During the fully digital 2021 ProMat show, Signode, a global manufacturer of innovative warehouse automation solutions, showcased the latest offerings in their solutions portfolio. The demos included the newly upgraded StorFast® ASRS (automated storage and retrieval system). The StorFast® system emphasizes the importance of managing the warehouse, allowing for twice the speed with improved control for acceleration and deceleration as compared to their previous version. Additionally, increased weight capacity components provide the opportunity for handling up to 4,400 pounds – maximizing all weight requirements for Signode’s customer base.
Vice President of Marketing and Product Management, Mike Stein, shared with Global Trade Magazine that even though the upgrades are subtle, they provide a significant advantage for capacity, speed, controls, simplification, and flexibility – things that highly differentiate companies from their competitors.
What challenges are addressed through Signode’s solutions, specifically for the warehouse?
“More pressure has been put on the warehouse, especially over the last year while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, we were seeing similar trends due to the growth of e-commerce and maintaining customer expectations for quicker response times and deliveries. It used to be all about the two-day delivery expectations and customers were happy. Now, if a customer cannot receive something in two hours, they will go somewhere else.
Consumer expectations were increasing pre-pandemic, so retailers had to be nimbler when it came to order fulfillment, whether through direct shipping or aggregators such as Amazon. All of this required warehouse operators to be more responsive through technology, which also drove thought processes around going through large facilities in remote areas or warehouses closer to customer centers. These circumstances forced the change of philosophy around footprint and density. For Signode, our focus on automation – as seen with our ASRS System, lends itself to the more high-density fulfillment centers that take advantage of a smaller footprint but compact more product into a smaller space. That trend is something we believe will continue as fulfillment requirement times go down.”
Discuss the StorFast® ASRS system and its high-density, lights-out, 24/7-access. How does this benefit businesses?
“Signode’s general focus on automation is in synchrony with our customers’ desire to operate efficiently. Our background is rooted in the end-of-line material handling and transit packaging, so moving goods from a production line and handling them safely and efficiently has always been our focus. We understand operators’ needs for efficiencies, uptime, maintenance, product handling, and related needs as premiums. As we move into the requirements for automation, all of those factors must continue to be upheld, from product handling to employee safety.
Additionally, we understand that the product gets handled in a variety of ways, so we utilize automation activities to ensure that the product is still going to be moved through a warehouse, 3PL-type facility, an LTL trucker, or similar, and needs to be protected and packaged appropriately. The 24/7 operations access serves as an extension of this automation in continuing required efficiency and the ability to safely move product from the manufacturing environment through the warehousing and shipping process. It also provides a solution for labor access and changes in demand.”
How do Signode’s solutions support employees?
“Most of our customers have a variety of products, order flow and seasonality, and require a certain level of flexibility. Automation is great for repetitive activities – and it can be flexible, but a lot of times you need the type of flexibility that only workers or employees can provide in terms of responding to changing dynamics. So, it is important for even a highly automated system to have the capability to work in conjunction with the employees who provide a lot of the thinking and flexibility of the system, while maintaining that ability. Our experience with different parts of the packaging and warehousing system allows us to focus on designing products and solutions in a way that makes it easier for maintenance, IoT integration for monitoring remotely, and more. The machines must be well maintained, and our solutions allow for that.”
What competitive advantage is gained for warehouses with Signode’s solutions portfolio?
“Signode focuses on the concept of rightsizing. There is a lot of technology available to automate packaging lines and warehouses, but we provide our customers with a competitive advantage through rightsizing the system based on their needs. For example, the needs of a customer with high volume but low SKU count are quite different from the needs of a customer with lower quantities but more variety. The design of our system is focused on meeting individual customer’s specific needs – even though the same technology is being deployed. We learn about the needs of our customers as early as the RFP phase, understanding the nature of the business and overall goals, ins and outs, seasonality, handling of goods, and more. We learn what the long-term shifts are as well to ensure we assist them in deploying a system that gives the most effective use of space, capacity, resources, and capital investment.”
Mike Stein is an experienced, forward-thinking executive who has a proven track record of developing best-in-class organizations and leading strategic business initiatives. He values and facilitates collaboration across all functions, and applies his global experience as a leader, mentor, and catalyst to his progressive efforts for his team at Signode since 2017. Mike holds an MBA with Honors from the University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business, and an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University.