The beauty of integrated pack and ship

Sam’s Beauty doubles order fulfillment productivity with an integrated pack and ship system and software.

When an omni-channel strategy is successful, the last 100 feet of a DC gets really busy, as Sam’s Beauty discovered. The Melrose Park, Ill.-based company is a hair and beauty products supplier with a growing online business segment, as well as brick-and-mortar stores in Chicago and Melrose Park, Ill.

Sam’s Beauty’s growth strategy is an omni-channel business model, and they’ve added additional retail stores, expanded product offerings and grown the e-commerce business segment. Due to growth and scarcity of labor, the company knew it needed to investigate how to handle the increase in warehouse order fulfillment shipping volume.

Its existing pick, pack and ship processes were manual: order picked to tote and directed by paper. Orders were discretely picked, and at pick completion the operators placed totes onto a gravity conveyor to move the totes to a series of manual packing stations. Each pack operator performed the same repetitive manual tasks of constructing cartons, packing the items, adding void, printing and inserting the packing sheet, hand sealing the carton, and hand taping the pick sheet to the outside of the carton.

The cartons were then placed onto gravity conveyor and moved to three manual shipping manifesting stations. Operators at each manifesting station placed the carton on a scale, scanned the pick sheet bar code to print the shipping label, and hand applied the label. Then, they manually sorted the cartons to USPS and UPS carrier pallets.

“As business grew, our manifesting stations became a bottleneck during peak times. Packing and manifesting couldn’t keep up with our e-commerce order volume,” said Jin Park, operation manager at Sam’s Beauty. “We would have to continue to add more headcount to cover our growth. This led us to begin to investigate automation options.”

The search began for automation, considering options from multiple systems integrators. Sam’s Beauty selected an integrated solution powered by a pack and ship automation software module (Numina Group). Sam’s Beauty deployed the vendor’s Real-time Distribution Software (RDS) and its pre-
developed pack and ship automation module, known as Pakt.

The solution at Sam’s Beauty leverages multiple pieces of automation under an integrated pack and ship software module. 

Park explains that Numina Group offered not just the software, but technical expertise in areas like conveyor upgrades and integrating various automation elements as part of the software-driven solution.

“They were knowledgeable and able to help our team define and understand the process improvements required. Due to their existing software automation modules, they were able to implement a solution in three months, resulting in our ability to more than double shipments while increasing pack and ship area productivity,” says Park.

With the solution, the existing pack stations were relocated along a powered 24 VDC accumulation conveyor. Operators pack the order contents into the shipping carton, peel off a removable order identifier bar code from the pick sheet, insert the pack sheet, and apply the order bar code label to the side of the carton. The operator places the carton onto the conveyor, which automatically transports the carton to a centralized void fill and semi-automatic carton taper/sealer.

The station includes overhead void fill for the operator to add void, fold down the flaps, and push the carton into the powered taper. Cartons exit the taper and transport to the in-line bar code scan-weigh-dimensioning system. RDS captures the data and transmits the order and carton data to the shipping manifesting system.

From there, the manifesting system selects the carrier and returns the shipping label to RDS, which tracks the carton to the print-and-apply label applicator that prints and applies the label to the top of the carton. Camera-based bar code scanners are positioned after the applicator to verify the shipping label and carton order bar code, providing 100% validation that the correct shipping label is always applied to the correct carton. Validated cartons transport to the shipping sorter that diverts cartons to the proper carrier for staging and pickup.

Sam’s Beauty now has a scalable fulfillment process that can handle two to three times the pre-automation volumes, with a lower headcount. Deployed in 2019, it was in place during the pandemic, when the company had to temporarily close its stores, while experiencing a dramatic spike in e-commerce volume.

“We were suddenly receiving what were historically peak season volumes every day,” said Park. “At the same time, we lost some of our DC workforce due to Covid fears, and had to use our office staff in the DC to meet the surge in e-com orders. The Numina solution was the easiest process for our staff to operate, it is very intuitive, so training is minimal, and we were able to meet the order demand.” 

Article Topics

Productivity Solution
Magazine Archive
Inventory & Picking
Numina Group
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About the Author

Roberto Michel's avatar
Roberto Michel
Roberto Michel, senior editor for Modern, has covered manufacturing and supply chain management trends since 1996, mainly as a former staff editor and former contributor at Manufacturing Business Technology. He has been a contributor to Modern since 2004. He has worked on numerous show dailies, including at ProMat, the North American Material Handling Logistics show, and National Manufacturing Week. You can reach him at: [email protected].
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