Wall of Shame

How to Tame the “Wall of Shame”

The holiday shopping season is touted as the “most wonderful time of the year” by big retailers, but in fulfillment warehouses across the country, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the days that follow are more like “the nightmare before Christmas.” 

Online shoppers racked up a record $9.4 billion in sales on Cyber Monday alone, a nearly 19% increase from the previous year. And just like the old “doorbuster” days when people would camp out overnight and stampede into a department store to score deals on TVs, appliances or toys, Cyber Monday sent warehouse workers scrambling down aisles to pull items off shelves as quickly as possible to keep up with incoming orders—and more than a few mis-picks were made along the way.

Of course, record-high sales come with a corollary: record-high returns. And when a surge of products the wrong size or color or model flood back into the warehouse, productivity can grind to a halt.

Many warehouses simply take all their mis-picks and returned items and stash them away haphazardly on racks rather than spend the time and resources needed to get them back into the proper bins and update the inventory. This area is often known as the “wall of shame” or “the hospital” and can represent millions of dollars worth of inventory gathering dust.

Why are these items left untouched? For many operations, attempting to return them to the warehouse just doesn’t make sense economically, given the crush of the holiday season.

If you’re thinking “there has to be a better way,” you’re right.  One of the most powerful components of inVia’s AI-driven robotics platform is a feature called “putback.” Here’s how it works: This year’s “hot” toys were big sellers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but many got a chilly reception from children upon arrival, and now parents are sending them back in droves.  

The inVia automation system monitors all returns to the warehouse and analyzes the contents, calculating that of the 500 boxes coming back, 200 contain the same doll that wasn’t such a hit after all. Once all the boxes are opened, the system helps group those 200 dolls together in a single batch and our Picker robots carry them back to the right slot in the warehouse, and inventory data is updated to ensure all products are accurately accounted for.

Why Does it Matter?

Putback uses the power of artificial intelligence and robotics to keep your inventory visible and accurate, and it also spares your workers the tedium of performing “reverse logistics” tasks. And when you’ve tamed the “wall of shame,” you have more time and resources to allocate to new orders, which keeps the “happy” in the holidays.

To learn more about inVia’s complete warehouse automation solution, contact our sales team today.