The coronavirus pandemic has put ecommerce fulfillment centers in a challenging situation. Online orders, which had already been growing at a steady clip, are now surging as people stay at home and avoid trips to brick-and-mortar retail stores.
But health experts continue to recommend social distancing, which makes operating fully staffed facilities and adding more workers risky propositions for businesses.
One solution that can respond to any demand scenario is automated material-handling equipment. Warehouses and distribution centers are taking advantage of emerging technologies, such as: autonomous vehicles, automated storage and retrieval systems, and pick-to-light and pick-to-voice solutions. Existing packing stations are also getting technological enhancements. Automated polybagging, cohesive-packaging, on-demand paper, inflatable air cushioning, and foam-in-place solutions are just a few of the systems out there that continue to evolve for the better.
Since technology never stops evolving, even the upgrades can be upgraded. Here are three improvements that are becoming more common among automated packing machines:
The goal is to increase throughput so fulfillment centers can ship more orders without adding workers or enlarging their operations, so boosting the operating speed of automated machines is a necessity. As machines get faster and more efficient, shippers likely will need fewer workers and perhaps fewer machines, allowing them to keep their operations lean.
Anticipatory production of packing materials
Automated packing machines can integrate with a facility’s warehouse management system, so packing stations will know which products are on the way. The machines can then begin producing the packaging materials, eliminating any wait time for human packers.
Automated packing machines are part of the Internet of Things (IoT), allowing for predictive maintenance that virtually eliminates downtime. Sensors detect emerging problems with critical components and alert technicians, who then will arrive at the facility with all the parts they need. There is no time wasted on diagnostics or waiting for parts to arrive by mail.
Ahead of peak events or seasons, technicians use the data obtained through sensors to swap out parts that haven’t failed yet but are likely to fail in the near future, therefore maximizing uptime.
Regardless of when life returns to normal in America, and around the globe, consumers will continue to shop online in greater numbers, so fulfillment centers that automate their operations as much as possible will be well-positioned for success.
Pregis’ portfolio of on-demand packaging equipment and materials is here to help those companies gain the speed to keep up with customer demands, integrate seamlessly into fulfillment operations and anticipate maintenance needs to keep products flying out the door.
Our team of packaging professionals and service technicians stand ready to assist customers during and after the pandemic sweeping the globe. We are all in this together.
To learn more about Pregis’ wide array of packaging solutions, visit https://www.pregis.com/solutions.