At ProMat 2023, inVia CEO Lior Elazary presented a case study with inVia Robotics customer and e-commerce fulfillment expert ShipHero. The session was titled: “How ShipHero Modernized Their Warehouse without Doing a Rebuild.” Joining Lior in the session was ShipHero COO Maggie Barnett.
ShipHero is a shipping and logistics platform for over 5,000 eCommerce brands and 3PLs. From its roots as a WMS provider, ShipHero launched ShipHero Fulfillment in 2019. Today, the company owns and manages warehouses across the country that fulfill e-commerce orders for high-growth direct-to-consumer brands and Fortune 500 companies.
Here are the highlights from the ProMat on-floor seminar:
Lior: From a high-level point of view, what drove you to modernize the warehouse?
Maggie: In fulfillment, two main expenses dominate the P&L statement: rent and labor. While rent costs tend to increase over time, they are a fixed expense. We wanted to identify and replace repetitive activities within our current warehouses. And that’s what’s so great about the inVia PickerWall solution — it eliminates the repetitive tasks that nobody wants to keep doing. By replacing repetitive actions with amazing technology, we reduced our cost per pick. Now when we find talented temporary workers, we can elevate them to better positions that involve more creative tasks. In short, we modernized to improve the bottom line and create great teams within our warehouses.
Lior: Which elements of upgrading have made the biggest impact on your operations?
Maggie: inVia helped us reduce the footprint within our warehouse, where we needed to pick from. We didn’t want workers wandering the aisles without actually getting to pick orders. Plus, if something went wrong, it took our teammates 7-10 minutes to find a manager to address the problem. inVia PickerWall helped us condense our picking area by 75%, which saved us considerable time and energy. Now, If something goes wrong, a teammate can find a manager in just a minute or two.
inVia also helped us identify slow-moving inventory. Using inVia Logic reporting, we realized we had over 2,000 SKUs taking up 7,500 locations that hadn’t been sold in six months. With the inVia system, we were able to replace the inventory with high-velocity SKUs to improve pick flow. Another exciting improvement was SKU consolidation. We had multiple SKUs across many totes. inVia reporting helped us identify and consolidate them. We got rid of wasted space to make every square foot of our werehouse more productive.
Lior: Were you able to keep meeting SLAs during implementation?
Maggie: Running a warehouse is difficult in general. Creating change within a warehouse is always challenging because everyone’s stuck in their ways. Learning new processes takes a lot of work. In addition, there’s some resistance to robots and new technologies. But one of the reasons we chose inVia was that we could roll it out in phases while continuing to fulfill orders. We can’t miss SLAs. That’s our whole business. If an order comes in before noon, we must ship the same day. And Via was really good at helping us with those workflow plans.
Lior: What lessons did we both learn?
Maggie: We have learned things that we could have done better, such as designating managers for certain tasks and avoiding situations where certain tasks compete with one another. Our biggest lesson was essentially workforce management throughout the integration.
Lior: From our side, having our teams connected almost in real time allowed us to solve problems in real-time. It’s important to have the right people at the right levels to solve problems, which will invariably happen. Our CTO and CIO need to be talking together to get this process going and speed things along.
Lior: In your view, where do you think the fulfillment industry is headed, amid tight SLAs and very demanding customers?
Maggie: One area is margin integrity. Our merchants need to make a certain amount per shipment, so cost is always going to be the biggest driver. What we’re seeing is not same day, next day, next hour, next minute delivery, so much as “Can you deliver it within three days for the right price”. With inflation and credit tightening, many merchants prefer to maintain X margin and get the product there in two to three days.
Maggie: When is the right time to include robots in your warehouse?
Lior: We generally find that any warehouse with 1,000 SKUs or fewer can likely handle the load with a few employees without the need for robots. Problems arise when you have 20,000 or 30,000 SKUs, even 100,000 SKUs and more, which many of our customers have. At those volumes, you may be fulfilling 5-10% of those SKUs each day and every day is a different random set. Trying to access these SKUs can use up a lot of labor.
And that’s where our robots are able to help. Robots shrink the warehouse, moving containers to a smaller area. One of the things that’s unique about our system is that we’re adding a buffer there as well. So the picker is not coupled with one robot and expected to work like a robot. We implement inVia PickerWall that our robots build on their own with today’s orders. They start early so when the first shift starts, everything is ready for them to pick.
Listen to the entire seminar here: How ShipHero Modernized Their Warehouse without Doing a Rebuild or Request a Demo to learn what inVia’s unique automation system can do for you.