Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) System Optimizes E-Commerce Order Fulfillment for 3PL Provider, Radial

US-headquartered Radial is a large, globally operating third-party service provider that offers its customers – primarily from the world of fashion – a comprehensive e-commerce fulfilment service. The services range from order processing and dispatch to invoicing.

It operates seven e-commerce fulfilment centres across Europe including the site in Groningen. Radial Europe’s ambition to respond to every customer requirement and remain a leader led to its selection of an innovative bin-to-picker AMR solution from Dematic.

“We can fulfil every customer requirement. They simply tell us what needs to be done and we can do it. Automation helps us tremendously with this.”

Ron Kleinsmit, warehouse manager at Radial Europe in Groningen

Too slow, too far, too manual

Not long ago, Radial Europe concluded its manual distribution centre at its Ommen location in the eastern Netherlands was no longer able to cope with the growing demands of the e-commerce business boom. Specifically, it needed a direct-to-consumer solution to fulfil orders for fashion items.

To survive the highly competitive business demands in the fashion industry, an absolute focus on the consumer is essential. In addition to being on time and delivering orders containing every item purchased, it also requires keeping late closing times so that consumers can order well into the night and still receive their purchases the next day.

The e-commerce fulfilment provider was facing challenges in terms of high-volume volatility with numerous stockkeeping units (SKUs) as well as having an assortment of items to coordinate. Managing these aspects ultimately contributes to a positive shopping experience that enhances the credibility and reputation of the brand – in this case, a major player in the clothing retail industry.

“One of our customers has a high product turnover and every Wednesday there is a new product launch with lots of SKUs changing, and when one runs out, it is usually not replenished. We need to be able to manage a huge number of SKUs, and during sales periods, some items that did not sell well in the past are in demand again, which we also need to consider.”

Ruben Tiben van Stuijvenberg, an operations manager at Radial Europe

The shelving warehouse totals nearly 40,000 bin locations for boxed goods with a customer product range of around 20,000 constantly changing SKUs. As a result, the storage area was rapidly sprawling with picking routes up to two kilometres long, and the pickers needed nearly two hours to complete their routes.

Thus, the solution Radial sought had to respond to several requirements: a reduction in storage space, maximisation of storage density, shortened turnaround times, an increase in picking productivity and an improvement in handling bulky goods. The company opted to build an automated facility at a new location in Groningen, roughly 86 kilometres (50 miles) further north.

Details about the operation

  • 50 D600 Base AMR vehicles to move pallets and bulky material on tables as well as order totes on a shelf
  • 205 D30 Bin Mover AMR vehicles 
  • 44 D50 Bin Lifter AMR vehicles for storage in high-bay rack 
  • 10 Bin-to-Picker order picking stations
  • 10 decant stations
  • 36 packing stations
  • 88 shelves
  • 675 pallet tables

Re-envisioning the picking process with robotics

Given Dematic’s leading industry expertise and strategic partnership with Quicktron Robotics, Radial quickly understood the operational impact the Dematic solution – incorporating nearly 300 autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) – would deliver to its operations.

A critical component of the Dematic solution was the design of a process where goods are transported to the person instead of having a person move to the goods, which was eating up too much precious time and increased the potential for missed orders.

One of the outstanding features of the installed solution is the development of a goods-to-person process handled entirely by AMRs instead of static conveyor technology. Specialised robots are responsible for a variety of tasks and work together as an integrated solution between hardware and software managed by Dematic Software. The system can easily be expanded relatively quickly and cost effectively using additional racks and robots with minimal disruption to warehouse operations.

Another unique aspect involves the introduction of hybrid picking stations. An employee receives totes and pallet cartons and can process several customer orders at once in a put station. Many smart functions have also been integrated in the flow of goods. When the last item is removed from a bin, the system always asks whether the bin is completely empty and if not, it creates a counting cycle so that the quality can be adjusted.

Customer benefits

  • Flexible and scalable automation solution that can be easily customised and expanded
  • Redundant system
  • 4 times higher picking performance
  • 1.5 times higher packing performance
  • Higher picking accuracy thanks to the changeover to the goods-to-person principle
  • Improved working conditions
  • Multi-client capable solution with additional software functions
  • Low energy consumption

Mission accomplished

Following ramp-up and commissioning phases in 2023, the results of the automation solution are now apparent. Picking performance has quadrupled and packing performance is around one-and-a-half times higher than before. Meanwhile, the error rate has significantly dropped, which is clearly due to the elimination of the long walking routes. The robots now manage the task, allowing order pickers to focus on more productive daily tasks.

According to Ron Kleinsmit, warehouse manager at Radial in Groningen, the Dematic Bin-to-Picker AMR solution has led to improved operational efficiencies and the screen-controlled workstations have added convenience. They are intuitive to use, and have an ergonomic design, providing benefits to the humans at the new facility.

“We are now in a stronger position where we can fulfil every requirement a customer has. They simply tell us what they want to have happen and we can do it. Automation has proven to be a tremendous help in achieving the goals we had from the start!” beams Kleinsmit.

Radial Europe 360-AMR Panorama

Check out the 360-degree panoramas at Radial Europe to capture the full variety of the AMR installation.

About Radial Europe

Radial Europe, part of the Belgian bpostgroup, is one of the leading B2C e-commerce fulfilment solution providers supporting health & beauty as
well as well-known fashion brands such as Express, doTERRA, Calvin Klein, Cole Haan, Gymshark, Lucky Brand, TaylorMade, and Tommy Hilfiger. It is a member of the global network of distribution centers belonging to US-based Radial Inc, which offers a comprehensive suite of e-commerce fulfillment solutions designed to help businesses optimize their order fulfillment process. With 35+ e-commerce fulfilment centres across Europe and the US, it offers customised 3PL storage and operations, quick and cost-effective order delivery, seamless integration, real-time end-to-end order visibility and business intelligence.

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