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micro fulfillment


It’s almost hard to believe that two years have passed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its merciless impacts on the supply chain, consumer behavior and how the world conducts business as usual. There is really nothing “usual” about conducting business nowadays, particularly for fulfillment operations in a myriad of sectors now saturating the e-commerce market. 

The fact of the matter is that e-commerce is no longer just thought of for a holiday list or bargain deal that cannot be found in traditional brick-and-mortar shops. E-commerce is becoming more of a first option for some and a permanent solution for others. Grocers, retailers, department stores and beyond are feeling the full effect of the e-commerce trend and despite the pandemic, it could very well be here to stay. 

So, how does this change the way fulfillment providers conduct operations? According to KPI Solutions’ Brittain Ladd, micro fulfillment is the key to capturing lost dollars and keeping up with demand.

“About 20% of all sales today are direct-to-consumer,” Ladd shares. “Prior to the pandemic, only about 3% of grocery sales were online. And only about 6% of all retail sales were online prior to the pandemic, so we’ve seen a massive shift. Grocery retailers and retailers of general merchandise had to change their business models to keep up with direct-to-consumer demand.”

Ladd serves as the chief supply chain and marketing officer with Kuecker Pulse Integration (KPI) in addition to his position as a Forbes Councils member. KPI Solutions is the result of an integrated partnership between Kuecker Logistics Group Inc., PULSE Integration and QC Software. Known best for bringing system integration and robotics automation to a variety of sectors, KPI Solutions approaches fulfillment operations uniquely by implementing and innovating their own software to meet demand.

“KPI Solutions has partnerships with leading robotics companies, and we can install basically any system that exists,” Ladd says. “We work with some of the largest global companies to help them automate their fulfillment and sharpen their strategy to identify more cost effective and innovative ways to meet customer demand. Consumers want more speed, especially now, and a lot of analysts are confused because they fail to realize that the goal isn’t to just deliver groceries in 10 to 15 minutes, it’s to deliver apparel, shoes, electronics and other products as well.”

So, where does micro fulfillment fit? And more importantly, how can it support fulfillment operations now and in the future? Let’s start by understanding how companies–such as grocers—a re struggling beyond the surge in e-commerce. Ladd shares that contrary to the widely held belief, grocers are suffering significantly with e-commerce, as they not only spend more to fulfill these orders, but they must keep up with the labor involved in third-party services, which further complicates the process.

Keep in mind, grocery retailers are now faced with a new wave of demand and speed. Ladd shares that companies in Europe that have entered the U.S. market, such as Buyk and Jokr, are now offering “rapid grocery delivery” in as little as 10 minutes.

“On average, grocery retailers lose anywhere from $7 to $15 on every online order they fulfill,” Ladd says. “And in some cases, they can lose as much as $25 on every online order they fulfill. Most retailers barely break even on any of their curbside pickup orders, except for the product since it’s a little higher value. 

“Imagine being a retailer who is now forced into a model where they’re having to change everything they do to meet the changing demands of consumers, but everything the consumer wants them to do the retailer loses money on. That’s the challenge.”

That’s also where micro fulfillment centers and technology can not only capture these costs but turnaround the way e-commerce fulfillment is streamlined. 

Geek+, Berkshire Grey, AutoStore, and Addverb Technologies are a few of the companies that are innovating fulfillment operations through automated robotic systems. These fully automated systems reduce the chances for human errors with mobility and capability of reaching inside inventory bins quite literally to fulfill orders. Ladd shares that most of these automated solutions cost around $1.2 million to $1.5 million with a return on investment realized within 18 to 24 months, paying for themselves while re-inventing fulfillment.

“The best way I can describe it is like holding a Rubik’s cube in front of you,” Ladd says. “Each of the cubes has some type of inventory inside and sitting on top of the Rubik’s cube are robots that go back and forth and side to side reaching down and picking up these cubes and moving them from one side to another, pulling out inventory. That’s exactly what they do as a robotic picking and fulfillment system.”

Embracing technology is what comes full circle for retailers attempting to overcome the e-commerce surge. And options such as these not only fully automate fulfillment processes but keep human involvement to a minimum. Retailers are catching on and the U.S. market is now starting to see what the European market has already adopted. In fact, Ladd shared that three European companies have recently entered New York City, and they are bringing exploding growth with them.

What makes these systems even more enticing (beyond the fact that they are fully automated) is the ability to operate after-hours–or in the dark when stores are closed. Micro fulfillment centers are intelligent enough to automate the fulfillment process, but small enough that grocery retailers can install them inside their stores–completing all of the fulfillment tasks and mileage usually completed by employees. 

“These systems are quite easy for retailers to embrace and adopt,” Ladd says. “Companies including Kroger, H-E-B, Albertson’s, Instacart and DoorDash are among the more recognized brands that are exploring these innovative options and either installing these systems or exploring how to use these systems. Make no mistake, the future of retail is robotics. Retailers that don’t embrace robotics will never be able to survive long term.”


Brittain Ladd, chief supply chain and marketing officer with KPI Solutions, is recognized as a leading expert in business strategy, supply chain management, logistics and last-mile delivery. He was one of the first individuals to research, design and recommend that retailers install micro-fulfillment centers in their stores and chains.


WESCO Doubles its Robot-Enhanced Warehouse Zone with Scallog

Wesco – a specialist for healthy child development with products such as furniture, games and school utensils  – is rapidly expanding its range and is therefore doubling the Scallog Goods-to-Person robot zone at its Cerizay logistics platform in summer 2021.

Wesco, a French SME established in 1975, creates, manufactures and distributes fun and innovative products for children: furniture, games, educational material, motor skills modules, etc. It markets its 15,000 products to families and professionals working with children via mail order and via its e-commerce website. Today, the company exports its goods to 60 countries.

In response to its growing activity, Wesco will be doubling the Scallog robotized storage area at its logistics hub in the West of France in the summer of 2021. The company’s growing B2B and B2C order flows require increased storage density, a boost to productivity and an accelerated order picking rate. This logistics expansion project will allow better product availability and shorter delivery times, thereby increasing satisfaction amongst Wesco’s wide range of customers.

Arnaud Gaborieau, Wesco’s Logistics Manager, states: “Our logistics performance must reflect our company’s image, which combines innovation and quality with the enduring aim of satisfying our clients. Building on the success of our first Goods-to-Person project with Scallog, we are doubling the capacity of our robotized storage zone to increase our productivity and responsiveness. Once again, Scallog is supporting us in our growth, helping us to absorb our ever-increasing order picking loads and the peaks in our activity that typically occur at the start of the new school year and in the lead-up to the end-of-year holiday season.”

In summer 2021, the robotized storage zone will double to 1,000 m2: it will include 20,000 storage locations and 24 Scallog Boby robots, which will service four ergonomic workstations. These workstations will be able to be used for both picking and replenishment operations.

Furthermore, Wesco has also worked with Diplex on constructing a mezzanine above the Scallog zone to increase storage density. 

In conjunction with the INFFLUX BEXT WS solution, Scallog’s warehouse control system will optimize orders and the management of storage locations, accelerating picking rates and the ability to handle the company’s ever-increasing number of products.

Guided by a Pick-to-Light system, each operator will be able to manage up to 100 orders in parallel at its workstation, which is coupled with a conveyor system that enables goods to be routed to a number of further warehouse zones.

Doubling the size of the existing simple and easy-to-install Scallog Goods-to-Person robot system will take less than a month. With the new facility, Wesco anticipates a 100% increase in the number of order lines processed per hour, and ensures optimum use of the warehouse area.


SFM Prepares for the Future and Surpasses Industry Benchmarks

Business is booming and the warehouse is bustling with activity. For some reason, however, productivity levels are well short of targets. No matter how much labor is thrown at the problem, the gains in throughput are marginal at best.

SFM is a distributor of Pro Audio & Pro Visual live entertainment and media production equipment that operates a 50,500 sq. ft. warehouse in the heart of Montreal Island. When management had to find ways to redress the company’s productivity levels, they turned to LIDD Consultants for solutions. 

SFM asked LIDD to find out why throughput levels were not meeting expectations and to make recommendations to improve their operation. Among the recommendations were various design and engineering solutions as well as the implementation of a Warehouse Management System (WMS).

What follows is the story of how the consultants transformed SFM’s operation, leveraged the powerful Solochain WMS, and enabled the distributor to greatly surpass industry benchmarks in just a few weeks after the new WMS went live.

LIDD Consultants Protects SFM’s Capital

SFM’s management knew that they could no longer delay when they lost their capacity to keep their “Same Day Shipping” promise. An effective marketing tool for the company that generated demand and had enabled growth, the promise had also been a way for the distributor to stand out in a fiercely competitive industry.
LIDD was therefore called upon to assess the following issues:

Insufficient throughput: 

-Productivity levels are well below industry standards.

-Same day shipping is no longer possible.

Inaccurate inventory counts:

-Wall-to-wall physical counts take a month to be completed instead of a weekend.

-The reconciliation of these counts with system data is impossible to achieve.

Many at SFM thought that the cause of their problems was that they had outgrown their warehouse’s capacity. With a multi-channels operation and 12,000 SKUs stored in a 50,500 sq. ft. facility, it was a plausible hypothesis. Insufficient storage space could explain why warehouse employees were stepping on each other’s toes in the aisles, why items were being put away in available locations instead of their designated slots, and why productivity levels and inventory accuracy were suffering.

Of course, were that hypothesis true, SFM would need new real estate, which comes at high expenditure.

Thanks to LIDD’s audit, however, SFM was able to protect its precious capital. LIDD’s analysts demonstrated that the current facility had the needed storage capacity and that the causes behind. SFM’s problems mainly were:

Inefficient warehouse processes:

-Excessive clerical work at reception slows activities down and causes congestion around the dock.

-Inconsistent replenishment activities and inaccurate inventory management are affecting picking efficiency.

Suboptimal layout:

-Inconsistent rack profiles and difficult to access storage areas make picking complex and slow.

Inadequate software architecture:

-SFM’s systems lack the functionalities needed to properly support activities in the warehouse and to keep precise track of inventory.

LIDD made recommendations to redress the situation within the current facility, saving SFM’s capital from being squandered on expensive real estate. LIDD then implemented the design solutions, which included:

1. A new facility layout
2. New rack profiling
3. Optimized pick paths
4. Ergonomic packing station 

LIDD Leverages Solochain’s Functionalities

The design solutions implemented by LIDD significantly improved SFM’s operation. The distributor’s inadequate software architecture was however preventing its operation from reaching the productivity standards set by the industry.

Following on the consultants’ recommendations, SFM tasked LIDD with the implementation of Solochain, a powerful Tier 1 WMS by Generix, and its integration with their JD Edwards ERP system. LIDD experts knew that the built-in flexibility and inventory management capabilities native to Solochain made the WMS a particularly good fit for SFM’s operation.

For one, Solochain excels at streamlining inbound processes, a notable thorn in SFM’s foot. It eliminates most clerical tasks and manual data entries, which prevents errors, delays, and congestion at the receiving dock. The system also produces real-time receipts for received items and systematically verifies goods received against goods ordered, keeping databases clear of problematic discrepancies.

By enabling inventory consolidation at reception, Solochain also simplifies putaway activities. Putaway is also made more efficient thanks to automatically created tasks that indicate the localization for each product and instruct workers on FIFO inventory.

Meanwhile, Solochain’s profiling capabilities enable more efficient picking methods, such as batch-order picking. Picking activities can be further optimized thanks to the system’s wave planning capability, which groups into waves orders that share the same transporter, exercise date, and/or destination. Management also benefits, as warehouse managers can monitor an order’s status in real-time, from anywhere.

Once a SKU has reached a predetermined quantity threshold in a given slot, a replenishment task is automatically created. All replenishment tasks indicate where items are to be picked, which saves workers time and guarantees that inventory is well managed. The system can also prioritize tasks relative to established thresholds for specific SKUs.

Meanwhile, Solochain’s powerful inventory management module offers SFM the solutions it needs to regain control over its inventory:

-Provides visibility into inventory by item, location, zone, and inventory status;

-Assigns inventory conditions such as ‘Serviceable’, ‘QAonHold’, ‘Rework’, etc.;

-Automatically attributes product property upon reception;

-Dynamically updates the ERP system when inventory is modified;

-Assigns each SKU a specific slot and integrates the localization’s dimensions;

Tracks lot and serial numbers.

Solochain also supports the execution of inventory counts, which had been the cause of many headaches for SFM’s management. One way in which the WMS helps attain greater accuracy is through the configuration of special cases, such as product-class specific tolerance, second counts for specified sets of SKUs, and products for reconciliation. Another great feature is that it can schedule daily inventory count tasks, which makes it possible to avoid costly wall-to-wall counts altogether.

Blowing All KPIs Out of the Water

Solochain went live at SFM on September 9th, 2019.

Only three weeks after it was launched, SFM’s operation was reaching productivity levels well above all industry benchmarks.

A clear sign that things were looking up was seeing SFM almost immediately regain the capacity to honor their “Same Day Shipping” promise. Today, the distributorships an average of 30 order lines/hour, well above the industry standard for excellence set at 21 lines/hour.

Other outstanding KPIs include:

-Items make it from dock to stock in 87 minutes on average.

-Pick-lines are picked at a rate of 19.3 per hour – the industry standard for excellence is 16.2 lines/hour.

-SFM ships close to 99% of their order lines on the same day.

-The shipping error ratio has been brought down to 0.017%.

SFM’s inventory accuracy problems were also quickly solved. Since launching Solochain, the distributor has maintained inventory accuracy levels above 99.6%. SFM has also eliminated wall-to-wall counts in favor of daily count tasks, thus saving on resources, time, and money.

Worthy of note: Solochain’s levels of accuracy at SFM are such that, when Deloitte performed SFM’s audit at the end of the fiscal year, the auditor did not request a new wall-to-wall count. Instead, Deloitte entirely relied on SFM’s available systems data — a first in Deloitte’s Canadian audit practice!

Looking to the Future

When Covid related restrictions forced markets everywhere to a partial shut down, SFM had to layoff almost half of their warehouse employees. Yet, with Solochain to support their activities, their productivity levels during that period were down by only 5%.
Today, as the world slowly returns to a semblance of normal, SFM is preparing for the future. Thanks to a redesigned facility, re-engineered processes, and an upgraded software architecture, the distributor now has every confidence it can double its revenues over the next five years.

A significant portion of the projected revenues is expected to come from a new 3PL channel dedicated to the distribution of Pro Audio and Pro Visual equipment from major manufacturers worldwide. Opening this new channel, says management at SFM, would never have been possible without the help of LIDD Consultants and the Solochain WMS.


About Generix

Generix Group North America provides a series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite to create efficiencies across an entire supply chain. From Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Transportation Management Systems (TMS) to Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and more, software platforms can deliver a wide range of benefits that ultimately flow to the warehouse operator’s bottom line. Our solutions are in use around the world and our experience is second-to-none. We invite you to contact us to learn more.

About LIDD

Founded in 2009, LIDD is a global professional firm that provides supply chain advisory, technology, and design services to supply chain operators. Companies in the consumer products and retail industries turn to LIDD to leverage the firm’s whole-spectrum expertise in planning, manufacturing, and distribution operations.

With offices in Montreal, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Seoul, LIDD counts over 90 employees. The firm’s experienced consultants and engineers bring global best practices, excellence in project management, and an obsession with timeliness to all their projects. LIDD is committed to the development of strategies that drive growth and leads complex implementations to successful results.

From facility engineering to network design to software selection, capital is precious. Make LIDD part of your success story. Visit us at Join LIDD’s community on Facebook, LinkedIn, & Twitter.



The transition to advanced automation is well underway in distribution and fulfillment (D&F) operations. Within the four walls of distribution centers (DCs), traditional labor-intensive process and material handling strategies are being replaced by more automated alternatives. Retail leaders are beginning to automate and upgrade specific aspects of their DC operations that are bowing under the weight of e-commerce pressures.

Retailers at the forefront of this transition are driven by a desire to mitigate risks to profitability and business continuity by:

-Reducing the dependency on labor

-Increasing throughput rates to meet service level agreements (SLAs)

-Enabling the flexibility to adapt to peak seasonal fulfillment demands

-Keeping pace with year-over-year growth forecasts

New automation investments are focused on achieving strategic supply chain advantages in critical picking, inventory storage and retrieval processes — where peak labor efficiencies are no match for escalating e-commerce fulfillment complexities and SKU proliferation. As throughput levels rise, delivery windows shrink and labor becomes more unpredictable, retailers will find it more difficult to sustain productivity and grow profit margins.

At the same time, emerging advanced automation solutions with integrated software offerings continue to improve, presenting operators with attractive and attainable returns on investment (ROI).


High-speed sortation equipment still plays an essential role in large DCs with high throughput levels, high-level order volumes, and associated shipping and receiving requirements. But while the prospect of unbolting traditional sortation and conveyor equipment is still largely unfeasible, integrated automation systems offer opportunities to upgrade the core of many DC operations: picking, inventory storage and order fulfillment orchestration.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)

AS/RS can be deployed within existing DCs to maximize throughput and improve receiving, order consolidation, and shipping efficiencies. These flexible solutions offer higher storage densities within reduced operational footprints and the flexibility to adapt to a variety of configurations.

High-speed AS/RS shuttle systems are ideally suited for replacing manual picking in high-volume operations. The modular design of racking and storage frameworks enables the addition of new levels and aisles to accommodate future growth in storage demand. Shuttle systems are typically designed with goods-to-person (GTP) and goods-to-robot (GTR) configurations to eliminate picking travel times and allow fewer labor resources to be more productive.

When full pallets are required for wholesale distribution, AS/RS unit load systems rely on one crane per aisle to pull pallets from storage racks and stage them for truck loading.

Robotics Integration

The increased integration of robotics is also helping DC managers alleviate growing e-commerce fulfillment pressures. Robotics strategies are focused on replacing undesirable, unsafe and repetitive manual tasks to free up available labor resources for more thoughtful, high-value roles. And in many cases, retailers are turning to robotics to drive productivity levels beyond human capabilities.

While the vision of a fully autonomous robotic fulfillment operation is far from being realized, recent advancements in robotics are helping to transform a multitude of critical workflows, processes and applications:

Truck loading and unloading

-Sorter induction

-Each, case and pallet picking

-Palletizing and depalletizing

-Case packing and unpacking

-Transportation of materials (pallets, goods, cartons)

These flexible robotic options can be adapted to benefit DC operations in a variety of ways:

-They can be activated or deactivated as needed to supplement manual resources and flex for peak seasons.

-They can be quickly reprogrammed for new routes and tasks.

-They can be orchestrated into a variety of automated workflows with a modern warehouse execution system, such as Honeywell Intelligrated’s Momentum™ WES.

In addition, modern robotics solutions operate using universal control platforms — such as the Honeywell Universal Robotics Controller (HURC) — allowing them to continually adapt to changing DC conditions via robot-to-robot, machine-learning technologies.


As D&F operations become more automated and complex in order to keep pace with demand, the integration of advanced warehouse automation software is playing an increasingly important role. Historically speaking, warehouse software was designed to serve very specific functions, which ultimately has added to DC operational complexities. These problems can typically be traced to the presence of multiple software vendors for various automation systems and robotics platforms, which can result in disconnected islands of automation and a continual cycle of obsolescence and upgrade challenges.

Often, this traditional, multi-vendor approach to software makes full DC fulfillment system orchestration next to impossible. Today, retailers and DC operators need to rethink their software strategies and deploy smart warehouse automation software platforms designed to reduce complexities by:

-Unifying disparate automation systems

-Orchestrating all automation systems for full warehouse execution

-Simplifying software support and upgrade management

Modern warehouse automation software like Momentum is designed to provide a single, unified platform for enabling advanced automation in complex DC environments. Momentum gives DC managers the tools to:

-Leverage operational data for workflow optimization and business insights

-Apply machine learning for intelligent decision-making

-Align order release and processing with customer SLAs and priorities

-Maximize AS/RS storage and inventory availability

-Ensure labor productivity and utilization

-Orchestrate advanced AS/RS and robotics into DC workflows

WES systems are even beginning to assume upstream, inbound warehouse management system (WMS) processes and may potentially eliminate the need for separate WMS and WES systems.


Honeywell Intelligrated is providing advanced technologies and integrated software to help retailers transition from traditional fulfillment workflows to fully integrated automation strategies. We’re leveraging multiple AS/RS solutions, state-of-the-art robotics and our Momentum warehouse automation software to create robust, scalable and supportable technological infrastructures that lay a strong foundation for continuous growth.

Powered by a unified approach to software and advanced data science techniques, these tools can provide complete automation system orchestration while minimizing integration complexities. With decades of material handling industry expertise, we take a consultative approach to develop automation solutions that help forward-thinking companies solve their biggest fulfillment challenges and achieve rapid returns on their investments.

Wherever you are on the continuum of automation, we can help you achieve robust fulfillment capabilities today and accelerate your progress toward an ever-more automated future.


Among the cutting-edge features of modern WES software platforms include the capabilities to deliver extremely accurate projections of advanced automation and system performances — before, during and after implementation

— with simulation, emulation and digital twin models.

Simulation benefits include the abilities to:

-Evaluate full system and individual robotic cell prototypes

-Test automation system interdependencies

-Validate and refine operations to improve layout and product flow

-Identify where AS/RS and robots will provide the greatest ROI

-Create a fully functional digital twin of a live fulfillment operation:

» Enable scenario-based testing and response planning

» Save time and money during the physical commissioning stage