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, Case Study: Automated eCommerce Shipping Fulfillment

This article was transcribed from a video case study with First Mile eCommerce Shipping Fulfillment.

It includes conversations with: Adam Dior, Scott Riddle, and Shane Potter.


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From Adam Dior Regional Manager at First Mile:

A lot of times we would get really high volumes of packages from customers and we would have to manually scan these things, and you could imagine three, four, five thousand packages from a single customer. The option to basically have a modular sort machine that was custom made to our application that allowed us to process thousands of packages per hour with minimal people. So we were able to accomplish the same thing and our ROI was like three to four months. It was fantastic.

From our HR standpoint we have saved labor, we’ve saved time, and we’ve saved on possible injuries. NPI has been a partner alongside us from day one and the cool part is they have helped design a custom machine. I talked with NPI all the time, Shane and Noah – they do a fantastic job. I’m in communication with them almost daily, weekly. Coming up with solutions, finding new ways of doing stuff improving efficiency.

Once it gets onto the main conveyor it goes through a dual camera system and a dimensionalizer and a scale. So what it’s doing is it’s verifying weights, it’s verifying the size of the package and also verifying the label on it too. As it’s on its path up to the sorting process all that information goes to our server pings the server with the correct package information in terms of the dims and weights. All that information comes back and it gets sorted correctly into the end process. It’s not just always a simple solution, it takes this kind of brainstorming and seeing – okay what is the root need of what we’re looking at and how do we come up with solution for that. NPI is really good at is zooming back and looking at the whole process and going; how do we make this better? How do we improve upon this? And so we developed stage two, and stage two included a dumper hopper included 26 outputs. It’s fantastic it’s been a really good path. NPI system basically allows us to take on larger customers that want customized solutions, and easier solutions. They can combine full product types together into one unit which is usually unheard of. Usually the customers have to sort these things. They can provide it to us, we put it on our modular sort.

We love this machine. It is generating us huge revenue, and it’s allowing us to accomplish things that in the past were just impossible to do. The NPI team is fantastic. My favorite aspect of it is they will brainstorm with you and ride along on that journey, and not just provide you a cookie cutter solution – but will actually help you design that solution.

From Scott Riddle Chief Operating Officer of First Mile:

Put a machine in this building that you’re in now right during the middle of a pandemic and saying that that’s challenging is probably an understatement. Lots of things going on, massive amount of volume moving through our network and ultimately it all worked out really well for us because without the sort machine we really wouldn’t have been able to get through the volume surge that we saw in the business at that time. it also allowed us to take advantage of a lot of opportunities that the sort machine unlocks for a company like us. Sort technology allowed us to do an awful lot of that work that we would not otherwise have been able to accomplish. It does require an investment. For us we saw an ROI on that investment, in other words we saw significant additional sales and margin gains as a result of the investment that we made and more important than that just the ability to process the volume that we had would not have been possible to do with a manual sort operation which is what we had.

We said what can we do from a technology standpoint that will allow us to expand the operation, grow the operation add complexity, but without adding a lot of additional headcount? NPI and the sort tech they have has allowed us to do that. There’s a lot of times that we’ll Call NPI and say: hey here’s what we’re trying to do how do we do this with the technology? And there’s almost always an answer to that question: “Oh well here’s how you do that.”

From Shane Potter National Service Supervisor of NPI:

We work really close with them. They’re a great customer to work with. We have a good partnership with them. One of the things I really like about First Mile as well – is that they have a very forward thinking understanding of automation. The front of the machine is a standard operation and a standard configuration. Our challenge here with First Mile was to come up with a back end solution that they could use efficiently, within the space, and also their volumes. The solution that we came up was the Xstream single shoe sorter, that allows them to process at a very high rate of speed, but also maximizes the space that they have.

We definitely take a proactive approach in that support and we want to make sure we come up with the best idea for the customer. We may see some things that the customer maybe doesn’t notice right off the bat. Us with the technical knowledge and being on site, we can provide that information to the customer, work with them, provide ideas, and in turn that seems to really have grown the relationship. Our job is to make sure that the machine is at full capacity, it’s ready for when the customer needs it. We spend a lot of time here on site not only providing on-site technical support, but also email phone communication, and we want to make sure that if any new projects come along for the customer the machine is ready and can perform optimally. As they’ve grown we’re excited to be part of their growth and part of their automation solution. I’m proud to be part of NPI’s customer success team.