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Improving the Retail Supply Chain With Reusables

By Contributing Author | 08/08/2018 | 6:59 AM

By Ray Robins, national account manager, ORBIS

ORBIS blog

Are you tirelessly working to find a solution to optimize your retail supply chain? If so, you’re not alone. Retailers everywhere are searching for the best ways to serve consumers faster, safer and more cost-effectively. And as new solutions are considered, packaging shouldn’t be overlooked.

The rise of e-commerce and retail omnichannel is changing how retailers are approaching and thinking about consumer satisfaction. Fulfillment centers are now open 24/7, order demands are evolving with omnichannel, and errors and lag time are less tolerated. To help solve these challenges, supply chains are introducing automation.

In fact, many new fulfillment centers are almost completely automated to accommodate late hours, reduce errors, meet order quantity and introduce new capabilities. With added automation, supply chains need standardized packaging that delivers repeatable performance. For many retailers, this is the missing link to an efficient and effective retail supply chain.

Reusable, standardized packaging — such as totes, bulk containers and pallets — can work directly with automated systems in three key ways to better move and pick products:

1. Pick orders efficiently

Supply chain totes add unimaginable value to automated systems for their versatility and functionality. There are a wide range of reusable totes — attached lid, nest-only, stack-and-nest, and those that include dividers or feature hopper fronts — that align with different automated systems.

These reusable plastic totes are primarily used to pick online orders in fulfillment centers. Totes compatible with dividers, for example, are seeing an increase in usage. The use of dividers allows there to be multiple SKUs maintained in a single tote, increasing density within the network. 

Because each automated system is different, a one-size-fits-all approach is outdated. Totes should reflect the specific requirements of each system for a fully optimized supply chain. A supplier with custom capabilities can design, engineer and manufacturer reusable packaging that meets the precise needs of an automated system, including dimensions, materials and features.

2.Keep systems moving

As convenient as automated systems are, shutdowns are possible when met with unideal conditions. However, plastic reusable packaging features consistent dimensions and a smooth structure to fit properly with equipment, unlike warped and inconsistent packaging. It also is free from dust that can cause glitches and slowdowns once accumulated on equipment. Additionally, the sleek exterior allows automated label readers to easily decipher codes.

3. Minimize product loss

While moving along the supply chain, packaging can face harsh conditions. Clashes with other packaging and unpredicted equipment interactions are possible. Plastic reusable packaging is manufactured for more durable product protection, keeping goods safe. Also, some reusable plastic packaging suppliers offer identification options, so packaging can be tracked and accounted for at all times.

The good news is that reusable packaging’s benefits pertain to all parts of the supply chain. Picking, fulfilling, distributing and merchandising all require efficient processes. Like automation, mobile options can help move product faster and safer at retail. Innovative distribution pallets, for example, efficiently cube out in trucks, can be moved to the retail aisle without down-stacking — and with fewer touches — and help with omnichannel orders.

Retailers today are striving to be efficient and consumer-experience role models. Material handling decisions are important to achieving those goals throughout the retail supply chain, so don’t let packaging slow you down. Find the best solution for your automated system with a supplier that can help by answering questions and solving challenges along the way.



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The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About One-Off Sound-Off

Welcome to "One-Off Sound-Off," a blog page devoted to guest commentary on all things supply chain. This is a space where industry leaders can share their opinions and expertise with the logistics and supply chain community. If you have an article or commentary you'd like to share, please consider sending a guest blog proposal to feedback@dcvelocity.com.


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