Volume 19 | Issue 3 | Year 2016

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Online shopping, better known as e-commerce, has made a major impact on the distribution process over the last several years. The market has evolved into a multi-channel environment with many “end customers” needing to be serviced. The end customer could now be a regional distribution center wanting full pallet loads of one stock keeping unit (SKU) or multi-layer SKUs, a retail store requesting single cases, or a customer ordering an individual product directly. Managing a multi-channel distribution center becomes very challenging without the use of automated systems and sophisticated software. One source projects the growing e-commerce market to become a $491 billion dollar plus revenue generator in the United States by 2018, while others venture to say it will be even higher. Turning to automation for order fulfillment combats the uncertainty and allows flexibility for future growth while allowing retailers to capture revenue and market share.

Partner with a Passion for Optimized Material Flow
Navigating through the many automation solutions can be challenging without industry expertise. That’s why many distribution facilities turn to Cimcorp Group (Cimcorp), a manufacturer and integrator of turnkey robotic gantry-based order fulfillment and tire handling solutions, to assist them in choosing the appropriate solution. They hope to find a true partner that will take the time to analyze their individual needs and tailor an end-to-end solution that will endure the changing customer demands. Cimcorp is dedicated to being a trustworthy partner and providing solutions that will comfort manufacturers and distributors as they emerge into this unfamiliar, new world. The company’s mastery of robotic versatility in distribution operations has prompted its growth across continents and oceans as it creates solutions capable of delivering optimal return on a client’s robotics investment. Cimcorp develops and implements solutions based on its intimate knowledge of changing customer demands. This data supplied Cimcorp with the foresight to strategically respond to the rapidly changing e-commerce market and delivery structure in order to develop, produce and introduce its newest innovation, Cimcorp 3D Shuttle.

Simplicity in How It Works
Cimcorp’s 3D Shuttle is an automatic storage and retrieval solution (AS/RS) with applications in a variety of industries and distribution areas in addition to e-commerce, such as retail, food and beverage, and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). These areas all feature a large number of SKUs that must be frequently handled and picked on an individual basis.

E-commerce warehouses operate differently than traditional warehouses or distribution centers. As mentioned before, they rely heavily on SKUs and SKU volume, which dictates which and where products are sorted in individual totes, bins, etc. This allows products to be available quickly and easily accessible. When a particular SKU is required to fulfill an order, the robot gantry retrieves the corresponding tote and deposits it onto the shuttle device. The shuttle travels along the gantry and transports the tote to a conveyor line that feeds the picking stations. Once picking from a tote is complete, it is conveyed back to its location within the storage area. This is also known as goods-to-man order picking and the 3D Shuttle strives to optimize the process for e-commerce.

Space and Cost Savings
Designed to reduce operating costs, ensure traceability and improve efficiency, Cimcorp’s systems, like the 3D Shuttle, are applied for manufacturing facilities and distribution centers all over the world. This solution also allows for better use of space. Traditional environments would have dictated aisles for workers or forklifts to maneuver through the product, pick what was needed and move on to the next selection. In many cases, this involved racks of goods in the single location in order to maximize space and have all products on-hand in one locale. These obstacles are not only cumbersome, but also add to the overall cost of running the warehouse.

Floor-based storage, meaning that goods are accessed from above and placed on conveyor sequences as the client wants, removes the need for aisles or racking. Eliminating them from the equation became part of the space, cost and energy savings an e-commerce solution addresses. Additionally, automation is quicker and more accurate in terms of order fulfillment, inventory and processing orders in any warehouse environment.

Specifically, the Cimcorp 3D shuttle system is up to six times more efficient than a manual solution and has the capability to pick up to 1,000 totes per hour. With these combined factors and savings, it is no wonder why manufacturers and distributions are seeing how tremendously valuable automated solutions are in an e-commerce fulfillment environment. When an automation system, such as 3D Shuttle, is able to operate in a fully integrated way in a client’s warehouse, significant growth in efficiency and productivity can clearly be visible.

What This All Means
In the future, we will see even more manufacturers and distributors embracing advancements in this technology to separate themselves from the competition and capture e-commerce market share. Over time, even more technology and factors will emerge and change the market. For example, mobile commerce or m-commerce has been named the next game changer factor in the e-commerce market. As e-commerce and m-commerce continue to shape, Cimcorp plans to support their clients with solutions and data intelligence every step of the way.

Derek Rickard is the Distribution Systems Sales Manager for Cimcorp, a manufacturer and integrator of turnkey robotic gantry-based order fulfillment and tire handling solutions. With more than more than 15 years of experience in the supply chain industry, Rickard helps customers develop robotic order fulfillment systems that increase efficiency, accuracy and throughput for warehouses and distribution centers around the world.

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