Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

UPS and Softeon make warehouses smarter

Steve Rogerson
May 5, 2020



UPS is introducing warehouse network technology to make distribution centres smarter and more efficient. The technology was created by Virginia-based Softeon.
 
The WES warehouse execution system will enable faster order intake and fulfilment to ensure that users, especially those with fluctuating order patterns, receive their products on time.
 
UPS and supply chain technology provider Softeon created the WES which allows UPS to define specific customer requirements to ensure highest priority orders are worked first without manual intervention, resulting in more than 50% productivity gains for some users.
 
“WES enables UPS to better leverage our global warehouse network and integrated technology to help our customers reduce capital, improve service and speed to end customers,” said Philippe Gilbert, UPS president of supply chain technology. “We also can create more custom and turnkey outsourced fulfilment services to meet our customers’ unique supply chain needs.”
 
To meet the growing and ever-changing demands, supply chain operators are leveraging more sophisticated and complex warehouse technologies that can handle higher volumes with greater fluctuations. The WES’s real-time monitoring of capacity, fulfilment requirements, backlogs and labour status allows UPS to identify and resolve potential disruptions before they arise. With companies experiencing labour scarcity and ecommerce-driven pressure for faster fulfilment, UPS says it is making outsourced fulfilment a competitive advantage for its customers.
 
The WES implementation is part of UPS’s on-going efforts to modernise warehouse operations by leveraging autonomous capabilities. UPS is deploying autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in several of its facilities and piloting AMRs from Locus Robotics, which receive instruction from the WES to pick up and transport goods for order consolidation and pack out by UPS employees.
 
The system dynamically dispatches order fulfilment activity and continuously balances inventory flow, which allows UPS engineers and operators to synchronise the use of labour and equipment.
 
Other investments in warehouse technology include autonomous guided vehicles, automated sorting systems and other automation technologies. UPS also plans to launch a visibility and reporting platform that will enable its customers to monitor and track end-to-end supply chain activity and performance, from transportation to warehouse inventory to order volume all in one platform.
 
“Our investments in technology support operational improvements that enable UPS to improve service for our customers,” said Gilbert. “The WES, AMRs and other technologies allow us to create more customisation that better serves customers and improves the end-user experience.”