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About the Author

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

Logistics News

By Cliff Holste

April 8, 2015

Logistics News: System Integrators Offering More Modular & Scalable Solutions

Small to Medium Size Shippers looking to Upgrade have more Options

Holste Says:

Technologies such as RF and voice picking can be easily integrated into even the most basic WMS to further enhance DC performance.
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Previous Columns by Cliff Holste

Sorting It Out: Shippers Looking To Increase System Capacity Are Surprised To Find It May Already Exist!

Sorting It Out: For Shippers - Benefits Of Real-Time Control In The DC Are Huge!

Sorting It Out: Shippers Looking to Improve Operations Choose Customer Centric Approach

Sorting It Out: Productivity is a Crucial Factor in Measuring Production Performance

Sorting It Out: Packaging Construction Impacts on Logistics Operations


Beginning a few years ago and now gaining momentum, material handling equipment and system providers are offering more modular and scalable solutions for DC order picking and shipping operations. This was a major focus for many of the ProMat 2015 exhibitors. Dan Gilmore and I reported on several of these new and interesting technologies. If you haven’t already, you can watch our video coverage of Day 1 and Day 2 here.

While this approach is perfectly logical from a design point of view, it will also make it somewhat easier for small to medium size shippers to justify an “entry level” order fulfillment system solution that can scale-up as the business grows and/or be reconfigured as needed to better accommodate changes in the marketplace.

Warehouse Management System (WMS) providers have also adopted this modular/scalable approach by offering programs that are specifically targeted to small and medium size operations. This is especially important as many logistics experts recommend deploying a WMS as the first step towards upgrading an order fulfillment operation. Technologies such as RF and voice picking can be easily integrated into even the most basic WMS to further enhance DC performance.

Shippers operating out of 50K to 100K sq. ft. facilities may now be able to deploy technologies that will enable them to move away from the basic departmentalized discrete order processing model to a more lean flow-thru structure. Other benefits include:

Optimizing human and equipment resources

Reducing inventory levels

Improved order picking accuracy and on-time shipping performance

Increased ability to provide value added services

Flexibility to adapt to changes in SKU mix and customer order profiles

Final Thoughts

All shippers, regardless of size, will benefit from more modular systems and communication standards which are constantly improving. As more robust integration layers becoming common among leading ERP/WMS and System Integrators, this will result in less system complexity and lower cost options. All of which is good news for small operations looking to compete with the big players.

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