MHI Solutions


Automated Material Handling Needs ‘Full Stream’ Fulfillment

More and more end-customers are demanding that automated material handling solutions be integrated to address the “full stream” of order fulfillment and bridge the gaps created by the islands of automation.

In the past, MHI member companies would often work with customers seeking a single solution, such as pick-to-light or voice-directed picking, to address a specific fulfillment area or process, says Joe Pelej, marketing manager at MHI member Pyramid Controls.

“Now companies are more often engaging with customers seeking flexible technologies or a variety of integrated solutions to address the entire fulfillment execution process, end-to-end,” Pelej says. “So instead of just selecting a picking system, they require automation for sortation, bagging and boxing, print and apply labeling, automatic document insertion of packing lists or marketing materials and more, to successfully manage omnichannel operations.”

The goal of integration is being able to “intelligently balance” all of the numerous operations, adds Mukesh Ram, Pryamid’s founder and general manager.

“Downstream is dictating the pace of what’s happening upstream, and you have to get the best rate out of one process because it affects another process that it’s coupled with,” Ram says. “There may be some forgiveness in between with some buffering in accumulation, but it’s all about balancing flow by making sure operations have the best production rates.”

Christian Dow, vice president at MHI member Panther Industries, Inc., says that many of Panther’s print-and-apply labeling systems are implemented through partners that integrate the systems into a much larger order fulfillment system.

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert

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According to the recently released 2018 MHI Annual Industry Report, “Overcoming Barriers to NextGen Supply Chain Adoption,” eight out of ten survey respondents believe these supply chains will be the predominant model within just five years. However, the report found that the adoption of some of these technologies was slower than originally reported when MHI started the annual report in 2014. The report cites three top barriers to adoption of these technologies: 1. Making the business case for NextGen supply chain investments. 2. Tackling the supply chain skills gap and workforce shortage. 3. Building trust and security in digital, always-on supply chains. This issue of MHI Solutions focuses on the adoption of these digital solutions, from best practices in robotics and artificial intelligence to blockchain and innovations in last mile delivery.

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