Founded in 2001 and based in Durham, N.C., Peter Millar is a luxury apparel retailer that produces a range of sportswear, dress furnishings, luxury and performance golf attire for men and women. After taking a unique approach to automating its omni-channel warehouse, the company streamlined orders, reduced conveyor load by 10%, reduced touch points, and added the flexibility to adapt to business changes.
In 2018, the company was experiencing growth beyond expectations and realized it had outgrown its warehouse automation. Conveyor congestion was often an issue on a normal day, but during January the company receives four to five times as many e-commerce orders, which would paralyze the system.
“The primary gain that we’re looking for is how do I continue to add capacity and throughput to a growing business without necessarily having to grow my footprint or invest in a really expensive technology?” asks Chris Wiest, director of supply chain and operations for Peter Millar. “We need to utilize this asset of a building and its conveyor—good, bad or ugly—as long as we possibly can. I’ve got to just be faster at turning.”
As an alternative to a new warehouse or outsourcing to a third-party logistics provider, the company considered traditional light-directed technologies and voice solutions before settling on a hybrid solution featuring augmented reality (AR) and voice (LogistiView). Wearing smart glasses, workers see a virtual put wall visualization through AR, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision. The glasses recognize surrounding bar codes and provide intuitive visual and audible instructions guiding the worker to the exact location of each item, where they can confirm with a paired wireless scanner. The system can be moved at any time.
“I could use this in picking, I could use this in receiving, I could use this on my dock, I could use it in a lot of different ways,” Wiest says. “The ability to create a dynamic workflow and use the same set of glasses in a lot of different ways, as well as the hands-free nature of it, opened up a lot of opportunities for us.”
After making the decision on October 1, the new system went live in time for the January peak. Employee training was reduced from weeks to minutes, and the new picking and sorting process has reduced strain on the conveyor, increased picking speed and accuracy, and reduced audit/pack out labor.
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