3PL Fulfillment Robotics Roadmap
As the world of eCommerce has evolved, warehouses have done the same to keep up with demand for fast and efficient order fulfillment. Technology (the integration of robotics, automation, and sophisticated software) is a main part of that, as it drives down costs for our clients and makes operations more efficient. ShipMonk is proud to put technology at the forefront of our 3PL, employing the best robotics as surely as we employ the best human 3PL team members to work alongside them. The company is also passionate about transparency, and as part of that values education in all aspects of the fulfillment industry.
While advanced automation may be a part of our daily lives, we know the average Joe and Josephine may not know how many different kinds of robotics are utilized by top-performing fulfillment centers. Below are just a few examples of different robots that 3PLs can use to enhance productivity.
Picking and Packing Robots benefit fulfillment facilities in terms of speed and accuracy. Robots engineered for picking and packing are a reliable way for 3PLs to rise to the demand of growing YOY eCommerce sales, collecting items across a warehouse in the most efficient means possible. Like dedicated worker bees, they move with purpose—working well with employees and other automated systems, adding a higher level of quality control, and eliminating a million little human steps that slow the time it takes for products to get en route to customers.
Palletizing Robots are used for stacking, sorting, and transferring products/cases of products onto pallets. As this tedious task is time and labor consuming, a palletizer robot like an AMR or Cobot can save fulfillment companies money while reducing the amount of physically-intensive work employees engage in. The automation enhances precision, fosters a fast-paced work environment, and enables high-volume shipping.
De-Palletizing Robots automate the process of unloading pallets and other materials in an array of shapes, sizes, and weights. Mixed de-palletizing saves warehouse workers time and requires minimal need for human intervention, allowing employees to concentrate on other tasks. Under this same umbrella are “Decasing & Decanting Robots,” which can also make warehouse operations safer (taking on jobs that can be more dangerous for people performing manual labor) and more cost-effective.
Tote Induction Robots reduce the need for monotonous manual labor and lower the risk of injury and error. Paired with automated sortation processes, Locus bots, and de-stackers, this use of robotics helps warehouses operate more cohesively and efficiently. Totes are pulled onto the appropriate line, scanned, weighed, and assigned to Locus bots to be sent where they need to go.
Carton Automation Robots (Cartoners) package, erect, fill, close, and seal cartons. Facilities can use different kinds of cartoners depending on budget, materials being used, carton size, transport capabilities, and capacity for throughput.
Sortation Robots improve accuracy, throughput, and productivity. Fulfillment centers that incorporate sortation robots have reduced labor costs and increased profitability. Additionally, these kinds of robots are very flexible; they can quickly adapt to changing needs and fluctuations in demand/output. That flexibility is a vital factor in terms of keeping up with the evolving nature of eCommerce, as well as helping brands grow and scale. Check out an example of optimal sortation robot use in ShipMonk’s Platform Tour Video, where you’ll see carrier sorting robots depositing packages into gaylord boxes.
The ROBOTTOM Line
Exemplary 3PLs don’t have to use all of these robots, of course, just as a great fruit salad doesn’t need to use every kind of fruit in existence. The point is for fulfillment centers to embrace the helpful ways technology can enhance business and productivity, and then implement the exact robotics and automation that best incorporate into their operations. At ShipMonk, for example, we have chosen to utilize picking and packing robots, carton automation robots, and sortation robots to cut costs for our clients and expand the potential of our fulfillment services.
Overall, the important takeaway is that from speeding up product retrieval to making a safer and better optimized warehouse, robotics can enhance a 3PL’s output while maintaining quality and accuracy. As a business owner, if you have any intent to grow and scale, or even just stay competitive in the market, it is pivotal that you work with a 3PL that understands and invests in technology. That technology can be the difference between a brand staying stagnant and one that grows and scales. Ultimately, it can even be the difference between a brand failing or succeeding because a 3PL’s ability to get customers their orders quickly and in good shape is a make or break determining factor for repeat customers and brand loyalty.
Since our inception ShipMonk has embraced what technology can do for business, and we stand by the awesome robotics we use to help our awesome clients thrive and keep their customers happy. If you’d like to be one of them, get in touch with our team today!