MMH    Topics 

lululemon: Embracing automation for e-commerce fulfillment

WMS, lights, voice and conveyors bring a new level of efficiency to lululemon athletica’s Ohio distribution center.

lululemon athletica
Groveport, Ohio

Size: 310,000 square feet
Products: Yoga and athletic wear
SKUs: 7,000 with capacity of up to 20,000 SKUs
Throughput: 4,000 orders per day
Employees: 50 employees expanding to 200 when fully functional
Shifts per day/days per week: 2 shifts per day, 5 days per week

The yoga wear retailer’s new 310,000-square-foot distribution center near Columbus, Ohio, is a testing ground for automation. Lululemon’s system features a combination of conveyor, sortation, put-to-light and voice technology, all directed by a warehouse management system (WMS).

Receiving: Receiving is initiated when advanced ship notifications are fed into the WMS. Newly received product is unloaded to an extendable conveyor and delivered to the receiving area (1). When the cartons are scanned, the WMS directs the receiver to sort the merchandise by the next task and distribution channel. Next task, for example, includes merchandise that might require dimensional scanning, quality assurance or a value-added service before putaway. Similarly, the product may be staged for storage in a pallet racking area (2) or a carton rack area (3). Once product is ready for putaway, the WMS directs a wire-guided lift truck operator to the right storage location. The operator scans a location to confirm putaway.

Replenishment: Wire-guided lift truck operators are directed by the WMS to pull merchandise from reserve stock locations (2,3). Those items are then delivered to a pick location in the active carton (4) and active pallet picking areas (5). Pick locations are confirmed by a bar code scan.

E-commerce picking, packing and shipping: The WMS creates picking waves for single line and multi-line orders. Voice technology directs order selectors in the active pick shelving area (4). Single line orders are picked into a large tote that consolidates up to 35 orders per tote; multi-line orders are picked to a cart that holds up to 16 smaller totes in a single pass through a picking area. Once a tote is complete, the order selector inducts the tote onto the e-commerce packing induction conveyor (6). Following an automatic scan, the WCS diverts totes to the appropriate lane in the packing area (7) for that order: Single line orders are packed using an autobagger; multi-line orders are packed manually.

Once packing is complete, an operator inducts a package onto the carton sortation conveyor. The sorter diverts the package to the right shipping lane (8) for that order. Once the truck is picked up by FedEx, the order is closed out in the WMS. That information is then fed to the order management system, which triggers payment confirmation and sends a shipment notification to the customer.

Store picking, packing and shipping: Stores receive two types of deliveries: new styles that are allocated to the stores and replenishment orders of existing styles. Each delivery type has its own picking, packing and shipping process. It’s important to note that over 99% of orders are re-packs and new styles are delivered to the stores weekly.

New SKUs: Orders for new styles are fed into the WMS, which creates a picking wave. These can include full cartons and mixed cartons.

Full cartons are picked in the carton rack storage area (3). There, associates operating wire-guided lift trucks are directed by the WMS to a pick location, which is confirmed by scanning. Full pallets are delivered to the shipping area (8).

Mixed cartons orders are picked in a put-to-light area (9). The WMS sends carton information to an associate who inducts the right carton for an order onto the carton sortation conveyor. The WCS diverts the carton to the corresponding put-to-light lane. When the carton arrives in the zone, the carton label is automatically scanned. The bins with items for that carton are illuminated, along with the number of items to be picked. Once the associate packs the carton, it is inducted back onto the carton sortation conveyor. Following another automatic scan, the carton is conveyed to an inline scale where the weight is recorded and sent to the WMS. The WMS determines the best way to ship the carton and creates a shipping label, which is automatically applied. The sorter then diverts the carton to a shipping lane (8).

Existing SKUs: Before picking for existing styles is initiated, merchandise is pulled from the carton rack storage (3) and moved to carton flow racking located in the active carton picking area (4). Associates are directed by the WMS to pick replenishment stock to a wire-guided lift. That inventory is then delivered to a pick location in the carton flow rack and confirmed by scanning a location label.

Once the carton flow rack area is stocked, pick waves are created in the WMS. Associates are directed by voice to pick to carts. Each associate can pick up to 12 cartons/orders in a single pass through the pick zone. Once all of the items have been picked, the associate inducts the cartons onto the carton sortation conveyor. As new items, cartons are automatically weighed and a shipping label is created and automatically applied before cartons are sorted to the right shipping lane (8).

In both instances, the load is closed in the WMS when the carrier picks up an order. The information is fed to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which triggers a store shipment notification.

System suppliers
System design, integration, warehouse control system, carton sortation, put-to-light system & pack stations: SDI
Carton conveyor: Intelligrated
MDR conveyor: Hilmot
Belted curves: Transnorm
Extendable conveyors: Best Conveyors
WMS: Manhattan Associates
Mobile computing and scanning: Motorola Solutions
Label printing: Zebra Technologies
Case scanners: SICK
Mezzanine: Steele Solutions
Voice recognition: Honeywell—Vocollect Voice Solutions
Carton and pallet rack and shelving: Steel King Industries
Inline scale: OCS Technologies
Dimensional cubing: CubiScan
E-commerce autobagger: Sharp Packaging Systems
Lift trucks and order pickers: Raymond Corp.,
Network design study: FedEx

Article Topics

Manhattan Associates
Motorola Solutions
OCS Technologies
SDI Group
Sharp Packaging Systems
Steel King
Steele Solutions
Supply Chain Software
System Report
   All topics

Latest in Materials Handling

Autonomous mobile robot provider MiR marks its 10th anniversary
Hy-Tek Intralogistics and Hai Robotics announce partnership
KPI Solutions expands with a new Atlanta office
Manufacturing declines for the seventh straight month in May, says ISM
National Forklift Safety Day coming up on June 13
Made4net acquired by Ingka Group, with global software rollout with IKEA coming
Automate 2023 analysis: Simplicity and speed will further robotics uptake
More Materials Handling

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock's avatar
Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock is the editorial director for Modern Materials Handling and an editorial advisor to Supply Chain Management Review. He has covered materials handling, technology, logistics, and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. He is a graduate of Bowling Green State University. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at 603-357-0484.
Follow Modern Materials Handling on FaceBook

Subscribe to Materials Handling Magazine

Subscribe today!
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
Subscribe today. It's FREE.
Find out what the world's most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today.

May 2023 Modern Materials Handling

An iconic American brand is partnering with DHL Supply Chain to build out a network to meet soaring demand. It’s also turning to flexible automation to optimize operations.

Latest Resources

Why Should You Deploy Autonomous Mobile Robots on the Factory Floor?
For managing material handling needs specifically, many manufacturers are deploying Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) to improve efficiency and productivity.
Warehouse Insights: Tackling Space in Micro-fulfillment
AutoStore: The Right Technology & The Right Integrator
More resources

Latest Resources

2023 Automation Study: Usage & Implementation of Warehouse/DC Automation Solutions
2023 Automation Study: Usage & Implementation of Warehouse/DC Automation Solutions
This research was conducted by Peerless Research Group on behalf of Modern Materials Handling to assess usage and purchase intentions forautomation systems...
How Your Storage Practices Can Affect Your Pest Control Program
How Your Storage Practices Can Affect Your Pest Control Program
Discover how your storage practices could be affecting your pest control program and how to prevent pest infestations in your business. Join...

Warehousing Outlook 2023
Warehousing Outlook 2023
2023 is here, and so are new warehousing trends.
Extend the Life of Brownfield Warehouses
Extend the Life of Brownfield Warehouses
Today’s robotic and data-driven automation systems can minimize disruptions and improve the life and productivity of warehouse operations.
Power Supply in Overhead Cranes: Energy Chains vs. Festoons
Power Supply in Overhead Cranes: Energy Chains vs. Festoons
Download this white paper to learn more about how both systems compare.