From Scan to Ship: The Role of SLAM in Modern Warehouses

SLAM automation
From Scan to Ship: The Role of SLAM in Modern Warehouses

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The last 100 feet refers to the final steps within a warehouse or fulfillment center where an order is processed, packaged, and prepared for shipment. Ensuring accuracy, efficiency, and speed in this phase is vital to meeting customer expectations and maintaining a competitive edge. Amazon has perfected this phase with their SLAM (Scan, Label, Apply, Manifest) automation system, setting a benchmark for the industry.  

SLAM ensures that each package is accurately processed, labeled, and prepared for swift delivery, significantly enhancing operational efficiency. This system is essential for meeting high customer expectations and maintaining competitiveness. In this blog, we’ll explore the intricacies of SLAM automation, its key processes, implementation challenges, and future trends. 

What is SLAM? 

SLAM stands for Scan, Label, Apply, and Manifest—key processes in the final stages of order fulfillment. Here’s a closer look at each component: 

  • Scan: Capturing essential data by reading barcodes or RFID tags. Advanced scanning technologies can read multiple codes simultaneously and from various angles, increasing throughput and reducing manual handling time. 
  • Label: Printing and applying labels with shipping information and handling instructions. High-quality labels ensure readability throughout shipping. Modern printers adjust resolution dynamically for clear barcodes and text. 
  • Apply: Automation ensures labels and documents are affixed correctly to packages, minimizing errors and speeding up the process. Robotic arms with vision systems can precisely place labels even on irregular packages. 
  • Manifest: Documenting and verifying package contents for shipping and tracking. Automated systems integrate with carrier APIs to generate shipping labels and update tracking information in real time. 

“SLAM involves print on demand products for the last 100 feet and full systems that handle scanning, labeling, applying necessary documents, and manifesting shipments. It starts with putting items into a box or bag, either manually or with automatic bagging machines. You also need to check weight and dimensions and include necessary documentation either inside or on the box.”

– Steve Pickfield, Chief Commercial Officer, PSI Engineering

Key Processes in SLAM 

SLAM involves several essential processes that can be enhanced with automation: 

  • Dimensioning and Weight Checking: Ensuring accurate package dimensions and weight to meet shipping requirements and avoid additional costs. Automated systems use laser or camera-based technology to measure packages instantly. 
  • Document Printing and Insertion: On-demand printing and insertion of necessary documents enhance compliance and customer satisfaction. High-speed printers can produce packing slips, invoices, and return labels in a single pass. 
  • Box Closing and Dunnage: Securely closing packages and adding padding to prevent damage during transit. Automated systems select the appropriate box size, apply the right amount of dunnage, and seal the package securely. 
  • Final Sorting and Shipping: Efficient sorting based on destination and carrier ensures timely deliveries. Automated sorting systems can handle thousands of packages per hour, optimizing routing and minimizing transit times. 

Why SLAM Automation is Essential for eCommerce 

SLAM automation addresses several key challenges in eCommerce fulfillment and offers significant advantages: 

  • Efficiency: Automating repetitive tasks reduces processing time, leading to faster order fulfillment. Automated label applicators can process hundreds of packages per hour. 
  • Accuracy: Automation significantly reduces human errors in labeling and documentation, ensuring correct deliveries. 
  • Cost Savings: Streamlined operations cut labor costs and reduce costs associated with errors and rework. Investments in SLAM automation can yield ROI within 12-18 months. 
  • Improved Customer Satisfaction: Quick, accurate fulfillment improves customer experiences, crucial for retention and positive reviews. 

“You automate your SLAM area. You’re virtually eliminating errors. And that’s a big part because you do not want, the wrong products going to the wrong customers.”

– Steve Pickfield, Chief Commercial Officer, PSI Engineering

Overcoming Challenges in SLAM Automation 

Implementing SLAM automation involves overcoming several challenges, such as: 

  • Integration: Seamless integration with existing WMS is crucial for real-time data accuracy and operational efficiency. Middleware solutions can bridge compatibility gaps. 
  • Scalability: Solutions must handle increasing volumes, from hundreds to thousands of packages daily. Modular systems allow businesses to start small and scale up as demand increases. 
  • Customization: Flexible systems meet the unique requirements of various products and clients. Customizable workflows accommodate special packaging instructions, labeling needs, and documentation requirements. 
  • Cost Management: Careful planning and balancing investment costs with expected ROI are essential. Financing options, leasing equipment, and phased implementation strategies can help manage costs. 
  • Training and Change Management: Comprehensive training and effective change management strategies are vital for smooth implementation and adoption. 

Steps to Implement SLAM Automation 

To implement SLAM automation effectively, follow these steps: 

  1. Assessment: Conduct a thorough assessment of current operations to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
  2. Define Objectives: Set clear goals for SLAM automation, such as reducing error rates or increasing throughput.  
  3. Select Technology: Choose technologies that align with operational needs, including scanners, label printers, and automated packing systems. 
  4. Integration: Ensure seamless integration with your existing WMS for smooth data flow and efficiency. 
  5. Pilot Testing: Run pilot tests to identify and resolve issues before full-scale implementation. 
  6. Training: Provide comprehensive training to ensure smooth operation and troubleshooting. 
  7. Full Implementation: Roll out the system across operations, monitoring closely to meet objectives. 
  8. Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and optimize SLAM processes and technology to stay ahead of the curve. 

“It does start with an assessment, right? And assessing, what areas, where are your true bottlenecks? Where are most of your costs going? Where are your error rates?” –

– Steve Pickfield, Chief Commercial Officer, PSI Engineering 

Streamline Your Final Fulfillment Steps with SLAM 

Adopting SLAM automation can significantly transform the last 100 feet of your eCommerce fulfillment process. It enhances accuracy, efficiency, and cost savings by addressing common challenges such as labeling errors, inefficient packing processes, and high labor costs. 

For businesses looking to stay competitive in the rapidly evolving eCommerce landscape, implementing SLAM automation is a strategic move. It ensures timely and accurate deliveries, boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Are you ready to revolutionize your fulfillment operations with the right automation? Connect with our team of experts to explore customized strategies that will help you optimize your processes and achieve operational excellence. 

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From Scan to Ship: The Role of SLAM in Modern Warehouses

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