Tools & Technologies

By William Anderson

VCO makes light-directed order fulfillment mobile

Light-directed solutions, including putwalls, are just one of the ways VCO Systems helps companies with packaging and distribution challenges.

As more companies in the manufacturing and distribution industry adopt and refine omnichannel business strategies to meet the challenges created by e-commerce, choosing the right order fulfillment system can be the difference between growth and becoming obsolete. An order fulfillment system that is flexible and scalable can translate into better customer satisfaction and retention, which can trigger business growth.

Traditional light-directed order fulfillment solutions are often physically fixed and do not allow for much customization. One company that provides flexible light-directed solutions is VCO Systems. Putwalls, pick-to-light, put-to-light and pick/put carts are some of the systems that VCO has developed to address the challenges that both omnichannel environments and e-commerce have placed on retailers. VCO provides the standard fixed pick-to- light systems, but by utilizing lights and bins on battery-powered and Wi- Fi enabled pick/put carts, the solution mobilizes the traditional pick-to-light process. A cart is fitted with a tablet, displays and lights that guide operators to locations and specify what items and how many of them should be picked. Once items are picked, they are sorted into bins based on the lights that are illuminated.

The system allows multiple users to work at the same time, and since the carts are battery-powered, operators can enjoy greater mobility. In addition to being used individually, multiple carts can be joined to create one putwall, and VCO’s system allows the carts to be used for replenishment as well. Carts used as putwalls can process high-volume e-commerce and store returns.

By quickly relocating returned items to their floor locations, the time taken to resell inventory is reduced. This level of customization enables carts to be used for multiple processes and to effectively handle seasonal demand increases without creating permanent fixtures. Integrating VCO’s solutions into existing systems is not difficult as their systems support TCP/IP socket connections and HTTP protocol with Flat, JSON and XML file formats.

This means that virtually no matter what system is used, VCO provides a way for manufacturing or distribution facilities to communicate in real time with existing software infrastructure. VCO Systems’ software can run on iOS and Android devices, and a desktop component for administration and management can run on browsers with JavaScript.

Though light-directed solutions are VCO Systems’ main business, strategic partnerships with packaging and supply chain consulting companies allows VCO to provide a full-service solution that seeks to optimize supply chains from strategy inception to final packaging and distribution. Often, order fulfillment is separated from the initial receipt and processing of orders and the packaging of these orders. By leveraging partnerships with companies that provide solutions at either end of order fulfillment, VCO can transform segmented portions of omnichannel strategies into one seamless process.

E-commerce marketplaces are increasingly requiring order fulfillment operations to be highly responsive to customers’ needs without compromising the service levels of other channels. VCO Systems’ light-directed solutions offer a variety of ways to help businesses become efficient omnichannel players.

William Anderson is an industrial engineer for HanesBrands Inc. and a member of the IISE Young Professionals group.