Advanced technology puts ‘fast’ in faster fashion fulfillment

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Successful fashion retail is all about maximizing margins, increasing sales volume, and getting results faster. But over the past two years, omnichannel businesses, out of necessity, have had to rely on their e-commerce channels to survive. The strain on fulfillment centers is immense, especially as ‘single’ and ‘little’ picking and packing operations are traditionally highly labor intensive activities – and labor has become a scarce and expensive resource, leading to concerns over performance during peak periods. critical. .

Now that consumers are back on the road, how can businesses rebalance their fulfillment operations to cope with growth and higher throughput across all channels, while keeping costs down to maximize margins? In addition to the challenges of finding employment, the National Living Wage in the UK will increase from £8.91 to £9.50 per hour in April 2022, coinciding with National Insurance’s 1.25p increase in pounds for employers and employees. .

With operational costs rising and fewer people available to perform manual picking operations, many fashion retail businesses are turning to using automation to increase the productivity of their workforce. Automation applied to the right processes can free up people for tasks that require human ingenuity, judgment, and manual dexterity – tasks like packing and checking returns.

Advanced technology

Innovative technologies that help transform operational performance in fulfillment centers, freeing up human resources for value-adding activities, are pocket sorters. The overhead bag sorting system offers flexible and highly scalable buffering, transport, sorting, and dynamic solutions that are suitable for fulfilling ecommerce orders and assembling store-friendly sequential fills. The one-pocket system is capable of sorting and processing thousands of orders per hour, with each bag able to carry hanging clothes and flat items, such as shoes and flat-packed items, enabling fast order fulfillment from a single inventory pool.

Creating a single inventory pool from which store replenishment and e-commerce orders are served offers significant financial and operational advantages. Efficiency in accessing available stock, greater flexibility in allocating stock to maximize sales, and faster processing times for preparing orders are just some of the key advantages.

In particular, the pouch technology lends itself well to ecommerce operations, enabling greater wave-picking efficiency, with an order deadline of around 10 p.m. for delivery appointments to customers first thing the next day. With processing speeds of up to 25,000 units per hour, Ferag’s ultra-fast automated bag sorting solution, Skyfall, can pick, sort, package and ship orders in the shortest amount of time, giving fashion brands a sharp competitive edge from the edge. with early delivery the next day.

For consumers, prompt and reliable fulfillment and delivery are often the deciding factors when purchasing a fashion item and a positive experience is likely to lead to repeat sales and recommendations on social media. However, late delivery has the potential to cause major difficulties and could lead to negative reviews, with lost sales in the future, so a reliable fulfillment process is essential. Of course, picking accuracy is also important, because the wrong item selected is likely to disappoint the customer, as well as hurt the business. However, automation allows very high retrieval accuracy.

Shop friendly order

As previously stated, the same high-speed Skyfall bag sorter system used to fulfill ecommerce orders can also be used to create store-friendly sequential shipments for high-end stores – pulling from the same combined inventory. The benefit of sorting products for a given store layout is that store assistants tasked with filling shelves and rails can perform tasks quickly and efficiently, freeing them up to spend more time with customers – potentially, to secure more sales.

The obvious advantage of a high-speed enclave solution, such as Skyfall Ferag, is that it uses the available overhead space – the third dimension of the building – keeping the floor area free for pedestrians and other processes. What’s more, bagging systems are a highly cost-effective alternative to other forms of goods-to-person automation, such as multi-shuttle and mini-load solutions, which can cost up to 30% more.

Then there’s the core benefit that Skyfall’s overhead bagging systems perform high-speed sorting, transporting and buffering as well, which with Ferag’s modular conveyor technology allows for great flexibility and scalability. And since pockets have the ability to carry flat items, such as shoes, and flat packaged items along with hanging items, there’s no need to have a separate cross belt sorter for flat items, with all the problems associated with carrying flat items. and hang things together.

Leader in a faster way

A number of leading fashion brands utilize bag sorting technology to increase capacity and improve the performance of their fulfillment operations. Ferag has developed a state-of-the-art automatic induction process where the bag opens automatically at the induction station, the operator scans the product, lowers it down a line and puts it in a waiting bag. The process is fast and efficient.

Similarly, Ferag also introduced auto-unloading technology with three levels of performance, depending on product characteristics and gentle handling requirements. Depending on the item, between 1500 and 2200 orders per hour can be automatically unloaded from the bag at the packing station. Driving performance, the rate at which orders are served at the packing station can determine the packing speed.

Faster mode return

In the case of rapid return processing, dynamic overhead buffers can offer a cutting-edge solution to eliminate the time, cost and effort of placing returned items back into inventory. Manually sorting and putting back items into inventory was a very time-consuming and expensive process, but now it can be avoided.

For high-demand fashion products, storing returned items in a buffer close to the packing area allows for fast and efficient re-delivery of items. In fact, some retailers anticipate and predict returns, allowing them to resell items before they are even returned to the warehouse. These techniques help increase sales and increase margins.

Of course, reliability is critical for any automated system. Failure to perform at the peak or during critical promotional periods can result in unmet SLAs and dissatisfied customers, which in turn can damage sales and, most importantly, the brand. Businesses looking to invest in an overhead bag sorting system should pay close attention to the quality of the techniques, materials and components used. Only ultra-low friction components should be considered and plastic chains should be avoided. Good design and sound engineering bring long term benefits.

Ferag’s bag sorter technology was originally developed for most testing handling applications, the international print industry, where super-fast overhead conveyors are required to offer highly reliable performance on millions of daily newspaper productions. The same materials, technology and design expertise has been successfully applied by Ferag in the intralogistics sector, bringing reliable and high performance transport at speeds of up to 25,000 units per hour to fashion businesses worldwide.

Article contributed by Darcy de Thierry, Managing Director of Ferag UK

Joe Devanesan

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