Three Questions to Prepare Shippers for Peak Holiday Season

It happens every year. As peak holiday season nears, shipping and warehouse managers who found a way through it last year wonder if they can do it again. A mix of ever-expanding volume, speed demands, and long-standing challenges — we see you, labor! – pose a fair question, “Can I pull it off this year?”

The answer, of course, is yes. But for distribution centers to get there, managers and staff must ask themselves some fundamental questions about how they’re running operations today. We have some answers to go along with that. 

Answering these questions helped Pitney Bowes nearly double the parcel sortation throughput to local direct delivery units during the 2021 peak holiday season at its Stockton, Calif. ecommerce hub. Through collaborative innovation, Pitney Bowes worked with Ambi Robotics to reinvigorate their process sortation processes, in turn improving productivity, accuracy, and worker safety during the busiest time of the year. 

Are you really optimizing automation?

Automation has been supplementing and augmenting manual processes to optimize volume for some time now. Simultaneously, technological advances have made some incredible leaps, making the latest automation tools real difference-makers amid growing volume and seasonal surges.

Like the latest simulation-to-reality technology (Sim2Real), which trains robots to learn piece-picking and product placement in a simulated environment. That spares warehouses from having to undergo an exceedingly large amount of physical world robot training time before being able to use their robotic systems, much less pick a wide range of packages quickly and accurately.

An example is Ambi Robotics’ proprietary AmbiOS technology, powered by Sim2Real AI. It features a vast simulation library with a large diversity of items modeled and tested for real-world accuracy, and wide-ranging randomization in simulation to make real-world challenges tame by comparison. The result? Training that’s 10,000 times faster than legacy systems, and the ability to train a robot to pick up anything from the first day of operation.

Can you further empower your existing workforce?

Warehouses have been facing staffing challenges even before the holidays. Turnover and safety issues have been a top-of-mind headache while trying to keep up with ever-growing volume increases. This holiday season alone, the U.S. Postal Service is planning to hire 28,000 seasonal employees, while UPS Inc. is looking for 100,000 temporary workers

But what if you could get more out of your existing labor, not by having your associates work harder, but by having them work smarter? AI-powered parcel sorting solutions like the AmbiSort A-Series system enables that for global shippers like Pitney Bowes. 

Before solutions from Ambi Robotics, each warehouse package handler was tasked to pick, pack, and place items via a manual vertical putwall. With AmbiSort systems, robot operators now work alongside 3 to 4 automated horizontal putwalls with even more mailsack final mile destinations. That increased each associate’s productivity and output up to four times manual processes, with even greater sack density to the last mile.   

That can reduce the need for extra holiday helping hands while simultaneously and noticeably reducing overall drag on your incumbent human workforce. AmbiSort A-Series parcel sorting systems even allowed Pitney Bowes to create a new category of work with significant higher pay than the former parcel-handling roles. This new class of warehouse work helps drive retention all year round.

Are you making the most of your physical space?

To handle holiday volume, the USPS is augmenting space shortages at its existing facilities by leasing 8.5 million square feet of peak season annexes and processing facilities. That’s not a realistic option for many shippers, hemmed in by cost constraints and legacy facilities.

So the solution is to make the most of your throughput per square foot. For that, finding process sortation experts that can supply more than just hardware is vital. Your vendor should meet you at your pain points, not just their sales points. That means offering ongoing service, not just selling an off-the-shelf product.

That’s part of what Ambi Robotics does with Pitney Bowes and other customers. We’re helping them develop how their warehouses can function more efficiently, and in the process, they’re unlocking greater throughput per square foot. We can also help you rethink your processes and redesign procedures around automation tech with flexible solutions that fit inside your existing footprint and alongside your current equipment. 

Deployment in your facility should be just the start of your client-vendor relationship, not the culmination of it.

This has been done. Now, it’s your turn.

Ready to handle more and sleigh this peak season? We are. Ambi Robotics is ready to analyze your existing workflow and build high-performance solutions that fit your needs, space, and budget with immediate ROI. Contact us for a free design consultation, and we‘ll outline a solution that meets your exact needs.