Just add automation to meet the challenges of Fulfillment during peak season

December 19, 2022

New technologies add flexibility, scalability and efficiency to your fulfillment network

Last year, U.S. consumers spent a whopping $843 billion dollars during the holiday season — and for industry sectors like traditional and online retail and consumer packaged goods, it can make or break their revenue goals for the entire year. In our recent article Expect the Unexpected in Fulfillment during Black Friday and Peak Season, we talked about what to expect as peak season ramps up in 2022. While growth in sales is predicted, analysts also expect this peak season to start earlier and possibly be more volatile, with continued supply chain issues and uncertainties in carrier capacity. This article focuses on how automation in fulfillment can augment and assist people to help companies meet customer demand and control inventory during peak season. 

Technology platforms streamline every aspect of fulfillment

At the heart of every fulfillment warehouse is the warehouse management system (WMS). A best-in-class WMS can integrate with your order management system seamlessly, allowing critical data to flow seamlessly from your system to your fulfillment warehouse. Not only does it ensure that every order is received so that it can be handled quickly, it provides real-time visibility into inventory and keeps you up-to-date on every aspect of your fulfillment network.

Automation can help make your peak season a profitable one 

During Peak Season, warehouses are often pushed to their maximum volume capacity — requiring more labor to fulfill orders. But in today’s tight labor market, finding workers is difficult. In fact, a study earlier this year by Instawork, cited 73% of warehouse operators are having trouble attracting workers. 

Technology is coming to the rescue. Automation leverages technology platforms, artificial intelligence and robotics to perform high-frequency rote tasks — and build and fulfill orders with nearly zero errors. For instance, implementing Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) to complement human workers boosts productivity in warehouses — according to Locus Robotics, as much as 3 times that of using human labor alone — and helps make the best use of hard-to-find talent. Having AMRs do the simple tasks frees up associates to do higher-value work.

AMRs also alleviate some of the physical strain on human workers too. Because AMR pickers can automatically calculate the most efficient pick sequence, even when picking multiple orders at a time, they ensure that workers take the most efficient routes. They alleviate the need to push heavy carts as well. AMRs can even return to offload stations on their own, allowing warehouse associates to stay in the picking aisles. Verst believes that using AMRs to assist our employees improves the human work environment, part of our People First philosophy. 

As another aspect of our People First philosophy, it's quicker to train our employees on how to operate an AMR, especially compared to older technology such as radio frequency (RF). Successful onboarding and training help to raise employee confidence and break down barriers to becoming productive. This is especially helpful during Peak Season when staffing levels hit an all-time high to meet what can be upwards of 10 times normal order volumes.

At Verst, scalable automation drives accuracy and productivity during peak season in our fulfillment operations, allowing us to more easily meet the demands of peak season. Locus Robotics’ system-guided robots work alongside Verst employees to assist with picking and packing, resulting in greater overall productivity and 99.7% order accuracy. One fascinating fact, with artificial intelligence built-in, AMRs can actually continually “learn” and get more efficient over time! 

Our experience shows that not only do AMRs make it easier to scale up to meet customer needs during peak season, but they also help us make the most of every one of our human resources. It’s a win-win.

Speed fulfillment with automated sortation

Automated sorting systems are another way that technology is creating new efficiencies. Once picked items are packed, they are placed on a conveyor system. Often, this is done manually, a time-consuming process that comes with a greater risk of error. Automated sortation identifies parcels on a conveyor system and diverts them to a warehouse location using RFID, barcode scanners and sensors. Companies use automated sortation systems in order fulfillment for receiving, picking, packing and shipping. Automated sorters can have a dramatic impact, enabling companies to achieve up to a 10 times demand increase, ultimately delivering holiday packages before Christmas.

From making sure that orders are packed in optimally sized packaging and preventing dimensional weight surcharges, automated sortations speed up order fulfillment. In addition, these systems can “rate shop” for the lowest-cost carrier based on shipping service requirements and shipping location. That means each parcel ships at the lowest possible cost by comparing rates for parcel shippers like UPS and FedEx or LTL carriers. The system then creates a label, places it on the carton, and sends it to the final dock to be picked up by the shipper. 

For peak season, Verst accelerates fulfillment using an automated shipping sortation system. We can process 6,000 cartons per hour exceeding a 99% read rate. It reduces manual processes and labor needed to confirm orders and ship orders. 

For more than 3 decades, Verst has fulfilled orders for customers during Peak Season, with a full range of B2B and B2C services in omnichannel fulfillment. We help large global brands and fast-growing companies in consumer packaged goods (CPG), food & beverage, and retail get to market faster by integrating and consolidating touchpoints across their fulfillment network.  Best of all, our central fulfillment center locations in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati area are strategically positioned to reach 85% of the US population within 1-2 days.

Need more advice for an exceptional Peak Season fulfillment solution?  Visit us online or call our Fulfillment experts at 800-978-9307.



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