Fulfilling big shoes
Using collaborative robotics, 3PL optimizes workflow, speeds up fulfillment
3PL triples throughput for global shoe retailer using 6 River Systems
Alberto’s 3PL just landed its biggest client ever: a global shoe retailer with hundreds of retail locations across the U.S. His team will pick, pack and ship store replenishment orders out to nearly 100 locations. The account is a big win, and it means they need to raise the bar for fulfillment higher than ever before. It’s a make or break moment for Alberto and his company: can he step up to the challenge?
Hurdles on the track to success
Doing business with this shoe retailer means a lot for Alberto’s company’s reputation. He needs to get it right. But with a small staff and a legacy workflow, Alberto realized he needed to create a faster and more reliable fulfillment operation. There were a few things that slowed him down:
Paper-based picking. Alberto’s team used paper pick lists in small font typeface, making it difficult to for associates to identify and select the correct orders. Paper lists also prevented pickers from working hands-free, because it meant they would need to physically read and cross off items.
Highly physical process. The associates used pallet jacks as manual carts, dragging piles of shoe boxes weighing up to 120 lbs through long aisles. Carts got heavier as orders accumulated, slowing pickers down.
Inefficient workflow. Alberto’s team batch picked orders, meaning they would group orders and pick them in bulk. But this meant that associates spent many hours in sortation and packout.
The journey to flexible warehouse automation
Alberto learned about 6 River Systems solution through a warehouse consultant. They originally considered a few traditional automation options, including a post-pick sortation system. But that automation would take more than a year to implement. The consultant recommended 6 River Systems, because it was the fastest, most flexible solution on the market, and a fraction of the cost of goods-to-person systems.
Running with 6 River Systems: Introducing Chuck
6 River Systems and Chuck are a collaborative, flexible approach to warehouse automation. Chuck is a turn-key, drop-in replacement for cart picking. Chucks communicate directly with a cloud-based Collaborative Fulfillment System (CFS) that coordinates all work on the floor. The software integrates with the site’s existing Warehouse Management System (WMS) so that Chuck can be used throughout the warehouse.
Once the associate badges in, Chuck leads them from pick to pick, showing important task information — item image, description, quantity, location, etc. — on a display the size of a tablet. This keeps associates on task, spending less time searching for items. Chuck lights up to indicate which side of the aisle to pick from and which order container to place the item into.
Chuck’s high-powered scanner captures all necessary product information, including real-time validation of lot and serial number, in a single scan — allowing operators to pick hands-free. Work is prioritized by the system and assigned to associates through intelligent algorithms that maximize productivity and utilization — like Google Maps for your warehouse.
A three-month snapshot
In just three months, the 3PL saw some huge gains by choosing 6RS:
MORE THAN 3X THROUGHPUT
6 River Systems changed this 3PL’s workflow from batch picking to discrete order picking. Now, pickers pick directly into order containers that are shipped — a process that eliminates hours of post-pick sortation. With Chuck and 6RS’ smart work allocation, pickers are walking less and getting more efficient in-aisle.
With all these improvements, the 3PL witnessed a more than 3X jump in its throughput, from 25 UPH to 80 UPH.
Units Per Hour (UPH)
FASTER THAN MANUAL CART PICKING
Chuck sped up time associates spend in three areas: in-aisle, long walk and pick:
Picking in 2 weeks and easy to use
With no changes required to the site's infrastructure, 6RS was live with the first pick in 2 weeks. Associates also quickly learned the system. Almost all of this 3PL’s workers are bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English. For some staff, English is a second language. Because Chuck’s UI is graphically driven and intuitive, pickers easily learned how to use the robot. After just one day, associates were teaching each other how to use the Chucks.
Why do associates like the system?
It’s because Chuck:
Optimizes the picking route to reduce walking.
Carries the totes, keeping associates hands-free.
Confirms picks and indicates which container to put items into.
Provides context specific reason codes which makes exception handling a breeze