What is a Vertical Lift Module and Utilizing VLMs in Your Operations

A Vertical Lift Module (VLM) is a high-density automated storage and retrieval system categorized as Goods to Person automation. Goods to Person systems bring the product to the picker who remains in a small footprint. These systems utilize the vertical height of a facility and will automatically retrieve and putaway the storage trays based on the logic within the onboard software. VLM software allows a worker to scan individual orders and retrieve the product for that order. Or to scan a batch of orders and the system will present all the trays needed to satisfy the batch, one right after the other.

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When to Consider an Assessment of Your Warehouse Operations?

Warehousing and distribution are dynamic industries, with many facets always in motion – whether it’s the changing supply chain to meet current constraints, continual shipping cost increases, or labor challenges that threaten to impede growth.  The operations in your distribution center must also change, driven by a mindset of continual process improvement as part of your overall supply chain strategy. 

All too often, we see operations that have become stagnant or once optimized but then managed and run the same way for many years with little change.  Many times, they have not stayed proactive, and their costs, processes, and systems do not serve the company well.

Distribution and warehouse operational assessments allow companies to review the people, processes, layout, and systems to identify where, and how, changes should occur.  The goal of any operations assessment is to improve operational efficiencies; drive down costs; increase throughput while meeting or exceeding customer expectations. 

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What Is An Operational Assessment In Fulfillment?

As warehouse consultants, we work with a wide range of businesses, the discussions often surround topics such as, "How do we know if we are as efficient as we could be?  What do we need to change to support the business’ growth and order fulfillment needs?”  The short answer is typically companies need to perform a warehouse or distribution center operations assessment.  operational assessment

So, what is an operations assessment?  It is a methodical and comprehensive approach to analyzing all facets of the operations – from organizational staffing, team members and people utilization; processes, and warehouse management systems; to the layout of the facility; and how material handling equipment and automation are deployed. The objectives are to identify all the ways in which the warehouse operations and the physical assets can/should be improved to meet both the customer’s and management’s expectations and requirements.   These recommendations should then be prioritized based on resources; capital expenditures required as well as benefits to build a roadmap for implementing the recommendations. 

Read: The Ultimate Guide To Operations Assessments

When Should a Warehouse Operations Assessment be Performed?

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9 Distribution Center Benefits From Capturing Item Weight & Dimensions

Operations are under a lot of pressure to continually meet customer demands, as well as to support marketing and merchandising initiatives which often means adding many products, providing value added services to customers, and increasing order volumes. From a warehousing and distribution consultant perspective, we are often asked what the tasks are that the warehouse operations can undertake, that can have the largest impact.

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27 Point Checklist for Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Contracts

After months of working with prospective third-party logistics (3PL) vendors, you likely received hundreds of pages of selling materials and many verbal promises. A contract will memorialize:

  • the statement of work (SOW) and the 3PL services you are contracting for
  • the standards of performance
  • the pricing of various 3PL services
  • the payment terms
  • a host of legal clauses such as warranty and guarantees, and termination of the agreement

This blog acts as a checklist of contractual considerations to assist you in negotiating a 3PL contract that is fair and a win/win for the client and the 3PL provider acting as your outsource fulfillment provider. 

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Creating Your Third Party Logistics Strategy: 20 Critical Implementation Tasks

Using third party fulfillment (3PL) partners for fulfillment can provide tremendous benefits for your multichannel and e-commerce business. One way some companies use 3PL is as an additional warehouse in their distribution network. A strategically located warehouse can reduces ship time to customer as well as shipping costs.

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How To Select The Best 3PL Companies For Your Business

Many direct and e-commerce businesses make strategic and cost-effective use of third-party logistics (3PL) to provide warehousing and distribution services which include order fulfillment for clients. At the heart of this process is finding 3PL companies that provide fulfillment services that are in line with your needs and supply chain strategy. The following six criteria should be used to determine which 3PL companies are a good choice:

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How to Better Utilize Your Distribution Center Space

With the recent growth in online demand, it is putting more constraints on supply chains and distribution space.  This often means that facilities are filling up faster than expected.  This challenge also occurs when companies acquire brands or expand into a new line of business, and the associated inventory is being transferred into the existing warehouse space. 

In most facilities, available storage space is already at a premium even before the new inventory arrives. So, what are some ways facilities can be better utilized in order to avoid taking on additional space?

This question may be the number one question asked as we conduct operational assessments with clients. It is rare that we meet a warehouse manager, or visit a distribution center where they are not trying to fit more product into what seems like nonexistent space - or having to utilize off-site storage. 

Here are seven tips that can help you to maximize your distribution center capacity.

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How To Improve Fulfillment Center Peak Season Performance

Peak period order volumes often stress fulfillment processes and labor requirements which may cause decreased customer service and drive costs higher.  Process exceptions and errors are magnified by order volume. How well did your fulfillment center perform in the last peak season?  Do you have a plan for improvement to scale to the next peak season’s projected volume?  This article details how to identify the operational changes to evaluate, and possibly change, to make the next peak season more efficient.

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4 Considerations for Employing Picking Robotics and Automation in Fulfillment

For many companies, trying to recruit and retain hourly workers is one of their biggest fulfillment challenges.  Automation and technology have evolved dramatically in the past five years.  In many solutions, the cost of technology has decreased below that of the average worker when you consider the fully loaded labor costs for benefits, taxes, training and recruitment. This is discussed later in this article.

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