Automation & Digital Transformation

Automatic equipment in a manufacturing, warehousing, transportation and distribution, Industrial and Autonomous research robots, Robotic process automation (RPA) and other processes or facilities.

The Magic Behind Online Shopping

Today’s warehouse automation resembles a high-tech version of Santa’s workshop.

22-Nov-2018
The Magic Behind Online Shopping
Let me go back a couple weeks… It was the week of Black Friday, and I was heading down to a project site for coverage during the customer’s peak volume period, which happens to be Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. This weekend consists of the infamous “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”.

Now rather than opting to shop the “old school” way by getting in your car, driving to the mall, trying to find a parking spot, heck even camping overnight to get that deal, you can just Netflix and shop in the comfort of your own home! This is the new era that we are in. The cyber online shopping era.

Year after year online sales are growing with no sign of slowing down. In fact, this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales were bigger than ever. According to Practical Ecommerce, Adobe Analytics reported that American consumers spent $19.62 billion online over the five-day period from November 23 (Thanksgiving) through November 27 (Cyber Monday), a $2.6 billion and 15 percent increase over last year.

Automated E-Commerce Fulfillment Centers
Okay, now that we have the basics of Black Friday out of the way, let’s talk about my time on site. The facility is an e-commerce fulfillment center. What is that you ask? Think of this as a distribution center or Santa’s toy factory. This place is filled with associates (elves) and the DC Manager (Santa) who run this place to ensure you receive your goods on time.

The facility is complete with an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS), robotic document inserters, automated print and apply machines (PANDA’s), vision scanners, and all of this technology is connected through conveyors! With the implementation of material handling automation, this facility was able to eliminate the touch time and manual intervention the elves have to do, making their lives that much easier.

I should mention this facility is state of the art, and not all distribution centers are created equally. The robotic ASRS at the center of this facility is a technology called Perfect Pick. It has bins that hold product, and it is all controlled by a supply chain software platform called Exacta. The Perfect Pick is capable of holding up to 2 million different products, all while knowing exactly where each one is at every moment! The brains behind this is a program called automated order routing (AOR). This Exacta software feature tracks every order in the building by communicating with conveyors, scanners, the Perfect Pick, and print and applies to get your package out the door. Think of it as the magic of Santa’s toy factory.

The Life of an Online Order
Once your online order is placed, it will begin at an automated carton erector where your box will be automatically made and then a barcode will be applied to the side of the box for tracking. Next, a packing slip containing your shipping and order information will be placed into the box by a robot. From here, AOR takes control and routes the box to one of 20 Perfect Pick aisles based on the product you ordered. Once your product has been delivered by a Perfect Pick iBott and picked by an operator, it then heads to packing. The box runs through an automated case sealer and then a shipping label is applied via a PANDA (print and apply).

Based on what type of shipping option you selected—UPS, FEDEX, Canada Post, or Santa’s sleigh—your order will get routed off of the ZiPline shoe sorter to its corresponding ship lane. From there, the rest is history. You get to relax at home knowing you just saved yourself the stress of the holiday crowds, while you order is processed by some of the most advanced automation equipment and technologies in the supply chain industry.

To learn more, watch this short video or visit our website to read about one of Hudson’s Bay’s new automated e-commerce fulfillment centers.

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