Webcam Vision Capture

Numina Group Technology Submitted for Promat 2017 Innovation Award

Numina Group has applied for the Promat 2017 Innovation Award. RDS Webcam Vision Capture becomes a standard component of our Scan-Weigh-Audit System.

WOODRIDGE, IL — Numina Group has submitted the next generation Vision Capture technology as an innovation worthy of the Promat 2017 Innovation Award. The latest iteration of RDS™ Webcam Vision Capture integrates high definition image capture with Scan-Weigh-Audit System to capture weight, as well as an image of outbound shipping carton’s picked complete SKU contents prior to addition of void, and the sealing of the carton at completion of the pack process.

Promat 2017 is the premier showcase for material handling, supply chain, and logistics solutions in North America. The Innovation Award recognizes technologies that advance inefficiencies and accuracy for warehousing, manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain.

Numina Group’s Real-time Distribution System, RDS™ Webcam audits pick, pack, and ship.  It can also be used for full case or packed carton in-line Scan-Weigh-Dim-Audit systems that further validate parcel and LTL order shipments.  Vision capture takes advantage of the latest generation high performance webcam, an intelligent Internet appliance that lowers the cost of high resolution image capture for in-line order scan-weigh-vision audit technology.  The webcam is automatically triggered by scanning the carton or tote barcode and captures and transmits a high-resolution internal carton content image that is time-stamped and saved in the RDS™ Warehouse Control System, WCS database.  Vision helps customer service validate a customer’s order shipment and eliminates customer order delivery disputes.

“Including the webcam as a standard component of the Scan-Weigh-Audit system lowers the barrier that previously limited the return on investment of vision technology.  Now users can gain another tool to increase quality control and improve customer service in their order fulfillment center.  Vision in combination with weight audit decreases the likelihood a customer can falsely claim there was a picking error, and is especially useful for direct to consumer, and B to B internet fulfillment operations,” explained Dan Hanrahan, President and founder of The Numina Group.

The system integrates with RDS™ controls and diverts cartons that fail the expected weight tolerance to a QC audit inspection station that seamlessly integrates quality assurance throughout the pick, pack, and ship process.  The software includes a carton order history database for tracking, retrieving, and viewing each shipment and allows customer service to view and e-mail order details with the internal content image to the customer for visual verification proof of delivery.

“In the event of a customer shipment dispute, customer service can view a time-stamped image of the carton content and resolve shipment disputes at a fraction of the cost it takes to manually verify an order shipment,” noted Hanrahan.

Numina Group’s software and automation technologies streamline order fulfillment and increase productivity for distribution and manufacturing operations. RDS™ Webcam Vision Capture and inline Scan-Weigh-Audit technology along with RDS™’s full family of warehouse automation technologies including:  Pick by Voice, Pick to Light, Print Fold Insert of pack sheet documentation, and Print and Apply Labeling will be demonstrated at Promat booth S3452.

Promat 2017 takes place from April 3-6 at McCormick Place in Chicago.  Visit Numina Group at Promat 2017 in booth S3452.

About Numina Group:  Numina Group is an industry leading Warehouse Execution and Control System, WES-WCS software provider and automation systems integrator for manufacturing and distribution applications. Numina Group offers a full range of professional services including consulting/design, mechanical engineering, controls, and automation technologies that improve new and existing warehousing operations.

 

The post Webcam Vision Capture appeared first on Numina Group.

Advertisements

Numina Group Announces the Release of a Full Featured Warehouse Management System, WMS

WOODRIDGE, IL – Provider of warehouse and distribution order fulfillment automation, design and engineering services, Numina Group, announces the release of a highly advanced and tightly integrated Warehouse Management System (WMS).

earnhardt-partners-wms-photoRDS+ LFS.wms provides a proven solution backed by a worldwide leader in Warehouse Management Systems. The solution provides a highly scalable warehouse management system with a full family of advanced logistic automation modules including a transportation management system (LFS.tms). The software is proven in over 2,000 worldwide installations.

RDS+ LFS.wms integrates Real-time Distribution Software Warehouse Execution and Control System (WES-WCS) order fulfillment software suite with a tightly coupled and robust combined WMS-WES. RDS+LFS.wms provide a single source high performance, high transaction WMS that bundles all the best practice warehouse automation tools in a pre-configured WMS core application. RDS+ LFS.wms scales from mid-range to large volume DC’s and also supports multi-site DC requirements and can also be Cloud deployment,” said Dan Hanrahan, President of the Numina Group.

Key to RDS+LFS.wms is the large percentage of the WMS application that is provided in a preconfigured starter package. The WMS is shipped ready to be configured to the DC’s requirements, based on 30 years of application know-how and WMS implementation experience. Included in the RDS + LFS.wms is inbound goods receiving, inspection, inventory management including A, B, C velocity put-away/slotting, and order pick, pack, and ship with both RF and voice picking automation.

The following summarizes RDS+ LFS.wms core functionality with the ability to “bolt-on” the full family of additional Ehrhardt + Partner logistic automation and supply chain modules:

“RDS+ LFS.wms scales from mid-range to large volume DC’s and also supports multi-site DC requirements and can also be Cloud deployment.”

  • Receiving: Capture, record and post incoming goods from suppliers and/or manufacturing production transfer areas.
  • Quality Control: Creation by SKU of inspection rules and order shipment instructions.
  • Inventory Control and Management: Maintain and define storage locations and bin locations with a configurable inventory management strategy that includes put-away, retrieval, replenishment, and stocktaking/cycle counting.
  • ABC-Analysis: ABC SKU analysis and range analysis by SKU velocity movement for directing storage location type and storage location groupings.
  • Paper, RF Terminal and/or Voice Picking: voice picking, pick to light, and RF terminal picking automation.
  • Intelligent Transport Shipping Manager: History, definition, display and use and recording of shipping and transport/tasks to optimize pick, pack, and ship work tasks.
  • Report and label print management: Lists and labels with a layout designer that can be performed by in-house personnel.
  • Interface to ERP: Import and export of item master, purchase order, delivery advice, goods receiving, customer or order data.
  • Statistics: Key performance indicators, KPI’s, displays and printouts, statistic records for put away, retrieval and relocation.

Additional information on E+P’s full family of Logistic Focused Solutions and RDS+LFS.wms can be obtained by visiting or contacting the Numina Group at http://www.numinagroup.com/. Or at E+P http://www.ehrhardt-partner.com/en/warehouse-management/warehouse-management-system-

voice directed picking numina groupAbout Numina Group: Founded in 1986, Numina Group is a leading supplier of warehouse execution and control system, WES-WCS, material handling automation and systems integrator for manufacturing, warehousing, and automated distribution order fulfillment applications. The firm provides voice picking, pick to light, conveyor and sorting controls seamlessly integrated to an advanced warehouse management system. Numina Group offers a full range of engineering services and software including consulting/design and engineering to accelerate the performance of pick, pack, and ship process at existing and new distribution order fulfillment operations.

About Ehrhardt + Partner Group: A Leading Worldwide Expert in Logistics, Warehouse Management and Supply Chain Optimization Services.  Founded in 1987, Ehrhardt + Partner are an international group of companies with more than 450 employees in fifteen worldwide software development and support locations. The combination of our 30 years of expertise in logistics, software engineering, and on-going R&D commitment provides the latest in supply chain software functionality and technologies to assure customers a committed and financially strong partner to meet today’s and future logistic and transportation challenges.

Ehrhardt + Partner offer a modular, scalable multi-OS and database independent Warehouse Logistics and Warehouse Management System. Customers can rely on us to provide highly reliable software and solutions that optimize warehouse and their entire supply chain. Logistic Focused Solution, LFS™ our flagship Warehouse Management System, LFS.wms is installed at over 700 customers distribution and warehouse operations managing over 1,200 worldwide distribution centers; picking and shipping over 40 million orders a day!

 

The post Numina Group Announces the Release of a Full Featured Warehouse Management System, WMS appeared first on Numina Group.

How Mechatronics Shows the Path to Higher Productivity in Order Fulfillment Automation

Far too often, distribution operations compartmentalize areas and direct managers to focus on solving daily operational issues andman-working-wearing-voice-set requirements in specific departments within the distribution center (DC). However, a more effective approach is to combine higher accuracy and more efficient design driven with technologies such as pick-to-voice, and then combine better picking with pack automation into an integrated continuous flow distribution machine. Results: better processes are magnified with the right technology, and customers report gains of 70% or higher productivity improvement in their order fulfillment operations!

Order Fulfillment using a Mechatronics Design

Distribution operations can benefit from applying the philosophy of mechatronics, a thought process that is a growing trend in machine design. Mechatronics, the engineering of an automated machine or production line, is a holistic design approach in which mechanical and electronic design teams work together to produce a more efficient machine.

The designers look at moving points in a machine and evaluate all the mechanical motion – with gears or pulleys, a hydraulic or pneumatic motion control, or digital servo control of the motion and sensors and the control system works together. This combined effort allows the designers to produce automated machines that give customers increased performance and ability to run smaller batches or a greater diversity of package sizes.

This same holistic design concept is required when implementing process improvements in order fulfillment operations. Without this holistic view, compartmentalized thinking may result. The shipping manager, for instance, may have a specific area KPI productivity goal not related to receiving, inventory forward stock levels, picking rates etc. This leads to a work environment in which managers don’t talk and collaborate with their peers about ways to streamline cross-department order flow in the DC. The fact is, the largest boost in order fulfillment productivity and higher DC profitability levels occurs when the entire pick, pack, and ship process design is considered collectively, i.e. holistically planning, designing and implementing leaner pick, pack, and ship distribution processes.

By designing a system that considers the combined processes of pick, pack, and ship as a single continuous order flow operation, the distribution center gains far higher yields in productivity, as opposed to looking at singular or isolated process improvements such as adding pick to voice, or print-and-apply labeling of the shipping label as single area standalone automated system in the pack area.

Better Design leads to a Higher ROI

Thinking about and designing a distribution operation in its entirety including receiving, inventory management, and pick, pack, and ship process achieves far greater results and a higher ROI. One of the first steps is deploying “better practices” by doing an A, B, C, SKU movement analysis, and then re-slotting to obtain an optimized pick path. This helps for the short term but to consistently get results, a customer must invest in a Warehouse Management and Warehouse Control System (WMS-WCS) that contains all the software functionality to drive and enforce consistent receiving and put-away logic that will lead to a more efficient slotting and picking path.

man-wearing-head-setCompanies that implement what Numina Group refers to as a “Lean Pick and Pack Process” eliminate touches and combine pick and validate tasks into a single step by picking direct to the right size order shipping carton. A leaner pick process, enforced with Pick by Voice technology that validates the pick- and put-to-carton process, and hands-free barcode scanning that validates the SKU or lot/ serial barcode, allows the packing process to take advantage of upstream pack automation.

Additional benefits are derived when packing automation is applied to the process, including in-line scan weigh dimensioning, pack sheet documentation print, fold and insert technology, automatic or semi-automatic carton taping, and print-and-apply labeling to auto-apply the compliance, carton content and shipping labels. The combination of these technologies removes several touches out of the manifesting and shipping process.

Achieve Dramatic Results

Taking advantage of the principles of mechatronics in distribution – the power of a process design that  combines pick, pack, and ship order fulfillment operation will achieve an integrated solution that uses less conveyor, material handling equipment, better product storage and retrieval methods, lower labor costs across picking, packing, shipping and replenishment within a smaller space footprint.

A lean, automated order fulfillment operation reduces labor costs, improves accuracy and shortens the order delivery window to lowers your overall cost of doing business.This delivers higher operational profitability, improved customer satisfaction and a fast ROI – sweet music to the CFO and CEO.

If you’re interested in learning more on means to boost productivity by applying our “mechatronics design principles”  in your fulfillment operations, contact the Numina Group today.

contact numina group warehouse automation

The post How Mechatronics Shows the Path to Higher Productivity in Order Fulfillment Automation appeared first on Numina Group.

How the Right DC Roadmap Can Lead to Free Warehouse Automation

Companies today are grappling with major challenges in their quest to maintain a competitive edge. Trends such as the explosion of e-commerce, lower levels of business on-hand inventory, retailers becoming e-tailers, and the demand for same-day deliveries are all placing tremendous pressure on business operations to keep up. The need for accurate, on-time order fulfillment execution is more pressing than ever.

Shippers are also facing a labor shortage. As Brian Devine, senior vice president of staffing firm EmployBridge noted, “We expect the demand for hourly labor to increase by about 28 percent over the headcount needs of the third quarter. This large increase will be on top of the already-tight labor market we are now experiencing.”[1] Pay rates, which have increased by 11 percent for logistics employees in the last 24 months, are expected to increase for the next year. With all these factors combined, the impact on employment costs will be significant.

The bottom line? It is not realistic to believe anyone can continue to operate a successful and profitable enterprise with traditional “touch-labor” practices that made them somewhat successful only three to five years ago. Today’s distribution operations need to be lean, low-touch processes, automated with technologies that deliver a fast 18- to 30-month return-on-investment (ROI).

The Need for Lean Operations

automated document insertionThe technology and tools are available today to clearly make the shift to combining a lean and automated strategy to significantly simplify daily operations and apply the right mix of automation to control the improved processes and business functions. This can be accomplished by identifying the strategies and tactics to “lean-up” the DC operation. It is especially important to design the means to use less labor touches and select the blend of automation that returns the fasted ROI to gain competitive advantage.

Warehouse automation can deliver huge returns by eliminating redundant manual processes and increasing employee productivity. Technology such as conveyor systems, automatic print-and-apply labeling, robotic pick carts, voice picking, automated guided vehicles and storage technologies can drive high accuracy and rapid paybacks – and when applied to the right application, really answer the CEO’s demand to “show me the ROI.”

But automation alone will not solve the problem. Supply chain operations are made up of a complex interplay between people, process and product workflows. It takes a deep understanding of how these elements work together to truly drive the highest benefits of automation.

It All Begins with a Design Roadmap

Voice Directed Picking Design StudyExperience has shown that a company must have a common methodology to guide their day-to-day work tasks. The company must also have a clear understanding of the best starting point to initiate a change in order for the automation lean program to take root. A basic operational analysis based on historical order shipment data can be used to pin-point and fast-track a design improvement study or roadmap that can identify where the cost savings are. Unfortunately, many companies fail to benchmark their current processes against identified leaner practices, so they don’t realize the time, resources and money that can be saved across the entire distribution operation.

It may seem easier to focus on a specific area such as a basic picking improvement or area automation. However, to achieve the highest financial payback, a holistic approach that considers the benefits of a united and automated pick, pack, and ship order fulfillment operation is required.

It has been documented that best-in-class companies who have taken a holistic view of the entire DC have:

  • Experienced positive cash flow within 120 days of the program’s kick-off
  • Reduced order-to-delivery cycles from five or six weeks to days or even same-day delivery
  • Documented inventories reductions of 20 to 30%
  • Increased the inventory turns and seen gains of up to 70% in productivity

These savings are very achievable; in fact, we’ve seen it happen for many of our customers and it can be achieved at your DC operation.

Take a Short- and Long-Term View

A good design plan needs both a short-term phased implementation, as well as a definition of the long-term goals. Also, it must be built with the company’s overall business objectives in mind. The first step is to determine where your organization stands in defining its multi-year objectives across the enterprise. Without this end-to-end enterprise perspective, your capital investments will yield only incremental, costly changes and limited benefits.

The design roadmap should assess how and which process improvements can be made, and identify the “low hanging fruit” and what is required to harvest it. It can also compare and contrast which automation technologies yield the best ROI.

A Lot Size of One

A colleague of The Numina Group, Neil Glenney, a consultant on the Consult League Team, likes to recommend companies take the approach of considering a “lot size of one” when brainstorming processes to streamline operations in the distribution center (DC). He stated, “Think in terms of consistently moving a ‘lot size of one.’” Thinking in this way can drive innovation across the entire DC. The operation can be flow-charted and the product and data flow-mapped to create a design with least amount of product moves and touches. This is a value-mapping technique to eliminate excess steps in receiving, inspection, put-away and pick, pack, and ship processes.

Recovering Your Automation Investment

For many companies, leaning out operations is accomplished in a series of incremental changes over a period of time. When it is well-planned and managed, the company can realize measurable incremental savings along the way. The recovered corporate dollars can be used to further eliminate inefficiencies arising from misaligned functional “as-is” priorities, replaced with proven and time-tested successful methodologies.

With this mindset, your company can reach the point in which “Automation is Free,” much like the notion that “Quality is Free,” defined by quality guru Philip B. Crosby. Getting there requires a commitment to understanding the people, processes and products that make up your business and carefully applying automation to drive the best results. It also requires collaboration across functional teams in your organization. As Crosby also said, “To help in a positive manner, you must be genuinely interested in people and results.”

So, what does a good design roadmap for lean operations look like? We’ll talk about must-have elements of a good design plan for lean and automated distribution operations in our next blog.

 

Do you have questions about implementing lean automated pick pack and ship operations in your DC facilities? The Numina Group is here to help. Contact us to arrange a complimentary site visit and consultation.

Contact Numina Group

 

[1] Mark B. Solomon, “Power to the people! Interview with Brian Devine,” DC Velocity, August 25, 2016.

The post How the Right DC Roadmap Can Lead to Free Warehouse Automation appeared first on Numina Group.

Labor Tracking and Performance Metrics Voice Bundled with Voice Directed Order Fulfillment Automation

voice directed picking numina groupLabor costs account for 50% to 70% of a distribution order fulfillment operation’s operating costs. Increasing worker productivity by 30% or more by implementing voice, especially in picking, can generate a fast return on investment, ROI many times in under one year.  This is especially true if the investment can provide labor tracking and measure worker picking productivity across work zones and track all work activity compared to settable work zone standards.  That’s exactly the benefits of the latest Gen3 Voice Directed Order Fulfillment Software.  The software simultaneously increases worker productivity and accuracy in picking and other related work tasks when interleaving replenishment and cycle counting with order picking duties.

A top tier Warehouse Execution and Control System (WES-WCS) that includes voice directed order fulfillment automation using a speaker-independent voice engine provides further DC’s operational savings by eliminating operator voice training time.  Even a temporary worker can be productive in basic pick or pallet build tasks in 10 minutes or less. With the voice applications built in labor tracking software, the picking and other work task performance are time stamped, tracked, and the worker productivity is automatically reported, providing worker accountability. Each worker can be compared to work standards set by management to the work zone and work activity.

Productivity is King- Picking is the highest percentage of a distribution centers labor costs.  Especially true in B to B and B to C internet operations where a large percentage of orders are mixed SKU pick and pack parcel shipments.  Deploying the most efficient Gen3 voice picking technology combined with pick to carton cartonization logic allows these orders to be directly picked to the shipping carton, a great way to lean-up pick and pack and eliminate unnecessary touches. Voice picking in combination with hands free barcode scanning is ideal for automating the pick to carton process.  Voice directs the operator’s pick path, verifies the SKU location, and validates the pick and put to carton process.  Voice is an instant productivity and accuracy boost with all the critical order data being automatically captured, time stamped and logged to the WES-WCS labor and operational database.  Voice picking also can provide the ability to monitor work zone order volume demand and move workers efficiently to the highest order activity zones.

Work zone standards- Gen3 Voice Picking integrated with labor management enables both real-time and historical reporting and analysis.  Labor tracking provides supervisors the ability to analyze individual workers, and provides a better training metric to guide new or underperforming workers The labor tracking and reporting module can time stamp each operator sequence in the operation to capture individual worker performance. Labor management tools allow you to immediately address and retrain employees that are not meeting work standards.  Performance reporting accounts for work zone assignment, any required value add tasks, and reports other interleaved worker tasks such as cycle counting, QC inspection and replenishment, or put-away.  Voice combined with labor tracking tools that measure a worker’s activity to a work zone standard and report task performance provide the ability for an operation to recognize and reward workers who exceed productivity and performance standards.

Picking and SKU velocity movement data is captured and analyzed for work zone performance, SKU slotting, and re-profile underperforming pick zones.  The reporting toolset measures worker productivity across different tasks and tracks labor to settable work standards.  With the ability to monitor people and process performance during both low and high demand periods, management can use operational data to perform labor planning for peak seasons, and have feedback in real-time to shift labor to work zones to avoid bottlenecks before they occur.Voice Picking

Zero-voice training- Peak seasons require many DC’s to rely on temporary workers.  Without simple to use speaker independent technology that provides instant worker productivity it becomes far more challenging to measure temporary workers performance, opening up the opportunity for increased shipping errors, retailer fines, and customer service costs that raise the potential to lose customers.  A Gen3 voice directed picking software system will automate directions with 99.99% accuracy.  Speaker Independent Voice is simple to use – an operator is proficient in 10 minutes or less, and is proven to work in the noisiest work environments.  D.C. managers no longer need to devote time and energy to train new or temporary employees when orders pick up – Voice picking software does the work for them and even tracks worker performance to ensure worker’s perform to standards.

Numina Group’s Real-time Distribution Software, RDS is the definition of a top tier WES-WCS and is unique due to its full featured Gen3 Voice Directed Order Fulfillment Software.  RDS includes a full feature pick, pack, and ship order management software suite along with the control of material handling equipment automation including conveyor sorting, ASRS management, document print, insert and print and apply labeling of shipping, packing, and compliance labels.

RDS Voice is based on the world’s leading speaker independent top speech Lydia voice engine that requires zero voice training and works in even the noisiest distribution and manufacturing work environments.  RDS Voice is proven to improve accuracy to 99.99% in picking, kitting, receiving, replenishment and pallet building applications while increasing worker productivity by 30% to 50% or higher.

The post Labor Tracking and Performance Metrics Voice Bundled with Voice Directed Order Fulfillment Automation appeared first on Numina Group.

Warehouse Voice Picking Success Story

Schumacher Triples Throughput in Existing DCs, Gains a Scalable Solution for Continued Growth

With the Numina Group’s Help, Company Leverages
Technology and Achieves a 12-Month ROI

Schumacher Electric, headquartered in Mt. Prospect, Ill., with plants in Mexico, China and the USA, is the world’s foremost manufacturer of battery chargers. Founded in 1947, the company has built a thriving business by selling its products to large retailers such as Walmart, Napa, Advance Auto Parts and Pep Boys as well as the world’s leading multinational equipment manufacturers.
Business Challenge

Manual order fulfillment processes were limiting Schumacher’s potential for growth. A large percentage of Schumacher’s daily orders were high case volume shipments to major retailer clients, which can range from a single carton mixed SKU parts order up to an order of 50,000 units. All mixed case order picking was done using fork trucks, staging, hand labeling and re-palletizing the orders, a process that required a dedicated staff of ten to sixteen people a day to accomplish the task.

Fulfillment was further complicated by the fact that many of Schumacher’s large retail customers require vendor-compliant shipping labels on every case shipment. The risk of applying the wrong compliance labels to a customer’s shipment could result in costly shipping and compliance fines imposed by the retailer.

Additionally, due to an increasing volume of Internet orders, parcel shipping was becoming a fast growing segment of the business and adding new complexity to the fulfillment workflow.

As business continued to grow, Schumacher hit a ceiling on order throughput with its existing paper-driven order fulfillment processes. “On our best day, we could only process $1.5 million in order shipments between our two DCs,” said Chris Hadsall, Executive Vice President for Schumacher. “We needed more throughput and higher efficiency.”

As a first step, Schumacher introduced barcode scanning to the order picking process to improve picking accuracy. However, the potential for fulfillment errors were still present due to manual batch printing and hand-applying the compliance labels to each case at the pallet build operation.

To alleviate the bottleneck in growth, Hadsall took on the initiative to improve throughput and accuracy in the company’s distribution centers (DCs). Hadsall, a seasoned business professional with a background in civil engineering, computer science and business operations, knew that significant efficiency gains could be achieved by applying the right automation expertise and technologies.

Solution

Schumacher engaged The Numina Group, a leading order fulfillment automation integrator with 30 years of experience in the design and implementation of automated warehouses and distribution centers, to perform a design study. The Numina Group studied the company’s current DC operation and made recommendations on better practices and technologies to improve efficiency and order throughput.

Design Study Yields a More Efficient Picking Strategy
Numina’s design study gave Schumacher a clear game plan to improve efficiency and throughput by reengineering its order fulfillment operation to eliminate labor-intensive manual processes, maximize throughput and provide the projected ROI through an investment in automation.

Numina Group analyzed SKU movement and the DCs’ existing slotting to identify inefficiencies in storage and improve product movement by designing a more efficient pick path. This included locating the highest moving SKUs along the conveyor line to eliminate wasted walk time and fork truck travel. This led to improved efficiencies in picking and reduced replenishment cycles.

The new DC design slotted slow-moving SKUs in locations separately from the high-velocity SKUs. High movers were located in an accessible and ergonomically friendly pallet flow in an efficient pick path, resulting in fast picking and easy replenishment. The key to adding efficiency was the step of slotting the highest moving products in pallet flow lanes directly along the conveyor. This was an essential step to gaining productivity by locating the A and B products in the closest locations along the conveyor line to eliminate wasted walking time.

The second component of the design study assessed the potential of improving efficiency through automation technologies such as voice-directed picking, automated print-and-apply labeling and the use of a conveyor and order sorting system to reduce the use of fork trucks for the majority of case picking.

New Conveyor and Order Sorting System Streamlines Fulfillment

In addition to reconfiguring the warehouse to improve slotting, Schumacher implemented a new conveyor and order sorting system with in-line scan, weigh and print-and-apply labeling capabilities to automate the application of both the shipping and retail compliance label. Voice picking is used throughout the operation with voice managing the slow movers more efficiently by batch picking these SKUs using a fork truck. When a mixed pallet of cases for the pick wave is complete, the operator is directed to drop off the pallets for loading onto the conveyor system.

To streamline Schumacher’s growing small parcel shipping volume, Numina also recommended adding voice picking technology to direct workers in the mixed SKU order picking process. Items are now picked and scan validated, using totes with a manual pack to carton process. This area is also streamlined using print-and-apply technology for automated manifesting and parcel labeling.

Warehouse Execution & Control System Manages Automated Order Flow

The entire order fulfillment operation is managed by Numina Group’s Real-time Distribution System, a top-tier Warehouse Execution and Control System, (WES-WCS). RDS’s order fulfillment automation software includes voice directed picking along with in-motion case barcode scanning, print and apply labeling and the pallet build sorting process control. RDS manages the batch case pick-to-conveyor process, assigns and scan-weight validates each case to the customer’s order and ensures the cases are labeled with the retailer’s UCC compliance label and pallet-build shipment rules, all without human intervention!

Moving to voice picking has increased accuracy to 99.99% and efficiency by over 70% at the DC. Now, order pickers are directed in the most efficient walk path to the product storage location. Using the combination of voice instructions and hands-free barcode scanning of the storage location and SKU barcode batch case, picking now occur across multiple orders at pick rates above 600 cartons per man hour.

Operators receive voice commands to pick the required quantity and scan validate each case as they are placed on the automated MDR conveyor line that transports and measures each case through the in-motion scan-weigh audit station. The case SKU barcode is captured, the case is weight audited and the print-and-apply applicator automatically applies either a compliance label or both a compliance and parcel shipping label to the case.

The scan weigh audit also performs pick count verification and the RDS labeling software module assigns the case and count matched to the customer’s specific order and prints and applies the required labels. Barcode scanners after the labeling process are used to validate the entire pick and ship process. Each case is then conveyed to a pallet and shipping sorter where cases are again scanned and sorted to the order pallet build stations or directly to FedEx® or UPS® shipment lanes.

Benefits:

  • Increased throughput by 70 percent
  • Reduced staffing from 16 to three to five employees for LTL case picking
  • Eliminated manual fulfillment practices
  • Achieved 99% order picking accuracy
  • Eliminated the majority of retailer charge backs and fines

According to Hadsall, one huge benefit of speaker-independent voice technology is that it has virtually eliminated worker training. “When we need to bring temps in for the heavy season, it used to take us one to two weeks to train somebody so we were confident they weren’t going to screw up a customer shipment,” he said. “Now, with the speaker-independent voice picking system, there is zero voice training, so we can train workers in less than five minutes. Our CFO came in and we strapped the headgear on him. In less than five minutes he was a picking professional.”

Hadsall also noted that employees are fully onboard with the new system. “At first, our DC staff was really skeptical about the new technologies we were putting in place. But once we got the system in and running they were beside themselves. They couldn’t figure out why we didn’t pull the trigger on this system five, six, even ten years ago,” he said.

Automation is Free – With the Right Return on Investment (ROI)

Schumacher was able to implement their new fulfillment system in a six-month period. Equally important, the company’s ROI has been very rapid. “When we put the first voice pick and labeling automation system in, it was just slightly under $600,000 and we certainly saw the payback within the first year,” said Hadsall.

Overall Schumacher has invested $1.4 million across both DCs including the conveyor system. “The investment has proven to be well worth it,” Hadsall said. “We’ve not only improved picking and shipping accuracy, but we’ve also increased throughput capacity from $1.5 million to more than $5 million in order shipments per day.”

By carefully investing in automation expertise and the right technology, Schumacher has eliminated operational bottlenecks and has positioned itself well for a future of continued growth.

Future Enhancements

Hadsall and his team are pleased with their new operational workflow and already exploring areas for additional improvement. Hadsall wants to add scanning to the process of trailer loading. This entails scanning and capturing pallet loading to the truck to increase accuracy and eliminate current manual data recording. “Right now, the staff loads the truck and logs load movement using paperwork to record the operation. Additional labor is required to record and enter pallet movement into our ERP system,” he said. “The paperwork is not always completed correctly and becomes a source of error. We want to automate pallet-to-trailer movement with voice and scan validation for additional checks and balances and close the loop on our shipment history reporting.”

Hadsall also plans to add cameras, so that as the product is being loaded in the truck, a picture is taken with a time stamp and the order number included with it. “The Numina Group has these tools,” he said. “We can add them so if somebody says we shorted them 10 pieces, we can go back through the camera and verify that the pallet was complete when it went on the truck. The picture is worth a 1000 words and provides the final order shipment confirmation.”

The company will probably be adding a scan tunnel to dimension lines down the road. “We already know the carton dimensions, but it would be nice to have a real time audit check that verifies the weight and dimensions in case a split case order got repacked in the pack area, especially with the higher costs of dimensional weigh parcel shipments,” Hadsall said.

As Hadsell’s next steps and new ideas show, Schumacher is winning through its willingness to explore new technologies. By carefully investing in automation expertise and the right technology, Schumacher has eliminated operational bottlenecks and positioned itself well for a future of continued growth.

 

The post Warehouse Voice Picking Success Story appeared first on Numina Group.

SCOPE Fall 2016

Set up a meeting with The Numina Group at the Scope Fall Supply Chain Conference 2016 located at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, October 9-11th.  SCOPE is the
supply chain industry’s leading executive-level conference. The program delivers a unique mixture of sscopetrategic presentations and panels from industry thought leaders, real world customer-led case studies, targeted research meetings with leading solution providers and unparalleled networking opportunities with high profile industry peers. You can register for the event at scopefall.com.

The post SCOPE Fall 2016 appeared first on Numina Group.