Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle-based lifestyle retailer evo faced several challenges in responding to the growth in e-commerce demand. They included the difficulty in finding temporary and seasonal workers, as well as the need to improve productivity in its order-fulfillment operations. Körber and Locus Robotics ultimately helped evo with a multi-robot solution.
“The automation solution from Locus Robotics and Körber was one of the first technologies that I have seen come into the warehouse where the team was excited from the get-go,” said Chris Christiansen, outbound manager at evo. “The improvement of speed and efficiency is impressive, allowing us to boost productivity and efficiency ahead of the 2020 holiday season while keeping our workers safe amid COVID-19 concerns. We are also well-equipped with the flexibility to scale up and down on a robots-as-a-service [RaaS] principle.”
evo has grown from an online-only retailer to open stores in Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Denver; and Whistler, British Columbia. The company said all it locations showcase its trademark blend of sport, culture, art, retail and service.
Körber deploys Locus robots
The rapid growth in demand pushed during the pandemic as well as peak seasons pushed evo to the limits of its capacity. In addition, the company had to consider COVID-related safety and social-distancing guidelines while designing its work processes.
evo turned to Körber, a trusted supply chain partner since 2014. Körber had already delivered its warehouse management system (WMS) and would now provide autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) with longtime strategic partner Locus Robotics for the required flexibility and efficiency.
Locus said its AMRs can collaborate with humans to double or triple piece-handling productivity with less labor than traditional picking systems. The company said retailers, third-party logistics providers (3PLs), and specialty warehouses can easily integrate LocusBots without disrupting workflows.
Körber and Locus said they implemented the mobile robots and software at evo in just 53 days. This allowed the company to be ready to meet and exceed growing order volumes with zero downtime or disruption. The project started with 10 robots that move independently through the warehouse, supporting pickers by eliminating unproductive walking time and physical labor.
In addition, Locus said its visual imaging of the products to be picked helped accelerate pick rates. To support peak season, evo added seven more robots through Locus' RaaS model for expected higher volumes at the facility. Everything is managed via Kӧrber’s WMS.
Picking up speed at evo
The deployment has increased workers’ picking speeds from an average of 35 units per hour (UPH) with manual carts to 90 UPH with LocusBots. Some workers topped 125 UPH, an increase of more than 157%.
“We are proud to partner with Körber to deploy our powerful and efficient multi-bot solution to support evo’s warehouse operations,” said Rick Faulk, CEO of Locus Robotics. “Our purpose-built robotics solution has seamlessly addressed the needs of evo’s high-growth warehouse, now and into the future. We look forward to continuing to work with them to drive operational efficiencies and growth.”
“The supply chain industry is dealing with multiple challenges, especially in times of disruption,” said Bill Ryan, CEO of software North America at Körber Business Area Supply Chain. “In today’s world with increasing complexity, we’re looking to technology to solve these problems. With the new AMR solution, which we were able to deploy with our partner in record time, evo is able to increase performance while providing a safe and smart working environment for the staff.”