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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

July 8, 2015

Logistics News: Sales Order Automation - Increases Speed & Reduces Labor

Is Same-Day-Shipping Fast Enough?

Holste Says:

Given the vast amount of instant information we now have available at our finger tips (there are apps for everything) the deployment of automated and fully integrated logistics technologies is the overall best strategy.
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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


Most shippers are focus on the physical movement of goods through the DC. However, it could take a day or so to get customer orders through the order entry, approval and acceptance process. Not done yet - it could take another day to verify and allocate inventory and for load planners to release the orders into the DC order fulfillment system. Finally, the orders can be quickly picked, packed, sorted and shipped. Unless of course, the carrier had not yet arrived or there is no dock loading space available, in which case shipping will be further delayed.

Perhaps the above sounds familiar. However, if this typifies your operation, you may need to ramp-up you’re game. The rapid growth of online retailers in the consumer goods marketplace has emphasized the need for speed. Today business happens around the clock, geographic boundaries have been erased, and logistics technology never ceases to innovate. has been offering free same day shipping to their Prime customers and is now offering free same day delivery in 14 metro areas across the U.S.

It’s interesting to note that despite having a very hard time generating even modest profits, Amazon .com continues to ramp-up and expand its free shipping programs, causing more challenges for its competitors who may be trying to keep pace.


Order Entry Automation is Key to DC Speed

Conveyor systems are now capable of transporting and sorting cartons in the 250 to 300 per minute range. Dematic recently introduced the FlexSort SL2® which has an advertised sort rate of 380 cases per minute. This is especially good news for multi-channel DCs that experience peaks 2X or 3X the average. Also, good news for large retail chain store operations making it possible for them to consolidate smaller regional DCs into one high volume central operation.

Regardless of how a DC is equipped (manual or automated), if it can satisfy customers’ demand for same-day shipping it probably meets today’s criteria for being a fast DC. However, physical speed (getting product out the door) is not the only qualification for being fast – there are other service related factors. For example, B2B and B2C customers want to check the availability of inventory and the status of their orders on-line avoiding the time it takes to get through to a customer service representative. This requires network transparency and high speed integrated transactional capability.

That starts with the adoption of Order Entry Automation. Online e-Commerce sales transactions occur 24/7/365. It’s standard practice for online customers to receive a notification email containing relevant order details that sets the order fulfillment process in motion and confirms the shipping date within a few minutes of placing the order. Conexiom , located in Vancouver, British Columbia, is one of technology providers that offers a solution that integrates customer orders immediately as they arrive in any format. Conexiom captures and transforms computer-generated customer orders directly into order fulfillment sales orders automatically. This level of automation allows orders to be processed in minutes rather than hours or days with 100% data capture accuracy. Some of the key benefits of order entry automation include:

  • Faster order confirmations
  • More accurate order entry
  • Easier ability to answer and respond to enquiries
  • Consistent service regardless of channels

In the cyberspace world, where a millisecond is like “forever”, DC speed includes being able to synchronize the activities of multiple warehouses, or multiple vendors in the supply chain to provide a seamless real-time view of inventory and order status beyond the four walls of the DC. That means integrating internal DC systems with the logistics systems of external trading partners so that customer order status can be monitored and/or expedited in real-time.

It means updating IT systems with visibility tools that increase DC speed by allowing trading partners and customers across the supply chain to receive alerts and notifications when events occur, or don't occur, so that service providers can take proactive steps rather than just react.

Given that DC speed involves a blend of physical movement, and information flow, what are the governing factors?


Is it sending electronic data interchange (EDI) and advance shipping notices (ASN) over the Internet?

Is it monitoring deliveries and shipments via GPS tracking?

Is it a Continuous Order Processing (COP) strategy?

Is it the ability to change/adjust in-process orders instantly?

Is it multi-channel selling with a same-day shipping guarantee?

Or, is it a fast, accurate, customer friendly returns policy?

For most shippers the answer is - all of the above.

All of the above are tested and proven methods that really work to speed up transactions throughout the supply chain and are deployed in the top performing logistics operations. But they need to be put in the context of your business model and your company’s need for speed.

Final Thoughts

While the accelerated movement of goods is critical to obtaining high performance, the focus should not be on the physical aspects alone. Given the vast amount of instant information we now have available at our finger tips (there are apps for everything) the deployment of automated and fully integrated logistics technologies is the overall best strategy.



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