A 3PL fulfilling ecommerce orders for a large apparel company needed to add automation to keep up with peak season demand. Due to a labor shortage, an increase in hiring costs, and the drastic growth of ecommerce sales, the 3PL needed a solution that would maximize their existing labor force while doubling their current throughput, which was approximately 2,500 orders per day.
The fully manual process consisted of operators walking around the warehouse, picking items from the shelves, and putting them into totes. The operator would create appropriately sized boxes by hand and placed the items inside with documentation before sealing and labelling each box and sorting them by carrier. If the order was being sent internationally, another set of documentation was required in a pouch outside the box for processing at Customs. This method was not only time-consuming and could not keep up with demand, but it was also prone to errors in documentation and labelling.
Working with their Integrator partner, the 3PL purchased and installed a system that automated most of the tasks post-pick. The new system included a conveyor system transporting products to an operator who picked up the box (pre-formed by a carton erector) and put the items inside.
Automated Document Printing and Insertion
The box containing the products was then placed onto another conveyor which transported it to two PSI machines: a Friction Feeder that would feed pre-printed flyers or coupons into each box, followed by a Print Feeder – Dual Fold (PFDF). The PFDF printed each order’s packing slip and invoice, folded the documents twice and inserted them into the boxes as they passed. With the built-in verification system, the PFDF and FICS software verified the documents were being inserted into the correct order.
Following document insertion, a carton sealer and print & apply labeler were installed to tape up the box and label it with the destination. The sealed boxes being shipped internationally were diverted down a secondary lane where PSI’s Autoslip would print out the appropriate customs documentation, insert them into an adhesive pouch, and apply the pouch onto the top of the box. The automated sortation system then ensured the boxes were being diverted to the correct areas of the shipping docks, based on carrier.
Once this system was installed and commissioned, the maximum throughput rose to 7,600 orders per day. The 3PL was now more than capable of keeping up with peak season demand without increasing headcount and without overtime.