Three to seven years ago, B2B companies typically had one centrally located warehouse, says Maggie Barnett, chief operating officer at ShipHero, a B2B and B2C ecommerce fulfillment service. But B2B warehousing strategy is changing, she says.
“What we’ve seen with such a tight labor market in the U.S. is that we’re able to supplement [employment] gaps with robotics,” Barnett says.
ShipHero is a shipping and logistics vendor for more than 5,000 ecommerce brands and third-party logistics (3PL) providers. In 2021, it began using the inVia Logic Warehouse Execution System from inVia Robotics, which sells ecommerce fulfillment automation systems. The software system coordinates how materials, workers and equipment move throughout ShipHero’s warehouse.
In 2022, ShipHero added inVia Picker robots to help warehouse workers during the picking process. The picking process is where workers find and bring items to a central location on the warehouse floor. At the center of the warehouse is one or more robot stations. The inVia robots complete the fulfillment process, freeing up workers to complete other tasks.
Simplifying warehouse flow
InVia simplified the scanning step of ShipHero’s fulfillment process. At its Jacksonville, Florida, warehouse, containers needed to move and be scanned easily.
“Scanning these items takes a while,” says Lior Elazary, founder and CEO of inVia.
Instead, warehouse workers now place items onto an input rack that feeds the robots. The robot picks up the containers and scans them.
Robots scan inventory and send it where it needs to go, Elazary says. This removes the task from warehouse workers.
The automated scanning/picking replenishment process was implemented within a couple of hours, says Kristen Moore, chief marketing officer at inVia. InVia’s robotics-as-a-service subscription model includes software updates that inVia performs remotely.
Employees are now at the wall picking 425 units per hour, according to ShipHero. That is up from 150-200 units per hour before using inVia, Barnett says.
ShipHero warehouse employees no longer have to walk back and forth in between seven to 10 aisles. Instead, they can now grab what they need from a single 72-foot-long aisle.
Software projects demand, speeds up fulfillment
In April, ShipHero’s inventory team began using data that tracks SKU velocity. This is how frequently a SKU item is picked over a certain period of time. The software predicts what amount of inventory is needed to meet projected demand.
After success at its Florida warehouse, ShipHero expanded inVia integration. ShipHero now uses the robotic picking system in its Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Las Vegas warehouses.
“People don’t want to own warehouses,” Barnett says. “They don’t want to take out leases and make sure there are always a certain number of people working in the building on any given day.”
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