Optimizing e-fulfillment at Arvato

Arvato’s distribution center streamlines returns handling and timely order fulfillment

By ·

Arvato SCM Solutions

Hannover, Germany
Square Footage: 508,000 square feet
Products Handled: third-party distribution of fashion apparel, footwear, fragrances, bed and bath items and furnishings
SKUs: 120,000
Throughput: Up to 15,000 pieces per hour, depending on the season
Shifts: 3 shifts/6 days per week

In its Hannover, Germany, distribution center, e-commerce logistics provider Arvato SCM Solutions is using pouch sortation technology to quickly and efficiently process returns and deliver orders to pack stations to meet the expectations of today’s e-commerce customers.


Working with its retail partner, Arvato creates a monthly plan for how much inventory will be received into the facility, but it doesn’t know what will arrive until it receives an advance ship notification from the retailer or a manufacturer. Given the range of products handled in the facility, some will arrive in the goods receiving area (1) as flat items and some will arrive as hanging items. In either case, every item is scanned into the warehouse management system. If the shipping container is suitable for reserve storage or a pick location (2), it is delivered to the right area and scanned into a putaway location. Otherwise, the items are placed into a right-sized carton and scanned into a storage location. Either way, the items are now available to promise for orders.

Returns receiving

When returns are received, they are placed on a conveyor and delivered to an inspection and sorting station in the returns processing area (6). There, the incoming box is opened and the returned items are checked against the invoice and given a visual inspection. If the item passes inspection, it is folded by the associate and placed on another conveyor that delivers it to an automatic wrapping station in the returns area. Once it is repackaged for sale, the item is automatically inducted into a pouch in the sorter loading station (3). As part of the process, the item and the pouch are both automatically scanned to marry one to the other. The pouch is then routed into the dynamic buffer area in the ceiling. It is now available to promise.

Picking and order fulfillment

A typical batch is 10,000 pieces picked per hour. The system first looks to see if any of the required items are already in a pouch in the dynamic buffer area. If so, those items are identified for an order. Currently, about 30% of items are filled from the buffer area. If not, the work will be performed in the three-level pick mezzanine in the storage and picking area (2). To start the process, a box is erected and inducted onto a conveyor servicing the pick mezzanine. The box is routed through pick zones. Once all of the items for that box have been picked, it is routed to one of several induction stations (3) for the pouch sorter. There, an associate removes the items and scans them into a pouch. From induction, the pouch is sent directly to packing (4) for single line orders, or sorted and married with other pouches for an order and delivered to a pack station.

Packing and shipping

At the packing station (4), a packer can choose from five carton sizes and a shipping bag. A typical order is four pieces. When a pouch or pouches arrives at the pack station, the system tells the packer what size box to use for shipping. The packer scans the box and then scans the items and the invoice into the box. The box is then conveyed to an automatic sealing and labeling system. The ready-to-ship carton is then sorted and delivered to the right outbound shipping area (5) by country and by carrier. Orders shipped within Germany will go out as single parcels. For other countries, orders may be palletized for the carrier.

Read the Feature Article on Arvato from this month’s issue of Modern Material Handling

System suppliers

Pourch Soration System: Dematic
System Integration, Warehouse Control System & Conveyor: Vanderlande
Mezzanine & Racking: SSI Schaefer Systems
WMS: Proprietary software from Arvato and Dr. Thomas + Partner
Mobile Computing & Barcode Scanning: Zebra Technologies
Lift Trucks: Jungheinrich
Wrapping/Sealing: Bedo
Automatic Labeling: REA Systeme
Carton Erectors: Knecht

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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Article Topics

Dematic · Sortation · · All Topics
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