It might have been the quietest launch party ever. Orange pod-shaped robots carrying bright blue racks zoomed silently around in the background as third-party logistics service provider Quiet Logistics announced that it was open for business. The robots are part of a unique order picking system from Kiva Systems (the robots bring storage racks to the pickers, rather than the other way around), which is the centerpiece of the new 3PL's operation.
At the event, Quiet Logistics also introduced its first customer, Music Parts Plus, an online seller of parts and accessories for musical instruments. Until now, Kiva's system has been adopted by large companies, including Staples, Walgreens, and Zappos.com (see "a DC gets its own fast fulfillment," September 2008, www.dcvelocity.com). Quiet Logistics hopes to prove that the zippy little pods will improve order picking accuracy and cycle times for small and medium-sized businesses, too.
Dominick Moreo, CEO of two-year-old Music Parts Plus, said the system solved his biggest headache almost immediately. As musicians discovered the e-tailer's low prices and prompt turnaround, order volumes had overwhelmed its manual fulfillment system, leading to shipping delays as well as slotting and picking errors for the thousands of small, look-alike parts. Now, bar-code scanning and a laserdirected pick-to-light system ensure slotting and order accuracy. And because the robots bring racks to pickers, picking and packing can be done simultaneously. Further speeding things along is a Web "storefront" system that automatically feeds order information directly to Quiet Logistics, so that orders usually are shipped the same day. "Our feedback scores on eBay are 100 percent positive," said Moreo. "And almost all of them specifically cite our superfast, accurate shipping."
The operation is still in its infancy, and Music Parts Plus's inventory currently occupies just a corner of the DC. But Quiet Logistics CEO Bruce Welty says Kiva's system is easily scalable, and that he'll announce another customer soon.