Archive for Material Handling

The “Soft” Side of Automation Holds the Key to ROI

Material handling equipment (MHE) has been around a long time. But, it’s never been more popular. Companies look to automation now (more than ever) to improve throughput while bridging the labor gaps affecting so many warehouses and industries. Fixed automation such as conveyors, sortation, and storage systems are proven solutions within their respective wheelhouses. Warehouse robotics hold great promise for more complex and variable operational needs. These technologies continue to grow in popularity, broaden their […]

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Dematic and Intelligrated Acquisitions Highlight Warehouse Automation’s Superior Growth Potential

The global warehouse automation & control (WA&C) market has experienced numerous mergers & acquisitions over the years. However, most of the acquisitions have been smaller vendors that sell similar solutions that offer a complimentary technology, capability, or additional geographic presence to the acquirer. In contrast, the recently announced acquisitions of Dematic and Intelligrated represent major shifts in the global WA&C market. Dematic announced on June 21 that it is going to be acquired by the KION Group, one of […]

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Retailer Takes New Approach to Optimizing Direct-to-Consumer Warehouse Operations

A few months ago, I talked to a specialty retailer that operates both stores and a direct-to-consumer channel. Five years ago the company decided to bring its direct-to-consumer operation in-house and it built a 500,000 square foot distribution center (DC). The retailer implemented VARGO’s COFE warehouse control system (WCS) to increase warehouse efficiencies at this DC and to help decrease its overall cost of the project. COFE (Continuous Order Fulfillment Enterprise) was designed with an […]

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Amazon Plans Carefully Its Distribution Capacity Growth

It’s that time of year again, when shoppers hit the stores on Black Friday and go online on Cyber Monday, the biggest day of the year for Internet sales. Experts predict that Internet sales will increase 12 percent this year; Amazon’s sales this holiday season will grow much faster. At the CSCMP Annual Conference in October, Mike Roth, Amazon’s VP of North American Fulfillment Services, gave a speech titled “Supply Chain Technology Powering Earth’s Biggest […]

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Robots for the Warehouse: Options Other than Kiva Systems

In previous postings, I’ve written about Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva Systems and on how the Kiva system works. At the CSCMP Annual Conference last week, Mike Roth, the VP of North American Fulfillment Services at Amazon, talked about using automation sparingly to preserve flexibility. He pointed, for example, to the exploding number of product categories Amazon has added over the last several years. If Amazon had built distribution centers (DCs) just for books, it would […]

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The New Amazon Distribution Model

Recently, Kiva Systems told its existing clients how its acquisition by Amazon would affect them. But the news also revealed something about Amazon’s distribution strategy. So here is the news: Kiva will not be selling any new systems to new customers for the next one and a half to two years. Instead, Amazon will be filling its new one million square foot distribution centers (DCs) with Kiva robots. In its second quarter financial statement, Amazon […]

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The Value of Flexibility in DC Networks

In the past I have written about the value of flexibility as a driver for what type of material handling you select for your warehouse. I’ve pointed out that companies that implement highly-automated warehouses are very focused on driving down fulfillment costs to the maximum extent possible, although the payback period is often five years or longer. These solutions also present higher risks. Companies often have to make multi-year assumptions about volume growth and order […]

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Baby Boom Logistics

Currently, with the weak economy, many companies are not thinking so much about labor shortages. But here is a sobering thought: In 2011, the oldest of the 76 million baby boomers (people born between 1945 and 1964) will turn 65, the traditional retirement age. A systematic labor shortage is expected to impact many industries, especially the trucking industry as we have highlighted before in Logistics Viewpoints.  Ergonomics may be part of the answer to this […]

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Kellogg’s Use of Automated Guided Vehicles

The ongoing developments in intelligent and flexible material handling systems, which are basically robots, continue to fascinate me. For example, automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) used to be fairly dumb machines that moved from point to point by following a preset trail of magnets in the warehouse floor. Humans loaded them at one end of the warehouse and unloaded them at the other. But AGVs have gotten a whole lot smarter.    At the RedPrairie user conference […]

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Automated vs. Manual Warehouses: A Different Way of Thinking About ROI

How does your company think about ROI?  Your answer may largely determine how much distribution center automation your company is willing to invest in. First, some quick definitions:  My definition of “manual warehouses” is synonymous with “man-to-goods” warehouses, where workers move to a pick location, pick the goods, and then move to the delivery dock.  These facilities aren’t necessarily completely manual; they might employ forklifts and conveyors in certain locations in the warehouse.  In contrast, […]

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