Puma understands speed and performance. After all, as one of the world’s leading sports brands, it has created fast product designs for close to 70 years.
However, its ongoing retail success, along with its growing e-commerce presence, recently left its existing fulfillment operations hard pressed to keep pace with its growth. Like other omni-channel providers tasked with managing the fulfillment demands of e-commerce growth, while also achieving a successful integration with retail, Puma recognized the urgency for goods-to-person automation.
The priorities were clear. The omni-channel retailer wished to improve its service to customers, ranging from expanding its assortment of online product offerings, to providing faster order delivery. While working with system integrator and a third-party logistics provider, the group evaluated several automation alternatives.
An easily scalable system from a robot technology company was identified as the best solution for Puma’s needs. In particular, the group was excited about the company’s storage density and energy efficiency, along with the ability to achieve same-day shipping of dotcom orders.
The robot technology company’s storage configuration uses tightly stacked bins in a dense aluminum storage grid, as the bins are retrieved by battery-powered robots. Of equal importance, the solution is very flexible and scalable—perfect for future growth, as well as seasonal spikes or promotional events such as Black Friday. Managing volume surges is as simple as engaging more robots. Longer term, the grid can be expanded to increase overall storage capacity, while the system continues to operate.
Now in service since July 2016, the robot technology company’s installation in Torrance, Calif., features 171,000 bins, 170 robots and 23 carousel ports. Products are placed in bins and inducted into the system at one of six receiving stations. Filled bins are placed in available bin locations by radio-operated robots.
Because any robot can transport to any bin location and any port, there is no single point of failure. When a product is needed to fill an order, the software system directs a robot to locate the bin that contains the item. Once the correct bin has been lifted by the robot, it takes it to the edge of the grid, in preparation for delivery to a fulfillment operator.
A central pick module runs down the center of the installation. Operators at the carousel ports use a pick-to-light system, placing orders in shipping containers generated by three automatic carton erectors. Afterwards, smaller e-commerce items are picked to totes and sent to the polybag unit. E-commerce orders are then further sorted to bins, based on outbound freight carrier assignment, while the shipping side is supported by a 6,200-foot conveyor system.
The Torrance distribution center has achieved an order fulfillment rate of around 175 units per operator hour for e-commerce and 650 for wholesale units—two to three times higher than the prior rate realized before the switch. As a result, Puma has been able to fully consolidate its Hebron, Ohio, distribution center operations into the Torrance facility.
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