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Automated Solutions for 3PL Providers

Third-party logistics providers offer comprehensive warehousing and distribution services for their customers. Their logistics expertise means they can often provide services at a lower cost, while providing their customers with increased efficiencies and productivity.

With the market’s shift to ecommerce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for 3PL services has never been greater. More flexible, increasingly agile and resilient warehousing solutions are needed for the modern economy. And yet startups often lack the capital to invest in their own logistics resources, and even major companies have had to look for innovative solutions to their warehousing and distribution needs.

At PeakLogix, we’re a brand agnostic material handling systems integrator that specializes in innovative automated solutions. As your material handling solutions partner, we help you increase the consistency and efficiency throughout your distribution processes. We deliver customized solutions tailored to your specific needs that address issues ranging from ergonomics and employee safety to fully automated material handling and warehousing solutions.

Current challenges for 3PL providers

Warehouse capacity

Capacity is a perennial distribution issue. Warehousing facilities are built to maximize the return on their investment — which means they are built to handle a company’s current needs. As its warehousing needs grow, a company fights for room in the space it has available.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated capacity issues in a number of ways. First, the market turned to ecommerce, which needs more storage than traditional retailers. Second, the real estate and construction markets skyrocketed across the country, increasing the costs of new construction. And third, companies increased their on-hand inventory for many items by as much as 10% in order to have buffer inventories and survive pandemic-related demand shocks.

Companies are looking to increasingly dense storage solutions — such as deep lane storage, automated storage and retrieval systems, vertical lift modules, and horizontal carousels — to help maximize their capacity within their buildings’ existing footprints.

Shifts in ecommerce demand

Not only has commerce shifted to online and omnichannel markets, but the expectations of consumers have largely been driven by a few major players. For example, industry studies show that 75% of consumers expect free shipping for their online orders. For major companies like Amazon and Walmart, the costs of shipping can be spread between their different services, like Amazon Prime and Walmart+. Smaller companies, however, often have to increase the cost of their products to recoup losses associated with free shipping.

Having the ability to offer fast or free shipping is another option. Consumers like the ability to choose how and when they’ll receive their purchases, and are willing to pay for faster delivery. Being able to have a present delivered on time, or to receive produce while it’s still fresh, is often worth some added expense for many customers. Studies show that the most critical component is to deliver products on time, and to give customers visibility into the packaging and shipping processes by sending emails and updates as their purchase moves through the pipeline.

Having processes that enable this kind of flexibility is paramount to meeting the changing needs of ecommerce.

Skilled labor shortage

Low unemployment, high rates of retirement, and increased consumer demand are among the reasons that labor of all kinds are both harder to find and more expensive. While industries that need skilled labor are being especially hard hit by the labor shortage, 3PL companies are facing high growth in their industry. This gives their workforce many job options, making it harder for companies to attract and retain top talent.

There are many ways to combat the labor shortage, including the use of automation. Automation takes over the repetitive, low-value jobs that studies show younger workers don’t value and will quickly leave. It allows workers to be moved to more value-adding jobs where they feel they are an asset to a company, and can see a path forward for their career.

Employee safety

Automation can increase employee safety in a number of key ways, from implementing more ergonomic systems to completely removing people from a process. Something as simple as a light curtain or weight plate, connected to a Warehouse Management System, can let the system know if an employee has entered a restricted space. This simple, relatively low-cost solution can keep people safe around automation and manufacturing processes.

Warehouse accidents account for 95 million lost workdays each year, resulting in negative outcomes for employees, as well as a loss productivity, increased worker compensation claims, lowered morale, and potential OSHA fines for the company.

Automated systems provide real-time monitoring that can stop processes near instantaneously in the event of an accident. But even before catastrophes happen, this kind of monitoring is instrumental in keeping equipment well maintained, and to ensure that processes are working optimally, so that accidents can be avoided. Simple, effective solutions — such as rack netting, end guards, and pallet support bars — can be quickly implemented at little cost.

Important considerations when evaluating a systems integration partner for 3PL providers

Are they consultative?

When partnering with a systems integrator, one of the risks 3PL companies face is trying to work with a partner that promises more than they can deliver. The integration partner smiles through consultations and then, behind the scenes, desperately tries to invent the technology they need to deliver on their promises. They miss deadline after deadline until their client reaches a point of no return — they’re willing to justify their costs by seeing any kind of benefit from their investment. Even if those benefits are well below what was originally planned and agreed to.

PeakLogix is not that kind of partner. We are fully consultative, and prioritize your goals and needs. We undertake a thorough discovery process so that we understand both the roadblocks you face now and the goals you have for the future. Our solutions are designed to help you move past your roadblocks, and scale with your business growth. We don’t offer solutions in a top-down fashion that refuses input and denies questions, but collaborate with you and provide the recommendations we believe will best suit your needs.

Are they vendor agnostic?

Vendor agnostic solutions providers like PeakLogix don’t push their favorite suppliers onto their customers. Instead, we work with our suppliers to find and test the applications for which their product is the best fit. We don’t pitch untested products as viable solutions, but rather look for the best solution that already has a track record of solid performance.

Being open to integrating the best solutions on the market — regardless of their manufacturer — means we can truly optimize solutions for our clients, and quickly adjust to changing demands.

Do they develop tailored solutions for your unique challenges?

Being a consultative, vendor agnostic firm means that we look at every project with fresh eyes. Yes, we have decades of experience that inform our decisions and help us quickly find solutions to problems — but we don’t try to force the same solution on every client.

Instead, we work with our clients to discover both their pain points and goals. And our approach often leads to two positive outcomes. First, the discovery of unknown root causes to problems that allow us to address systemic issues with solutions of a customized design. And second, the application of scalable solutions that will both meet today’s challenges and scale in ways the company needs to meet its future goals.

Can they scale to your needs?

The changing urban landscape, an aging workforce, the large-scale adoption of ecommerce, and the increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning have created challenges and brought opportunities that are continuing to change industries in every sector. Businesses need solutions that are more responsive than ever, with the ability to scale both up and down to meet a company’s growth as well as periodic changes in demand.

PeakLogix has been solving the material-handling needs of companies of every size, and in many industries, for over 30 years. We are dedicated to our own continuous improvement because we know that designing systems that will adapt to your changing business needs means being knowledgeable about changes in the industry. By offering adaptive solutions where appropriate, we bring added value to our partners.

Are they available when you need them?

PeakLogix started in 1989 as a material handling and systems integrator serving clients across the Mid-Atlantic. Over the past 30 years, we’ve completed thousands of successful projects and have grown to become a thought leader in the industry and a national provider of innovative solutions, software systems, and automated technologies.

From the beginning of our working relationships with clients, our team works to discover your goals and challenges. We collaborate with you to develop solutions that meet your needs today and also lay the groundwork for your future growth. When your project is complete, we offer services including 24/7 system support, operator training, and maintenance and repairs.

At PeakLogix, our partnerships are our priority.

What logistics, automation, and distribution solutions should you consider for your 3PL operations?

WMS Software (ScottTech PickPro®)

ScottTech PickPro® is our proprietary Warehouse Management Software (WMS). It’s a fully independent, system-agnostic, web-based software solution that can control all aspects of distribution, and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of 3PL companies.

ScottTech PickPro® can serve as a standalone solution, or integrate with your ERP. It can incorporate AS/RS equipment and all the peripherals, track and manage inventory of both parts and goods, and layer seamlessly with your software architecture to provide granular feedback on, and control of, your operations.

Pick Modules

Pick modules use pallet or carton flow racks to push eaches, cartons, totes, or containers through a facility. PeakLogix integrates a variety of pick modules that can be tailored to your facility’s needs.

Pick modules can allow operators to pick small parts quickly and reliably, increasing speed and accuracy in assembly, manufacturing, or distribution processes.

Horizontal Carousels

Horizontal Carousels are a cost-effective way to quickly add storage capacity and increase put away and retrieval accuracy and efficiency. They are ideal for high throughput facilities and high speed picking, and can increase storage density by up to 75%.

Horizontal Carousels are generally arranged into pods or zones. Multiple carousels in a pod can create variable access points to create an efficient, worker-friendly layout that can triple average pick rates.

Pick to Light

Pick-to-light is a cost-effective solution that streamlines warehouse picking operations and increases picking speed, accuracy, and productivity. Especially in omnichannel fulfillment centers, pick-to-light solutions enable the reliable processing of high numbers of SKUs, while increasing efficiency.

Pick-to-light solutions are often a good entry point for a warehouse’s automation transformation. They can work as standalone systems or integrate with Warehouse Management Software, enabling them to easily scale with a company’s growth.

Print and Apply

Print and apply labeling reduces the number of touches, labor, and costs associated with shipping processes, improving shipping accuracy and warehouse throughput. Print and apply allows a facility to process hundreds or even thousands of packages an hour, all with accurate weight, measurements, and freight costs.

Shipping manifestos and labels can be automatically printed and applied to a variety of packaging materials, shapes, and sizes. They can be combined with accumulation conveyors and other automation to further increase shipping efficiencies.

Robotic Palletizers

Robotic palletizing increases the accuracy, consistency, and efficiency of palletizing operations. This not only increases throughput, but also lowers shipping fees and optimizes the use of space in a warehouse by palletizing items more compactly.

Automation can eliminate, or at least reduce, the manual labor associated with palletizing, freeing that labor to move on to more value-adding and rewarding tasks. With the right end-of-arm tool, they can handle everything from the heaviest boxes and pails to the thinnest slip sheets and dunnage.

AS/RS

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RSs) optimize productivity and operational throughput through the combination of data-driven optimization, warehouse management software, and labor reallocation. Especially when dealing with small pieces, the manual storage and retrieval of eaches can drain a facility’s profitability. By automating this non-value-adding task, companies can increase both profitability and employee morale, while reducing opportunities for theft.

Any business that deals with the movement and storage of physical goods needs fast, accurate, and efficient storage and retrieval systems. AS/RSs integrate with a facility’s WMS to allow for increased throughput in decanting, reracking, and conveyance of goods; expanded floorspace through the maximization of vertical storage; reduced or avoided capital expenses related to expansions and reallocations; and lowered labor costs.

AGV

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) enhance productivity and workflow in both manufacturing and distribution facilities. AGVs help streamline processes, decrease delays, and move heavy, bulky materials efficiently and safely.

Guided vehicles use a number of navigational methods, tailored to your facility’s needs. They can be customized and programmed to follow the paths in a facility that are safest for staff and most efficient. They can be an integral part of a facility’s material handling and also programmed for complementary tasks such as trash collection or other housekeeping tasks.

Vertical Lift Modules

Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) are ideal for expanding a facility’s footprint by maximizing vertical storage while also improving throughput rates and reducing labor costs. Vertical lift modules can be ideal for small parts and pieces, as they use inserters and extractors to automatically move trays of goods in and out of compact storage. They can also work with cases, totes, and large items.

VLMs provide user-level access for restricted goods, have basic user controls, and integrate with existing software management systems. Because of their small footprint, they optimize vertical space while freeing up valuable floor space.

ModuCart

ModuCart is a patent-pending material handling solution that is ideal for many manufacturing needs. It’s a closed-loop logistics system that reduces the risk of debris and contamination, while streamlining fulfillment processes. Each ModuCart holds up to 20 totes that are pre-organized for their destination within a facility, limiting touches and increasing order accuracy.

Less handling also increases efficiency, while decreasing costs associated with labor. The interlocking totes can be mixed and matched, are environmentally designed to reduce waste associated with transport, and are designed to roll quietly to minimize disruption in facilities.

Sortation Conveyor Systems

Automated sortation is the process of first identifying and then diverting items on a conveyance system. The conveyor is connected with the facility’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) and, depending on the system, can identify items by weight, color, shape or identifying tags.

Conveyors might use a number of sortation systems to get product to the right destination, including pushers, paddles, shoes, cross belts, and more. In the right applications, automated sortation systems are both faster and more accurate than manual sortation and picking.

Pallet Runner

Especially in large warehouse environments, deep lane, high density pallet storage is key to an efficient process that maximizes pallet density. PALLET RUNNER® can be configured to operate either with both first-in, last-out (FIFO) and last-in, first-out (LIFO) inventory models, making it ideal for nearly all large scale inventory models.

With the semi-automated PALLET RUNNER storage system, you can store more while optimizing the flow of your operations. With deep lane storage, each item has a discrete channel in the racking system, which makes both put away and retrieval more efficient and keeps items properly rotated.

Advance your 3PL operations.

Schedule a consultation.

Tell us about your needs and we’ll have someone contact you to talk about the various automated material handling solutions for your 3PL operations.

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