Not so long ago, my son and I were on a mission to exchange a Lego set he’d recently been given. We took it back to what was a small-scale toy store to obtain a refund. In conversation with the shop owner, I was surprised to hear that even a niche store such as this one had an e-commerce side.
It was into this process that the Lego set would return. The point I make here is that returns are not just for the big players such as Amazon and Zalando, they also affect sole traders. In a sense, the store could call itself an omni-channel retailer.
This got me thinking about how we help our customers handle returns with AIRPICK, and how this particular pocket sortation system could ease their burden. This brings me to the first benefit:
1. Returns handling
So, maybe the toy shop is not going to make a large-scale investment in automation. However, returns are still a big headache for many warehousing companies, which stand to make significant cost savings by more easily facilitating returns.
As part of our next generation of scalable solutions, AIRPICK combines efficient picking with flawless automated sortation to individual orders. Its high-density pocket storage loops make returned products directly available for resale and the process is simple.
With AIRPICK, a determination is first made about whether a returned item can be resold, it is repacked, loaded into a pocket and sent to storage. The returned item is now housed in a ‘buffer’ on its journey to another customer.
A pocket sorter is optimal here, because returns don’t need to be put back in the manual area. This eliminates long walking distances for operators and prepares products for immediate resale.
2. Modularity and flexibility
Alongside returns handling, AIRPICK’s modularity is ideal for companies preparing for growth. Clearly in the case of e-commerce, rapid market growth means that automated systems must keep pace. AIRPICK’s design makes it easy to extend, allowing the order fulfilment system to grow flexibly alongside individual business requirements.
By ‘flexibly’, I refer here to the types of items that can be handled, which is highly advantageous if future handling needs are uncertain. There is also flexibility in terms of how the system is applied, as it can deal with different storage areas. The unique direct-drive concept contains a single base on to which all types of carrier modules are fitted to facilitate various functions.
Building a complete system requires a low number of parts, making design, installation and expansion rapid and straightforward. Should the system need to be expanded, there are practically no restrictions on the length of the overhead conveyors.
3. Space optimisation
Another key benefit of AIRPICK is space optimisation. To maximise the use of any existing warehouse space, carrier modules and switches can be easily deployed to create 3D layouts.
Indeed, a pocket sorter can fit into areas that might normally be deemed ‘useless’. Typically, these zones might be ‘off limits’ for a traditional storage system but can be readily turned into a high-quality logistics space by the pocket sorter.
This flexibility results in a fully customisable solution tailored to individual requirements. In addition, a pocket sorter can be installed as a standalone, but also integrated as part of a larger and more complex network.
4. High capacity, easy maintenance and high availability
When I think about accuracy, what often comes to my mind are operators walking through endless racks, and unwittingly introducing errors. Owing to its configuration and use of patented sorting technology, the pocket sorter optimises pick/pack results.
It can also sort a wide range of products (like flat items, shoeboxes, apparel, hanging garments) and contribute to an easier process overall. While the sorting performance of different systems varies, our solution has the most successful on the market – 8,000 items per module without any loss of performance.
When I’m asked about the availability of our pocket sorter, I frequently use the analogy of a bicycle. Imagine a comparable system that runs on a chain… if this breaks the whole system stops! Not so with AIRPICK.
Instead, the solution is friction driven and the separate elements ensure high availability. By having a small number of building blocks, parts are easily – and rapidly – interchangeable.
In addition, we paid great attention to the sorter’s life cycle. Thanks to high efficiency and small drives, the pocket sorter has a low power consumption, which is also supported by automatically switching off modules that are not required.
5. Happy customers
If I had to single out the standout benefit of our pocket sorter, it would have to be happier customers… just like me and my son. And this is guaranteed thanks to AIRPICK’s flexibility (in terms of item handling and growth), fast loading speeds, minimal maintenance requirements and high availability.
But most significantly, the pocket sorter’s high capacity equates to short lead times. Who knows, maybe one day, the toy store might think about implementing a pocket sorter to support its future growth and make customers like me even happier.