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Cliff Holste

Supply Chain Digest
Material Handling Editor

Logistics News - Sorting It Out

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.

April 25, 2018

Sorting It Out: System Providers Offering More Modular & Scalable Solutions

Small to Medium Size Shippers looking to Upgrade Order Picking Operations have more Options


Beginning a few years ago and now gaining momentum, material handling system providers are offering more modular and scalable solutions for order picking and shipping operations. Automation providers are also keying in on this modular approach allowing shippers to add robots and AGVs to existing operations. Dan Gilmore and I reported on several of these new and interesting technologies directly from the MODEX 2018 show floor. If you haven’t already, you can watch our video coverage of Day 1 & Day 2 here.

Holste Says...

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.

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While this approach is perfectly logical from a buy’s perspective, it will also make it somewhat easier for small to medium size shippers to justify system upgrades that can scale-up as the business grows and/or be reconfigured as needed to better accommodate changes in the future.One such provider is Fetch Robotics which offers several modular and scalable automated order picking and transportation solutions. See picture below.


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 system 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 a departmentalized order processing model to a more lean flow-thru approach such as Goods-to-Person see “An In-Depth Look at Goods-to-Person Order Fulfillment Solutions”Part 1 and Part 2. 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 quickly 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 grow.

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