A conversation with our Major e-Retail Fulfillment Center Startup Manager
“I was tasked with converting some buildings at three different locations from static shelving to a robotics system. All these static shelves that could have a robot pick them up and move them around, we set them up in a static configuration. When the time came to install all the robotics, we had thousands of pods per site.In one of the buildings, we had to go to up two floors. In two of the buildings, we had to go two, three, four levels up with the pods.
When you install, you basically have to shut down operations to convert from static to robotic. Every hour a building’s down costs $$$, so we had to get all three moves done in 48-hours. A vendor came in to bid and I gave him all the criteria. They proposed a solution in which they’d fabricate this giant platform out of steel, pull 18 pods at a time, then lift those up to the different levels.
The vendor thought their solution was a brilliant idea. I was like, ‘I don’t think this is going to work.’ But there was some internal urging to use this vendor, so we went ahead and built this platform, which wasn’t cheap.
Eric with NPSG happened to be there on other tasks while all this was going on and said right away, ‘You need more than one pickup area because if that goes down, you’re screwed.’
We ran a test, and yeah, it completely failed.
At this point you’d think the vendor would start thinking of alternative solutions, but they were trying to stick with this one. Eric and I spent hours whiteboarding a solution and staffing concept based on the number of pods, after which I asked him, ‘Hey, can you do this for all three sites?’
He’s like, ‘Yeah, I got this.’
Despite the influence to use the first vendor, I went with NPSG because I trusted what they were going to do. My bosses were basically like, ‘Just to let you know, if any one of these three sites fail, you’re fired.’
NPSG ended up getting the job AND costing less.
The second facility went even smoother than the first, partly because NPSG took on part of another vendor’s workload when they couldn’t keep up. These were 24-hour operations, and the other guys just tapped out.
Eric predicted it, and NPSG had a contingency plan already in place. The third site we knocked out well under the 48-hour limit.