January 21, 2013

Technology aids move to multichannel distribution

Facing greater demand for multichannel fulfillment, many distribution centers are turning to automation for help.

By DC Velocity Staff

Facing greater demand for multichannel fulfillment, many distribution centers are turning to automation for help.

For grocers, the multichannel challenge might be fulfilling both store orders and home delivery. For some retailers, it's the demand to offer e-commerce fulfillment while still distributing to "brick-and-mortar" stores. Meanwhile other companies are working on ways to distribute product to both large and small retail stores.

Dematic, a provider of logistics and material handling systems for distribution centers and warehouses, believes it has technology to help DCs do multichannel distribution with a single set of inventory.

At a press conference at the ProMat show and conference in Chicago yesterday, Mike Kohdl, vice president of solution development for Dematic, said that the rise of multichannel distribution often requires retailers and their suppliers to have quick access to inventory with little forewarning of demand. Additionally, orders could vary from single items for e-commerce fulfillment to multiple lines for store replenishment. These requirements often mean that distribution centers have to move away from batch or wave picking to on-demand methods, he says.

He points to Dematic's MultiShuttle as a technology that can help DCs manage these new challenges. The technology is "flexible, scalable, and modular," allowing it to adapt to changes in demand and order profiles. He says the MultiShuttle, which brings both picking and order totes to work stations, is "SKU agnostic." That is, if today's "C item" becomes tomorrow's "A item," the system can provide it quickly to order pickers.

Dematic introduced its second generation MultiShuttle at the ProMat show. The company says the new product is lighter and faster than its predecessor and can handle heavier bins.

More coverage from ProMat 2013