Supply chains are becoming more intricate, ecommerce orders are on the rise, and speedy shipping has never been more important. In addition to optimized warehouses, skilled employees, and incorporation of the right integrations, today automation is a huge part of how 3PLs serve brands to the best of their ability. But what kind of automation? And how does it help fulfillment logistics?
If you’ve been wanting to learn more about how automation positively impacts 3PLs, and the ecommerce businesses they’re committed to, this is the blog for you. And if you’re an ecommerce business owner looking to partner with a 3PL that has a mastery of fulfillment technology and automation, ShipMonk is the logistics provider for you.
Fulfillment Automation at its Finest
ShipMonk provides competitive fulfillment solutions to ecommerce businesses of all sizes by continuously investing in next-level technology that allows us to pick, sort, pack, and send out goods at lightning speed while retaining accuracy. We like to say that from bin to bot to truck we have automation enhancing our systems. Some fulfillment technology solutions our warehouses have implemented to optimize brand success include:
- AI-powered robots
- Sure Sort high-speed automated sortation systems
- Conveyor belts with automatic dividers
- Automated QC and weight checkpoints
- And pick-to-light capabilities
Picking the Right 3PL Partner
This technology-focused mindset has been a driving part of our 3PL since its founding in 2014. We prioritize automation, quality controls and efficiency across our eleven global fulfillment centers. Our ongoing commitment to this kind of innovation has resulted in:
- 99.9% picking accuracy, which leads to fewer returns and reshipments
- Pick times that are 4x faster than the industry average, allowing later order cut-off times while retaining a quick delivery turnaround time window
- 400% increase in storage efficiency, positively impacting your total costs
As you can see, there’s a reason ShipMonk ranks No. 44 on Deloitte’s 2022 Technology Fast 500™ list for the fastest-growing technology companies in North America! We’re doing everything we can to stay on the cusp of 3PL technology so ecommerce businesses stay at the forefront of their individual markets.
Laser Precision, Literally
Knowing where your products are and picking them quickly both matter. Knowing where to put them in the first place (also referred to as “Slotting”) and getting them swiftly prepped for shipping are areas that have equal importance. At ShipMonk, we are a superior 3PL option in these areas thanks to the combination of the aforementioned technologies, well-trained 3PL team members, and Cubiscan machines (shown below) that give us the power to rapidly measure and weigh products on the fly. Each of our state-of-the-art fulfillment centers uses these dimensioning and weighing systems. Cubiscan’s infrared technology provides our fulfillment centers with dimensional information they need to optimize storage locations for every product, reduce dunnage waste (and both packaging and shipping costs), and thus reduce carbon emissions as well.
AMRs vs. Cobots
There are many kinds of robots that have been enlisted to improve the efficiency of fulfillment operations. Two common types are AMRs and Cobots.
AMRs (Automated Mobile Robots) are robots capable of moving around on their own—navigating through warehouse space, narrow aisles, and so on. They are not fixed to any one location and therefore save fulfillment center employees precious time by maneuvering to get goods across a facility while 3PL team members concentrate on more high-level tasks. AMRs use different kinds of sensors to accomplish this. Their software, AI programming, and physical elements (wheels, tracks, legs, etc.) identify surroundings to allow them to move through the environment seamlessly, not bumping into anyone or anything as they go and collect products independently. Cobots are different in that way.
Cobots (Collaborative Robots) are meant to directly interact with humans by mimicking patterns. An example of a cobot you may see in a warehouse is a box folding mechanical arm. The Cobot category of robotics is not as tested as AMRs. Additionally, since Cobots make their own choices in real-time, and the warehouse spaces they operate in may be enormous, this can lead to errors slipping through the cracks and longer time tables for errors to be caught and corrected. AMRs have a lot more proven success. Studies show that more than 70% of fulfillment warehouses that use AMRs have reached double-digit improvements, and plenty of big names like Amazon, as well as other established global fulfillment facilities, have seen success utilizing them—ShipMonk amongst them!
At ShipMonk, we use Locus AMRs across our state-of-the-art facilities to reliably maximize our warehouse productivity. Locus AMRs are a brilliant fulfillment technology solution that simultaneously minimize pick times and costs while meeting quality control standards and allowing 3PL team members to get your orders out the door faster. How? AMRs let our 3PL human team members concentrate on hands-on, detail-oriented tasks—improving efficiency while maintaining accuracy so the ecommerce businesses we serve may grow and scale.
Machine Learning & AI Fulfillment Solutions
Every year fulfillment technology solutions become more advanced, and AI may certainly play a greater and greater role as years go by. There are two main types of AI learning in terms of implementing robotics into a fulfillment center operation: machine learning and deep learning.
Machine learning is the traditional and straightforward type of robotic programming that facilities have used for years—designed to follow algorithms the way soldiers follow orders. A recent addition to the AI party is deep learning, which in the last decade has shown its potential for utilizing data to anticipate customer needs and act accordingly. Basically, as fulfillment systems run and data comes in, deep learning AI analyzes and tries to ascertain how to pick items on its own: anticipating orders, adjusting for seasonality, adapting to demand, etc.
The more data, the better deep learning will perform. This can certainly save on efficiency down the line; however the advantage of traditional machine learning over deep learning is that with machine learning if something goes wrong you can fix it faster. Overall, whatever type of AI a fulfillment center employs, it comes down to the amount of trust you’re willing to put into an application, and what fulfillment technology (once tested) will deliver the best results for your ecommerce business.
At ShipMonk, we’ve tested and invested, and the ecommerce businesses we represent enjoy the benefits. While our clients interact with an easy-to-use interface, beneath that sleek surface is a complex system of algorithms written to improve and finetune performance metrics across all fulfillment center operations. Our 3PL applications of machine learning and AI optimize picking routes, ensure products are properly packaged, and verify that orders pass quality control (QC) checkpoints throughout the entire fulfillment process. And our fulfillment technology solutions don’t stop there. As a 3PL that’s always looking for new ways to improve our operations and help ecommerce businesses grow, we’ve put a huge amount of technological power behind our client-facing 3PL platform.
Progressive 3PL Platform
With an ever-growing number of SKUs in the world, older fulfillment technology can hold ecommerce businesses back. A sophisticated 3PL platform creates opportunities for companies to better adapt to supply chain, inventory, and shipping variables, and ShipMonk has one of the best!
Ecommerce business owners are always amazed at how our advanced order, inventory, and warehouse management software provides them with incredible data, transparency, and control over their fulfillment journey. Not only that, our platform is accessible through a user-friendly interface, which provides a “one-stop shop” approach so every resource an ecommerce business owner could possibly need is in a single place. At a glance, benefits of our 3PL platform include the ability to:
- Assess orders at any status
- Hone in on at-risk orders so you can take action immediately
- Manage inventory levels across all fulfillment centers
- Monitor orders with cross-channel visibility
- Track selling trends
- Generate data-driven order, inventory, and shipping reports
- View line items
- Easily understand costs and billing
- Process returns with just a few clicks
Overall, ShipMonk’s 3PL platform dominates the industry with its all-inclusive, easy-to-use functionality. So take the guesswork out of your order, inventory, and warehouse management by allowing us to take your ecommerce business to the next level. Our fulfillment technology solutions will make your customers happier, your managers happier, and your bottom line happier too.
ShipMonk’s dedication to developing and implementing advanced fulfillment technology isn’t just about ease and efficiency for our ecommerce clients or our fulfillment centers. We want technology to work for your customers as well. That’s why we created MonkProtect—emphasis on protect.
This first-class software is a post-purchase suite designed to keep lost, stolen, or damaged packages from breaking your customers’ trust and negatively impacting your profitability. MonkProtect is fully integrated with the ShipMonk 3PL platform and seamlessly set up to serve your business and buyers efficiently. The suite allows customers to self-report issues, works 10x faster than a manual claims processing setup, offers added revenue streams, allows for branded tracking, and more. Overall, the automation portion will save your ecommerce business precious time, the branded tracking options serve as bonus marketing, and the ease and speed of getting claims resolved is designed to drive customer confidence in your store’s post-purchase experience.
Technology isn’t just an optional 3PL enhancement like sprinkles on ice cream. In today’s changing, growing, evolving ecommerce business landscape, it’s vital. As paramount as the cream in ice cream. At ShipMonk we, of course, don’t expect our clients to understand the ins and outs of every automation, algorithm, or robotic application we use to make their order fulfillment run smoothly. The point is that we are a team of forward-thinking 3PL experts who understand those ins and outs and incorporate them so brands can blossom in the next year, the next decade, and beyond.
At the end of the day, it’s a complex ecommerce world out there, but ShipMonk has been primed from the beginning to take on its challenges by embracing the new and evolving to succeed. We are tech driven. We are results driven. And we are driven to give ecommerce businesses their best shot at building an empire.
If you have questions about our 3PL processes, fulfillment technology solutions, or just think all this sounds super cool and want to work with us, give our team a call at (855) 222-4601 or fill out our quote request form to get started!