PULSE Integration has proudly partnered with Habitat Clothes to deliver an AutoStore technology solution for their Distribution Center.
Developed in 1999, Habitat Clothes has grown from a thoughtfully designed t-shirt line of eight styles to now selling a full designer line of women apparel to 1200 specialty stores across the country and online. PULSE Integration, a full system integrator, combining design expertise, seamless integration, and intentional transparency, provides clients with scalable engineered solutions. PULSE Integration’s innovative team developed a customized data-driven analysis that led to a creative solution utilizing AutoStore high-density cube storage. PULSE Integration not only created a customized engineered solution from their analysis and expertise, but they also provided Habitat clothes with LifeTime Services to maximize uptime and performance of the system.
The AutoStore system that PULSE designed for Habitat will be built out in phases as the company grows. The new automated fulfillment system provides the following advantages:
The AutoStore system provides extreme storage efficiency which reduces the space required to operate the business by two thirds. This allowed Habitat to lease a smaller facility.
The unmatched labor efficiency offered by the AutoStore system reduces the company’s dependence on seasonal labor.
The PULSE.exe software system streamlines the end to end fulfillment process and improves order accuracy, traceability, and overall service level.
The AutoStore system empowered by PULSE Integration will automate Habitat’s previously manual receiving, put away, picking, packing, and shipping operations. The new facility located in Sharon, MA, will encompass a 7,000 bin, 4 port, AutoStore system and is slated to be up and running by the end of September 2020.
Discover fully automated, high-density automated storage and retrieval with the flexibility and scalability you need in today’s demanding high-throughput operations. PULSE Integration features automated storage and retrieval powered by RAFT. This system swiftly navigates the changing landscape of order fulfillment through the integration of cutting-edge automation.
Unlike traditional one-directional pallet shuttle systems, RAFT AS/RS uses a 3-dimensional “lift and run” system. Pallets are lifted to the designated storage level, transferred both cross-lane and down-lane – to the next available pallet position.
Based on proven pallet mole technology
Multiple RAFT Robot units can be assigned to same level and same destination
No “congestion” of cross-travel lanes by Carts on the same level
Much higher throughput is achievable, due to multiple RAFT Robot units being able to operate on same level
AS/RS Storage Solution comprises of only 2 Resource types (RAFT Robot & VTU) and not 3 for traditional “Cart & Satellite” systems
Circular Routing results in simplified operation & higher throughput
Optimized storage space utilization Improved material flow & order throughput
Complete visibility of completed vs. in-process orders
Reduction in labor & overhead costs
Flexible & Scalable – option to fully integrate with AGVs
Minimized warehouse carbon footprint
Customized & adaptable fulfillment solution
Maximized storage density & pallet accessibility
“What AutoStore is to best in class each pick fulfillment automation, SRSI’s RAFT system is to full pallet storage and retrieval automation. The two technologies complement each other extremely well to create a seamless, highly modular and flexible Distribution Center of the future. And it’s here today!” – Christopher Paulsen, CEO, PULSE Integration
Interest in micro-fulfillment center technology (MFC) continues to grow within the grocery industry. Unfortunately, confusion among grocery retailers regarding which MFC is the best is also growing. The cold hard truth about most companies offering micro-fulfillment center solutions, is that they’re startups with unproven hardware and software. For example, several well-known MFC startups have only been in business since 2017. As startups, they continue to raise capital with a focus on marketing and in order to generate business, they’re very aggressive on price.
The grocery industry is notoriously risk averse. Case in point: Amazon has the least amount of grocery experience of any grocery retailer operating today. However, Amazon has been the leader in reimaging the grocery experience through technology and innovative store designs; including stores that contain built-in MFCs. Why? Because Amazon isn’t afraid to think big and be innovative. The same cannot be said of most grocery retailers.
For example, several grocery retailers have selected a startup to install their MFC, even though there are much better MFC options on the market. Instead of conducting thorough due diligence, being risk averse has resulted in grocery retailers foolishly falling into the trap of choosing an MFC because a startup offers a massive discount off the price of their solution. In some cases, startups offer their MFC for free in exchange for a grocery retailer signing a contract and allowing the MFC to market that they have made another “sale.”
Selecting an MFC from a startup based on the number of sales or installations claimed, or on price, is arguably the worst decision criteria a retailer can use.
As leaders in system integration, we engage in discussions with grocery retailers weekly. We have seen a disturbing increase in the number of grocery retailers who selected a startup to provide them with an MFC, only to discover that the software is incredibly limited and flawed, and the technology and hardware doesn’t work as promised. This results in the grocery retailer losing precious time and money and requires the retailer to start the MFC search over. We believe the time has come for grocery retailers to stop making bad decisions, and stop being guinea pigs for startups with dubious claims and even worse technology.
AutoStore – The Risk-Free Micro-Fulfillment Center Solution
Unlike startups who lack anything close to a best-in-class MFC, AutoStore is a 22-year-old global company with 450 installations of their industry-leading solutions. We want to reinforce this point: Several MFC startups are claiming that they have installed their solutions in as many as 50 locations. This is blatantly false. Startups are woefully inflating their numbers with the hope of convincing retailers to select their MFC solution. We strongly recommend that grocery retailers DO NOT enter into an agreement with any startup MFC provider. We can prove that no startup operating today offers an MFC that can come close to the functionality of AutoStore.
AutoStore has been making robots for so long that they’re on their sixth generation of robots and other technology. Everything sold and installed by AutoStore is proven to work as designed, flawlessly.
The AutoStore MFC is comprised of the following five modules:
Controller (The sophisticated and industry-leading brain behind the MFC)
Regardless of the retail or manufacturing vertical (apparel, sporting goods, electronics, health and beauty, pharmaceutical, medical devices, automotive, industrial, etc.) AutoStore uses the exact same modules that have been implemented 450 times globally!! Compare and contrast this fact with startups that have bolted together solutions from different suppliers, and/or created their own highly untested and limited software/hardware.
Everything that AutoStore manufacturers and sells is proven and in use at companies globally. There is no risk when selecting an MFC from AutoStore.
When AutoStore was asked by one of the largest grocery retailers in the world to design a micro-fulfillment solution for their needs, AutoStore replied “We don’t need to design a new solution. Our robots, grid, software, workstation and bins can easily meet the needs of any grocery retailer regardless of their size or SKU count.” AutoStore proved what they stated was true by installing their MFC and far exceeding the expectations of the grocery retailer. AutoStore has a growing relationship with the grocery retailer and multiple installations are nearly complete, and more installations are scheduled in 2020. As the grocery industry learns about AutoStore, they’re quickly forgetting about the unproven startups. Of all the MFC providers, AutoStore is the fastest growing.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to selecting an MFC, there are only two decisions grocery executives can make: a bad decision or a good decision. Grocery executives who decide to utilize an MFC from a startup using unproven technology with limited software functionality, are making a bad decision regardless if the MFC provider offered their solution for free. Thankfully, an increasing number of grocery executives have come to realize they made a mistake in considering or selecting a startup hence the growing success of AutoStore. The only logical choice when selecting an MFC is to select the MFC that leads the industry in technology, software and across every conceivable measure of success.
A challenge facing the grocery industry is answering this question: When does normal return? Because no one knows the answer, many grocery retailers have made the decision to take a “wait and see approach.” Bad idea. In an economic crisis, inaction has proven to be one of the riskiest responses. Instead, retailers should focus on stabilizing their business, protecting it from downside risk, and ensuring that it has the liquidity necessary to weather the crisis. In addition, retailers should identify ways to position their companies to come out of the crisis stronger.
We Refer To This As Targeted Aggression
In the case of grocery retailers, we strongly recommend a strategy of investing in the future with a focus on the following:
Software and technology
Supply chain and logistics
Business model transformation
Based on our experience, the foundation for future growth and competitive advantage is micro-fulfillment. The recent Coronavirus crisis has significantly increased customer demand for online grocery ordering and fulfillment. Unfortunately, grocery retailers fulfill online orders by having “pickers” roam their aisles picking products off shelves and placing them into a shopping basket or on a pull-cart.
A new dynamic has been created within stores – customers and pickers are fighting over space in the aisles. Prior to the Coronavirus, online grocery sales averaged 3% of a grocery retailers’ business. Some grocery retailers have experienced a 30% jump in volumes due to the Coronavirus. By 2025, online sales could average 30% or more. Using pickers is not a sustainable solution.
What’s Required Is A New Model – What’s Required Is An AutoStore Micro-fulfillment Center (MFC).
A question we are often asked is, “Why should I choose an AutoStore when smaller MFC startups offer solutions at a fraction of the price?” It’s true. Smaller MFC startups have gained a reputation for offering their solutions at a significant discount. In some cases, the solutions are offered for free just so the MFC startup can entice a grocery retailer (any grocery retailer will do) to become a customer. It’s also true that smaller MFC startups have far less capable and dependable solutions than AutoStore.
We don’t make recommendations based on price. We make recommendations that will ultimately help grocery retailers take their business to the next level.
Retail executives, especially in the grocery industry, have come to the realization that the world in which they used to operate no longer exists. Empty shelves, a continuous Bullwhip Effect, and consumers buying not only out of need but out of fear have become the new normal. When will the good old days of just a few weeks ago return? Maybe never.
Here at PULSE, we understand systems and business. We can’t turn back time, but can we help grocery retailers turn the page to accelerating the adoption of technology and a business model that will reduce costs and complexity while increasing performance and creating a competitive advantage.
We call the methodology Lightning Strike
An Accelerated Process
The process begins with an abbreviated yet highly detailed assessment of a retailer’s current state operations, technology, and supply chain. Referred to as an Accelerated Solutions Engagement, we leverage the information gathered during the assessment to conduct a two-day workshop where we outline multiple scenarios of how the leading micro-fulfillment center, AutoStore, can be installed inside stores, attached to stores or installed in an offsite location. We then work to give the retailer unimagined capabilities to rapidly fulfill online grocery orders, assemble Click and Collect orders, operate AutoStore-powered dark stores, or even create a new rapid build and replenish retail format centered around an AutoStore.
Now Is The Time!
As with any disruption in global supply chains or the economy, ripple effects occur. In our experience, it is during the period of ripple effects when most new opportunities are identified.
What we have identified during this time of crisis is that the adoption of online grocery retail will grow much faster than ever seemed possible just a few short weeks ago.
The crisis has also uncovered a painful truth – grocery retailers are unable to meet increased demand for online services using their current state business models. Lightning Strike is your opportunity to transform from a static retailer heavily dependent on physical stores to meet demand to a retailer capable of fulfilling thousands of online grocery orders and thousands of walk-up and drive-thru orders through automation 24/7 365 days per year.
Retailers have often used their stores to fulfill online orders. But as demand skyrockets – both in stores and online – many are finding that there’s little inventory left for delivery orders. Some have started talking about quickly opening “dark stores” – locations where inventory is picked for online orders, but closed to the public, Ladd said. “Grocery retailers are saying, ‘How quickly can we open dark stores and automate as much as this as possible before the virus gets worse?’,” he said. “This is unlike anything the industry has ever seen.” – The Washington Post with PULSE Integration’s Brittain Ladd
We’re Ready To Move
What would normally take other systems integrators up to 18 months to achieve, we can accomplish in six to nine months regardless of the number of installations requested by the retailer. Unlike systems integrators that relay on numerous third-parties to complete their installations, we are a vertically integrated “super SI” capable of providing consulting on the topics of the future of the grocery industry; micro-fulfillment; supply chain and logistics; last-mile delivery; competitor and strategic analysis; strategy; and of course, how to leverage AutoStore to take your business to new heights.