gary Forger rounds up a few experts in coin-picking robotics for their advice on best practices with these next-generation automated processing systems.
“It’s about improving order fulfillment at companies as diverse as FedEx and online health food retailer iHerb,” Forger says. “Although we are still in their infancy, part picking robots are proving to offer faster and more accurate picking with reduced labor requirements. Our sources tell us that they are already producing a high return on investment in time, money and people.
We are also seeing new systems assisting the shipping dock, a critical area that is often overlooked. Beginning on page 42, editor Roberto Michel offers insight into how automated trailer loading systems are transforming the task of managing inbound and outbound shipments.
“I learned that there is more than one way to automate trailer loading, especially for pallets and larger unit loads,” says Michel. “The newest and most revolutionary front is applying AI-enabled robotic arms to automate the unloading and loading of smaller units – crates and cartons. This is another example of intelligent robotics that is emerging. is stepping up to further automate the processing requirements imposed by e-commerce.”
About the Author
Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director Michael Levans is Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain group of publications and websites, including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News. He is a 23-year publishing veteran who started at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the past 17 years in business-to-business press. He has covered the logistics and supply chain markets for seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]