Apparel Logistics: Reducing Downtime, Increasing Efficiency

Apparel Logistics: Reducing Downtime, Increasing Efficiency

Today we have simple items that we’ve been using for years, even decades. 

 However, with the frantic pace of life and a never-ending list of things to do, we need and expect these common devices to do more.  Phones need to receive email, play music and surf the internet. You need one jacket to handle a variety of weather conditions.  Your car needs to be powerful and efficient while being roomy and sporty at the same time.  Technology has made all of these multi-tasking combinations possible.  Heritage conveyor and sortation systems for apparel and fulfillment are no exception. 

The pressure of meeting cost and time demands on distribution centers stems from a growing direct-to-consumer market.  While overall fulfillment operations are being put to the test on a daily basis, the swift pace of technology is making it possible for a facility’s main circulation system to meet these new demands.  The expectation of same-day, next-day and two-day delivery options coupled with different packaging, like bags and envelopes of varying dimensions, can overwhelm sortation systems designed for totes and cartons.  Accuracy issues, error rates and downtime can all be addressed with these 4 tips.


1.)    Visibility: Supply chain visibility is a must in today’s high velocity market. However, visibility can be focused to a much more granular aspect.  The speed and performance of sortation systems can be monitored with real-time data.  When utilized, jams and other malfunctions can be repaired sooner, decreasing downtime.  Some consider replacing parts before their expected lifespan expires to proactively avoid breakdowns.  Remote visibility is also a useful feature.  Creating access points throughout the facility can make data more accessible.

2.)    Hardware Upgrade: Re-tooling the hardware features of a conveyor or sortation system can allow it to handle a variety of packages regardless of size, weight or dimension.  While this may not increase speed, it can reduce problems and increase accuracy.

3.)    Software Upgrade: Upgrading or adding new software to your existing sortation infrastructure can add an element of visibility and communication.  With these new metrics and access points, problems can be avoided and efficiency can be increased.

4.)    Speed: Traditionally, a system is set to a desired speed, often the fastest possible.  Now, automatic speed controls are available for conveyor and sortation systems.  Because very few, if any, systems need to run at full speed at every second of every day, this technology can adjust the speed based on the volume of items.  This is another element that can reduce cost in terms of energy and maintenance.

While a single software enhancement won’t increase speed, it can provide visibility; and a new hardware implementation won’t increase speed, but it can improve your uptime.  Combining physical and internal upgrades can help this major component of your distribution perform better. 

The demands and challenges posed by e-commerce and direct-to-consumer fulfillment will continue to increase.  Preparing your supply chain to meet and exceed these expectations will be a crucial differentiator.  Barrett Distribution, through technology and supply chain strategy, can develop custom solutions for the apparel industry.

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