Behind the Scenes of Online Shopping

Automation technology from Honeywell's Intelligrated business plays key role in e-commerce 

Most of us are likely to shop online this holiday season, and internet retail sales are expected to increase up to 20 percent between Black Friday and Christmas. But part of the holiday magic is what happens after we click “buy.”

When consumers shop online, a fast and high-tech journey is set in motion – often guided by robots and technologies from Honeywell’s Intelligrated business – to get those purchases from a distribution center shelf onto a delivery truck and to your home.

Acquired by Honeywell in August 2016, Intelligrated provides a comprehensive lineup of automated equipment, fulfillment technology and software for retailers, manufacturers and logistics providers around the world.

“In e-commerce, the supply chain plays a critical role in the customer experience,” said Chris Arnold, vice president, operations and solutions development, Intelligrated. “Consumers expect a wide product selection, order accuracy and fast, free delivery. The push to meet those demands starts in the warehouse.”

And it relies on software. Intelligrated combines innovative technology and equipment with software-driven intelligence to connect islands of processes and automation in a closely integrated system. This delivers the flexibility and fast response times to meet the speed, cost and quality that consumers expect.

Behind the Scenes of Online Shopping

That present you can’t wait to give? Its journey to your doorstep begins with an automated storage and retrieval system that automatically fetches it from storage. This system uses shuttles or cranes to retrieve inventory from tall, densely positioned storage racks – a cost-effective alternative to simply buying additional warehouse space. This helps retailers provide shoppers with a wide selection of items without ballooning inventory costs.

But the journey to the shipping dock is rarely completely automated. Warehouse and distribution center workers need to pick and consolidate the orders, often providing special services like gift wrap for that special holiday touch.

Managing this work with fulfillment technology such as voice-directed technology or light systems provides clear instructions to help seasonal workers scale up and deliver the accuracy and speed customers demand. Voice solutions provide fast, accurate communication between employees and warehouse execution systems to enable hands-free picking for greater speed and accuracy. Pick-to-light systems use light displays to direct operators to specific stock locations, with different colors, an acknowledgement button and digital readouts to indicate quantity and completion.

“The vast selection of inventory, special service options and delivery expectations have led to increasingly innovative operations within the four walls of the warehouse,” said Chuck Adams, senior vice president and general manager, sales and marketing, Intelligrated.

Once orders are prepped and packed, it’s time to move them out to the dock. Sophisticated sortation equipment from Intelligrated directs orders to the proper lane for shipping. As e-commerce operations use new packaging types to keep shipping costs down, automated conveyor and sortation equipment can handle everything from traditional cardboard boxes to newer bubble packs.

“E-commerce is one of the defining transformative forces in recent memory, and it continues to revolutionize how consumers buy and receive merchandise,” said Chris Cole, chairman and general manager, Intelligrated. “Catering to these demands has revolutionized supply chain operations. In the warehouse, the right combination of labor, automation and software keeps inventory flowing efficiently and turns the contents of your virtual shopping cart into presents under the tree.”