Executive Briefings

Integrating Automation in the DC

At a time when most retailers have little appetite for large capital outlays, developers of automation systems need to precisely target specific needs inside a customer's distribution center, says Terry Krantz, director of retail sales at Swisslog.

At Swisslog, which designs and builds automated picking and sortation solutions, Krantz has seen quite a bit of capacity added to warehouses and distribution centers in the last 10 years. What they've needed to increase more recently is efficiency.

To achieve that, many clients have bought into some form of cross-docking operations that involve sorters or conveyors. That's been highly beneficial for those with fast-moving items. For those with slow-moving or break-pack operations, other options may be advised, Krantz says.

The task for the provider, he says, is to know how to tailor a solution to the customer's needs. "We try to target a specific, integrated system that would mesh with what they have. What's key is a small, targeted system, because there's just not a lot of appetite for large capital outlays right now no matter what the return might be. So we try to keep it reasonable in size and still deliver the benefits."

Krantz says he can point to situations in which customers' employees touched product six or seven times. "We have been able to reduce that down to one or two times and have a direct impact on labor savings, which was the primary driver. Interestingly, they often realized extra capacity. By putting in a system, we increased capacity by 15 to 20 percent."

That may not sound like a big deal in today's environment of flat sales, says Krantz, "but it's not going to be that way forever." Boosting capacity now will leave those customers well positioned for when sales bounce back.

To view this interview in its entirety, click here.

At a time when most retailers have little appetite for large capital outlays, developers of automation systems need to precisely target specific needs inside a customer's distribution center, says Terry Krantz, director of retail sales at Swisslog.

At Swisslog, which designs and builds automated picking and sortation solutions, Krantz has seen quite a bit of capacity added to warehouses and distribution centers in the last 10 years. What they've needed to increase more recently is efficiency.

To achieve that, many clients have bought into some form of cross-docking operations that involve sorters or conveyors. That's been highly beneficial for those with fast-moving items. For those with slow-moving or break-pack operations, other options may be advised, Krantz says.

The task for the provider, he says, is to know how to tailor a solution to the customer's needs. "We try to target a specific, integrated system that would mesh with what they have. What's key is a small, targeted system, because there's just not a lot of appetite for large capital outlays right now no matter what the return might be. So we try to keep it reasonable in size and still deliver the benefits."

Krantz says he can point to situations in which customers' employees touched product six or seven times. "We have been able to reduce that down to one or two times and have a direct impact on labor savings, which was the primary driver. Interestingly, they often realized extra capacity. By putting in a system, we increased capacity by 15 to 20 percent."

That may not sound like a big deal in today's environment of flat sales, says Krantz, "but it's not going to be that way forever." Boosting capacity now will leave those customers well positioned for when sales bounce back.

To view this interview in its entirety, click here.