Home' MHD Supply Chain Solutions : MHD May-Jun 2015 Contents other two. In the USA, returns are estimated
to cost e-tailers more than $2 billion, with the
emergence of reverse-only 3PL and dedicated
returns processing centres to handle the
increasingly costly process.
Seasonal flexibility essential
Online operations can experience very high levels
of seasonality, with order volumes peaking during
gift-giving periods such as Christmas, Mothers’
and Fathers’ days, and during promotions.
E-tailers’ order fulfilment operations need
to be highly flexible, maintaining high levels of
fulfilment speed, accuracy and productivity even
during the highest volume peaks.
eCommerce order fulfilment
There are three key order fulfilment strategies to
consider for processing ecommerce orders:
Person-to-goods. Discrete order fulfilment
picking to totes, cartons or other shippers on
a trolley or pallet. Depending on the volumes
involved, picking can be directed by RF, voice or
via pick-to-light displays, with product and order
scanning minimising the potential for errors.
This is a cost-effective solution for picking
relatively small quantities of discrete orders,
and can be easily scaled up. It provides reason-
able picker productivity levels, typically around
80-120 items per hour.
Person-to-goods with batch picking.
Productivity levels can be significantly increased
by batch picking the individual products
required for multiple orders concurrently to a
trolley or pallet.
The batch-picked items can then be efficient-
ly sorted to their respective orders in a variety
of manual processes directed by RF or voice
before packing and shipping, or, depending on
the physical characteristics of the products and
volumes involved, via a put wall or an automat-
ed conveyor sorting system.
Put walls. Put walls optimise the processing
and shipping of orders for single or small quan-
tities of items. Serving as an order consolidation
and packing hub, they deliver high productivity
and order accuracy.
After all of the goods required for a batch of
orders have been picked, typically into tote bins,
they are delivered to the put wall on a pallet, by
trolley or conveyor sorting system.
Put walls are a double-sided wall of shelving
with individual compartments, each represent-
ing a single customer order. The front of the put
wall is for ‘putting’ items to orders, while the
rear is for packing and shipping.
The order compartments can be configured
in a range of sizes to suit the user’s product
range, with individual compartments also
capable of being used for multiple orders
through the use of dividers or small tote bins.
Put walls can support any number of
separate order compartments, with the total
depending on a combination of the physical
characteristics of the products being handled,
and the batch size which delivers the optimum
productivity and throughput.
Pickers ‘put’ items to orders in the compart-
ments at the front of the put wall until all the
items for an order have been placed, at which
point the picker pushes the items through to the
rear of the put wall.
Packers at the rear can then retrieve the
items, with the packing side of the put wall
typically incorporating a workbench containing
shipping materials, such as envelopes and
shipping cartons of various sizes, and invoice
and shipping label printers.
Completed orders are placed into a
shipping envelope or carton along with order
documents, promotional materials and void
fill, if required. The order is then labelled for
despatch. In high throughput applications, the
shippers can also be sent through a dedicated
packing line containing automated address
labelling and sealing equipment.
Each put wall module can process single line
or multi-line orders. They can also be mounted
on wheels so the order consolidation process
can be moved around the DC, or moved to dif-
ferent locations as daily requirements change.
Put walls can be utilised manually using
printed pick lists and alpha-numeric location
labelling, or be used in conjunction with
technologies including barcode scanning and
RF terminals, put-to-light (PTL) or ‘cubby
light’ displays, or voice-directed picking
and putting to further increase accuracy,
productivity and throughput.
Smart order fulfilment software manages
and directs the picking, put wall and despatch
shipping processes. This strategy enables pick
rates of between 200-500 items per operator
per hour, significantly improving productivity
and requiring less labour, with productivity on
the more labour-intensive packing and despatch
shipping side usually running at rates of around
100 to 250 items per operator per hour.
Packing benches at rear of the put wall.
Put to light directed put wall.
MHD SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS — MAY / JUNE 2015
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