Twin channel sortation solution for leading Japanese fashion retailer

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This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: Twin channel sortation solution for leading Japanese fashion retailer.

United Arrows, one of Japan’s leading fashion retail brands, has seen a significant increase in the efficiency of the order sortation process at its Tokyo distribution hub following the introduction of a mobile robot-based sorting system supplied and installed by LiBiao Robotics.

Since the company opened its first store back in 1989, United Arrows’ stylish range of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing has established a loyal following among Japan’s trend-conscious shoppers. Indeed, such has been the retailer’s success that it now has a portfolio of close to 300 outlets, while online sales are growing rapidly.

The Tokyo hub is one of two distribution centres that support United Arrows’ multi-channel operations in Japan. At each site replenishment stock is processed for next-day delivery to stores while online orders are also picked, packed and dispatched directly to those customers who prefer to shop via the company’s website.

To ensure that shoppers who visit one of United Arrows’ stores have the best chance of finding the items they are looking for in the right size, the company aims to deliver replenishment stock to every one of its retail sites before their doors open each morning and the first customers of the day arrive.

And, with today’s online customers demanding rapid delivery, internet orders are picked within a matter of hours after being placed to ensure the speediest fulfilment time.

Meeting such demanding twin-channel order processing targets requires the most efficient and reliable intralogistics processes and technologies which is why, when assessing the various order sortation solutions on the market, United Arrows chose to install LiBiao’s ‘T-Sort’ system.

With ‘T-Sort’ LiBiao’s iconic ‘Mini Yellow’ autonomous mobile robots are guided by integrated control software as they travel on a raised operating platform constructed within the Tokyo distribution facility’s sorting zone.

Before the arrival of the Libiao ‘T-Sort’ system warehouse personnel had to scan each item individually and cross-check that the details and instructions corresponded with the information given on the waybill of every order. 

Now, an operative simply places a picked item on to a Mini Yellow robot at the induction station and RFID scanning software allocates the correct destination and directs the robot there using the shortest, safest route.

‘T-Sort’ is quick and easy to install and delivers future proof flexibility. If required, it can be easily relocated – so if, at some point in the future, United Arrows decide to reconfigure the sorting process they can do so with very little disruption to the business. 

Furthermore, should the number of orders processed at the Tokyo facility go up additional robots, as well as induction points and divert chutes, can be added as required. Of course, should volume fall, robots can be withdrawn and ‘mothballed’ until they are needed again. Thus, optimum efficiency is maintained and the lowest running costs are achieved at all times.

The T-Sort has been exceptionally well received by both management and staff at United Arrows. Yohei Uno, the company’s supply chain manager, comments: “The robots handle our order sortation seamlessly and have turned what was a very hectic and labour intensive part of our operation into a calm and controlled task. Our workers love the robots. Watching them go about their work is almost hypnotic and I even heard one colleague refer to the ‘Mini Yellows’ as ‘cute!’”

In Spring 2024 LiBiao’s range of autonomous sortation robots will be on display at two important European trade fairs. Logistics professionals can discover the many ways that LiBiao technology can benefit their business by visiting the company’s stands at Intralogistex (Birmingham, UK, March 19-20) and Logimat (Stuttgart, Germany, March 19-21).

LiBiao Robotics’ European headquarters is in Frankfurt, Germany.

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