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Automated Solutions for the Retail Industry

Logistics solutions in the retail industry, and perhaps especially for ecommerce, have to be modular, flexible, and scalable enough to meet sometimes volatile consumer demand. The need to meet seasonal challenges — demand spikes around the holidays, weather-related events, and back-to-school — are challenging even though they’re expected.

When demands are sudden, unpredictable, and extreme — such as the demand seen in the early days of the COVID pandemic, when store shelves were bare of everything from hand sanitizer and bottled water to household cleaners and toilet paper — meeting them can strain the entire supply chain.

At PeakLogix, we’re a brand agnostic material handling systems integrator that specializes in innovative, bespoke automated solutions. Through our partnership, we can increase the consistency and efficiency throughout your distribution processes. We deliver customized solutions tailored to our partner’s needs that address issues ranging from ergonomics and employee safety to fully automated warehousing solutions.

Fulfillment challenges for the retail industry

Meeting customer demands for faster deliveries and more variety

The consumer shift to ecommerce has strained the supply chain in a number ways, not least as an increased demand from consumers for more variety and faster, more dependable deliveries. Ecommerce has allowed people living in Alaska, perhaps anticipating an upcoming trip to the Bahamas, to buy sandals in winter. And big data analytics allows companies to anticipate that seemingly random need so that those sandals can be staged in a warehouse near enough to the consumer that they get their sandals on time.

But that timeliness of delivery is just as critical to the consumer experience as the access to more variety. If someone orders a product and is told at checkout that it will arrive by a certain date, it had better get there on time. Nearly 70% of consumers report being much less likely to give a store repeat business after a late delivery. Sandals purchased for a trip from Alaska to the Bahamas won’t do the consumer any good if the sandals arrive after the consumer has left for their trip!

Shipping challenges, including last-mile delivery for ecommerce

Consumers expect their goods to be delivered on time, but the challenges especially in residential delivery are enormous. The average residential delivery is more than 3 times less efficient than a commercial delivery — there are fewer parcels at each stop, the stops are farther apart, and they create issues such as misdeliveries and theft.

Simple fixes — like properly labeled boxes and efficiently packed boxes — can both lower freight charges and increase delivery accuracy. Especially at a time when shipping freight carriers are working beyond their capacity, and are raising rates, this is an important piece of the ecommerce puzzle.

Supply chain disruptions

The supply chain disruptions seen in the wake of COVID-19 highlighted the fragility of a system that had become overly focused on Just-In-Time logistics. Shelves in major big-box stores were left bare, major online retailers canceled orders, and people struggled to find even basic necessities The solutions were simple to conceive, and yet are challenging to implement. Companies need to store more goods on-shore, near the end consumer — which means having the storage capacity to maintain a buffer inventory, as well as the visibility to track items throughout the supply chain. Companies must be able to respond to the need for social distancing when outbreaks occur. In short, the supply chain needs to be more flexible and resilient.

The good news is that the solutions are already here. All that’s needed is the right planning and systems integration.

Facility challenges for the retail industry

Lack of warehouse space and limited storage capacity in current warehouse

Grade-A warehouse space — space that offers the lowest cost of ownership by maximizing capacity, efficiency, and other key metrics — is increasingly scarce, and the problem isn’t going away. Analysts predict that ecommerce retail will need an additional billion square feet of warehouse space by 2025. The obvious solution — building new, modernized warehouses — is made complicated by a lack of prime locations and recent increases in both the real estate market and construction.

With greenfield projects less financially viable than in the past, companies are looking at innovative solutions that increase their current warehouse capacity and maximize efficiencies, without adding to their facility’s existing footprint. Transitioning to denser storage solutions, maximizing use of their vertical space, and using smart robotics are all ways to gain efficiencies at relatively little cost.

Insufficient fulfillment capacity

The shift to ecommerce has created an increased need for fulfillment capacity even in traditional retailers with big-box sites. The need to meet consumers where they are at — in store, online, or even on their phone in your parking lot expecting near-immediate curbside delivery — means that retailers of all stripes have to be able to meet fulfillment needs in an omnichannel environment.

Doing so while remaining profitable means delivering more orders, of mixed types, to more locations. Ecommerce stores have to be able to sort, pick, and ship many individual pieces many times an hour. Traditional stores also have to meet those needs, while still delivering pallet loads to their store fronts. This requires an efficiency in planning and processing that only machine learning and AI-enabled tools can meet.

Effective inventory management

Another way for omnichannel retailers to find capacity, on top of simply adding more space or increasing storage density in existing space, is to increase their inventory management. First, conduct audits to find obsolete items and have a plan to deal with them. Then, track items as they move through the facility. Do an ABC analysis, store goods so they’re easily batched, and look for ways to improve your processes.

A thorough analysis will find root causes to bottlenecks that can be addressed. And strategic planning with an experienced material handling partner can help solve those bottlenecks in ways that don’t lead to unintended consequences and more issues, and that help set companies up for later growth. Especially for ecommerce stores, implementing modular strategies, like Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) and Horizontal Carousels, can store items in the densest possible configurations in spaces that are often underutilized.

Inefficient order picking

Once you’ve rid yourself of obsolete items and ensured that your storage is at capacity, you should look at your put away and order picking processes. Fast moving items can be cross docked or staged close to the shipping and receiving department. Other items should be grouped so that their location speeds the picking process.

Cost efficient solutions, like pick-to-voice and pick-to-light, are easily implemented and can increase your personnel’s speed and accuracy. More fully automated solutions, like sortation conveyors, VLMs, or Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RSs), can reduce the need for personnel but take substantial planning and capital.

Modular solutions like Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are cost efficient solutions that can be deployed relatively quickly. A return on investment can be realized with just a few models deployed, and yet they’re robust enough to act as the primary movers even in high throughput facilities. Robotics as a Service further lowers the barriers to automation integration by allowing you to pay for the cost of the services you need instead of the units, while shifting repairs and maintenance to the service’s supplier.

Important considerations when evaluating a systems integration partner for the retail industry

Are they consultative?

When partnering with a systems integrator, one of the risks retailers face is trying to work with a partner that promises more than they can deliver. The integration partner smiles through consultations and then, behind the scenes, desperately tries to invent the technology they need to deliver on their promises. They miss deadline after deadline until their client reaches a point of no return – they’re willing to justify their costs by seeing any kind of benefit from their investment. Even if those benefits are well below what was originally planned and agreed to.

PeakLogix is not that kind of partner. We are fully consultative, and prioritize your goals and needs. We undertake a thorough discovery process so that we understand both the roadblocks you face now and the goals you have for the future. Our solutions are designed to help you move past your roadblocks, and scale with your business growth. We don’t offer solutions in a top-down fashion that refuses input and denies questions, but collaborate with you and provide the recommendations we believe will best suit your needs.

Are they vendor agnostic?

Vendor agnostic solutions providers like PeakLogix don’t push their favorite suppliers onto their customers. Instead, we work with our suppliers to find and test the applications for which their product is the best fit. We don’t pitch untested products as viable solutions, but rather look for the best solution that already has a track record of solid performance.

Being open to integrating the best solutions on the market — regardless of their manufacturer — means we can truly optimize solutions for our clients, and quickly adjust to changing demands.

Do they develop tailored solutions for your unique challenges?

Being a consultative, vendor agnostic firm means that we look at every project with fresh eyes. Yes, we have decades of experience that inform our decisions and help us quickly find solutions to problems — but we don’t try to force the same solution on every client.

Instead, we work with our clients to discover both their pain points and goals. And our approach often leads to two positive outcomes. First, the discovery of unknown root causes to problems that allow us to address systemic issues with solutions of a customized design. And second, the application of scalable solutions that will both meet today’s challenges, and scale in ways the company needs to meet its future goals.

Can they scale to your needs?

The changing urban landscape, an aging workforce, the large-scale adoption of ecommerce, and the increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning have created challenges and brought opportunities that are continuing to change industries in every sector. Businesses need solutions that are more responsive than ever, with the ability to scale both up and down to meet a company’s growth as well as periodic changes in demand.

PeakLogix has been solving the material-handling needs of companies of every size, and in many industries, for over 30 years. We are dedicated to our own continuous improvement because we know that designing systems that will adapt to your changing business needs means being knowledgeable about changes in the industry. By offering adaptive solutions where appropriate, we bring added value to our partners.

Are they available when you need them?

PeakLogix started in 1989 as a material handling and systems integrator serving clients across the Mid-Atlantic. Over the past 30 years, we’ve completed thousands of successful projects and have grown to become a thought leader in the industry and a national provider of innovative solutions, software systems, and automated technologies.

From the beginning of our working relationships with clients, our team works to discover your goals and challenges. We collaborate with you to develop solutions that meet your needs today and also lay the groundwork for your future growth. When your project is complete, we offer services including 24/7 system support, operator training, and maintenance and repairs.

At PeakLogix, our partnerships are our priority.

What logistics, automation, and distribution solutions should you consider for your retail operations?

WMS Software (ScottTech PickPro®)

ScottTech PickPro® is our proprietary Warehouse Management Software (WMS). It’s a fully independent, system-agnostic, web-based software solution that can control all aspects of distribution, and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the retail industry.

ScottTech PickPro® can serve as a standalone solution, or integrate with your ERP. It can incorporate AS/RS equipment and all the peripherals, track and manage inventory of both parts and goods, and layer seamlessly with your software architecture to provide granular feedback on, and control of, your operations.

Pick Modules

Pick modules use pallet or carton flow racks to push eaches, cartons, totes, or containers through a facility. PeakLogix integrates a variety of pick modules that can be tailored to your facility’s needs.

Pick modules can allow operators to pick small parts quickly and reliably, increasing speed and accuracy in assembly, manufacturing, or distribution processes.

Horizontal Carousels

Horizontal Carousels are a cost-effective way to quickly add storage capacity and increase put away and retrieval accuracy and efficiency. They are ideal for high throughput facilities and high speed picking, and can increase storage density by up to 75%.

Horizontal Carousels are generally arranged into pods or zones. Multiple carousels in a pod can create variable access points to create an efficient, worker-friendly layout that can triple average pick rates.

Pick to Light

Pick-to-light is a cost-effective solution that streamlines warehouse picking operations and increases picking speed, accuracy, and productivity. Especially in omnichannel fulfillment centers, pick-to-light solutions enable the reliable processing of high numbers of SKUs, while increasing efficiency.

Pick-to-light solutions are often a good entry point for a warehouse’s automation transformation. They can work as standalone systems, or integrate with Warehouse Management Software, enabling them to easily scale with a company’s growth.

Print and Apply

Print and apply labeling reduces the number of touches, labor, and costs associated with shipping processes, improving shipping accuracy and warehouse throughput. Print and apply allows a facility to process hundreds or even thousands of packages an hour, all with accurate weight, measurements, and freight costs.

Shipping manifestos and labels can be automatically printed and applied to a variety of packaging materials, shapes, and sizes. They can be combined with accumulation conveyors and other automation to further increase shipping efficiencies.

Robotic Palletizers

Robotic palletizing increases the accuracy, consistency, and efficiency of palletizing operations. This not only increases throughput, but also lowers shipping fees and optimizes the use of space in a warehouse by palletizing items more compactly.

Automation can eliminate, or at least reduce, the manual labor associated with palletizing, freeing that labor to move on to more value-adding and rewarding tasks. With the right end-of-arm tool, they can handle everything from the heaviest boxes and pails to the thinnest slip sheets and dunnage.


Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RSs) optimize productivity and operational throughput through the combination of data-driven optimization, warehouse management software, and labor reallocation. Especially in ecommerce, the manual storage and retrieval of small pieces can drain a facility’s profitability. By automating this non-value-adding task, companies can increase both profitability and employee morale.

Any business that deals with the movement and storage of physical goods needs fast, accurate, and efficient storage and retrieval systems. AS/RSs integrate with a facility’s WMS to allow for increased throughput in decanting, reracking, and conveyance of goods; expanded floorspace through the maximization of vertical storage; reduced or avoided capital expenses related to expansions and reallocations; and lowered labor costs.


Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) enhance productivity and workflow in both manufacturing and distribution facilities. AGVs help streamline processes, decrease delays, and move heavy, bulky materials efficiently and safely.

Guided vehicles use a number of navigational methods, tailored to your facility’s needs. They can be customized and programmed to follow the paths in a facility that are safest for staff and most efficient. They can be an integral part of a facility’s material handling and also programmed for complementary tasks such as trash collection or other housekeeping tasks.

Vertical Lift Modules

Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) are ideal for expanding a facility’s footprint by maximizing vertical storage while also improving throughput rates and reducing labor costs. Vertical lift modules can be ideal for small parts and pieces, as they use inserters and extractors to automatically move trays of goods in and out of compact storage. They can also work with cases, totes, and large items.

VLMs provide user-level access for restricted goods, have basic user controls, and integrate with existing software management systems. Because of their small footprint, they optimize vertical space while freeing up valuable floor space.

Advance your retail operations.

Schedule a consultation.

Tell us about your needs and we’ll have someone contact you to talk about the various automated material handling solutions for your retail operations.