CeMAT 2020, 20 - 24 April
Move & Lift

Small, fast and flexible

Intralogistics solutions for e-commerce must be dynamic.
Sometimes this can involve completely new challenges for both
customers and providers.

15 Feb. 2016

Warehouse strategy

Ergonomische Kommissionierung mit Pick-it-Easy

Significantly varying order loads with only a few items in each case are characteristic of the logistical challenges faced by e-commerce. "Therefore, the only chance e-commerce logistics has to exist in such a dynamic environment is to ensure as flexible a set-up as possible," says Dirk Schlömer, Managing Partner of the logistics consultancy firm viaLog.

"That includes flexible warehouse structures to accommodate the most diverse of ranges, easily adaptable IT structures to map process changes as simply as possible, and highly responsive working models that facilitate the deployment of labour forces on a needs basis."

Companies that operate (at least) one more distribution channel on top of their e-commerce system must decide whether both channels should be given a shared or separate warehouse structure. "Many companies opt for a multi-channel logistics system if one or both of their administrative units are relatively small," notes Schlömer. "A shared logistics structure is also practical if considerable synergy effects could potentially be achieved." If, however, both sales channels exhibit distinct differences in key areas, he notes that warehouse separation is advisable. In this case differences as regards the range, the order structures, the packaging and sales units and the distribution structure are decisive.

Logistics centres are becoming more and more intelligent

Proceeding on the assumption that sameday delivery will arise in one form or another for certain requirements at some point, it follows that new logistics sites must be within close proximity of the customers, if such a service is to be transacted on time and at all logistically. This works primarily in existing buildings, the use of which is shared by various different companies, in urban centres or inner-city locations, because space for new logistics sites just isn't available. Alternatively, so-called brownfield sites can be repurposed into e-commerce logistics centres.

Systems like Grenzebach's mobile order-picking warehouse G-Com – winner of the German Award for Supply Chain Management in 2015 – are especially well-suited for handling the intralogistics requirements of such an environment. This constitutes a very cost-effective solution, specifically for medium-sized customers who want to start out in the e-commerce business. G-Com makes it possible for shelves to be brought to a picking station on a fully-automated basis.

vario.sprinter shuttle solution

Many of the developments in the field of intralogistics are now driven by the specific requirements of e-commerce. Constant availability of a wide range of products, increasingly quicker delivery times and a low tolerance for error are the order of the day.

"Our 'All-in-Shuttle' concept enables us to offer not just speed but, above all, a high degree of flexibility in technical solutions," says Heimo Robosch, Executive Vice President at KNAPP AG. "This is because shuttle systems are ideal when it comes to dealing with enormous order-picking volumes with small batch sizes."

The OSR Shuttle from KNAPP provides all the goods contained within it around the clock. He goes on to point out that it does matter where in the system these are stored. At the same time, the "Pick-it-Easy" goods-to-person system makes it possible for all goods stored in a distribution centre to be accessible from an individual workstation so that fluctuations in demand and range variations can be dealt with easily.

Return rates of up to 60 per cent have to be dealt with

The rapidly growing business of e-commerce and m-commerce is changing the requirements in a great number of sectors. "For instance, we are experiencing the atomisation of orders – companies have to process up to 80 per cent single-item orders in online dispatch," explains Volker Welsch, Head of Sales for Germany at psb intralogistics GmbH.

"We use the VDI award-winning high-performance order-picking solution rotapick for especially frequent requirements." This flexible order-picking system for multi-source picking, multi-order picking and multitarget picking enables output equivalent to up to 1,000 picks per hour. "Because only overall systems with coordinated interaction achieve outstanding performance, we combine our rotapick systems with matching high-performance warehousing solutions, in the course of which our shuttle system vario.sprinter is used predominantly," continues Welsch.

He goes on to point out another essential point which is the downside of online commerce: returns management. After all, return rates of up to 60 per cent need highly-dynamic intralogistics systems too. All psb system concepts integrate the returned goods into the process, meaning that these are available for dispatch again immediately after the incoming check, without having to be returned to the original stockroom.