person-to-goods Locus Robotics picking solution coupled with Körber’s warehouse management system. Designed to reduce picker travel and increase picking productivity and accuracy, the system went live in just 53 days. “It was a successful implementation that exceeded our expectations because nobody thought everything would work on the first day, but it did,” Earle says. With a 200% pick rate increase—from 30 to 35 per hour to 100-plus per hour—the return on investment was just over one year. And with a robots-as-a-service model, evo scales up for peak periods, then reduces the number of robots deployed when volume drops. More automation is in the works, too. The brand’s 165,000-square-foot warehouse is adding another 65,000 square feet by expanding into recently vacated space in the current facility. “We’re working with a consulting firm to develop a Geek+ goods- to-person solution for the expanded space,” says Earle. Combined with a new conveyor system, it will increase overall capacity by 250% with fewer people while boosting the picking rate another 200%. Adding automated processes is about more than efficiency and meeting customer expectations, though. “This lets us treat our permanent employees properly and not overburden them during this current environment when it’s difficult to staff up,” Earle adds.
Spencer Earle had already been talking to robotics vendors about adding automation to the evo e-commerce warehouse before COVID-19 up-ended the marketplace. Earle, vice president of supply chain at the Seattle-based outdoor lifestyle retailer with products ranging from snowboards to bicycle seats to camping tents, saw the pressure that seasonal surges placed on employees and knew it would only get worse. The last quarter of the year is particularly intense. A robust winter sports business combined with strong holiday sales means that about half of the company’s retail sales happen from October through December. Black Friday is especially brutal, generating 10% of annual sales in just five days. “Without automation, the only way for us to scale has been to add more people, and that has obviously been a challenge lately,” Earle says. “Whether we add people or not, peak season puts a tremendous amount of stress on our permanent employees.” What’s more, the shift to e-commerce caused by COVID-19 lockdowns had an especially big impact on evo, as more people embraced outdoor recreation. “With COVID e-commerce growth and social distancing added, it was hard to figure out how we were going to handle everything,” he adds. It was time to take action. With apparel and other smaller items accounting for about half the picks daily, the company added a
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