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Automation solutions

Radial turns to AI Robotic automation to handle demand surges with more flexibility

Radial, a leading B2C eCommerce fulfillment solution provider, turned to AI Robotics to increase the efficiency and reliability of their operations during demand surges. They implemented 12 Covariant Robotic Putwalls at their Trade Port 2 facility to sort health & beauty items for one of the world’s leading retailers.

Covariant has become Radial’s trusted partner and the go-to robotic piece-picking solution for its customers.

Radial’s secret sauce: Leveraging innovation to provide a competitive edge to customers

Radial is a leading fulfillment partner for some of the world’s largest eCommerce brands, which rely on the company for omnichannel logistics solutions, including order processing, sorting, routing, and fulfillment. With many of their retail customers, it's imperative to handle demand surges such as peak season flawlessly.

Thirty years into its story, Radial is dedicated to evolving ahead of its customers’ expectations by leveraging practical applications of emerging technology to provide a competitive advantage.

Their Innovation and Engineering Solutions teams are dedicated to identifying cutting-edge technical opportunities that can be deployed across the lifecycle of an order within Radial’s eCommerce fulfillment centers.

Innovation is how we stand out to customers and meet their needs. And armed with Covariant’s solutions, we definitely stand out.
Ilaria Raniero, Director of Solutions Engineering

Taking results to the next level with automation

Trade Port 2, a Radial eCommerce fulfillment center in Louisville, KY, delivers world-class fulfillment solutions for a leading global specialty retailer in the health & beauty space. A 500,000-square-foot facility, Trade Port 2 processes, on average, 50,000 parcels per day.

500,000
square-foot facility

The Radial team at Trade Port 2 had automated the delivery of items throughout the warehouse with the help of automated unit sorters, packaging, and SLAM machines. However, order sortation for batch-picked items remained manual putwalls, limiting flexibility and efficiency during high-demand periods.

Full dependency on labor for order sortation was proving to be costly and unreliable, requiring intensive sourcing and training during an unprecedented period of labor shortage and eCommerce growth. Radial facilities often struggled to find the associates they needed when they needed them most critically.

50,000
parcels processed per day during peak periods

At Trade Port 2, the SKUs to be picked, sorted, and packed include lotions and body washes in oddly shaped bottles, lip gloss in small containers, fragile candles that vary in size, and additional items with irregular shapes or that are wrapped in transparent packaging. Automation of order sortation for these types of batch-picked items is not possible with traditional robotics.

Radial needed an AI-first robotic solution that could learn and adapt to the wide range of SKUs, while reliably meeting the throughput requirements of the Trade Port 2 facility. They also needed a solution that could be seamlessly integrated into their upstream and downstream material handling processes and existing warehouse management system (WMS) and pick-to-light systems.

Radial turned to Covariant to deploy 12 Covariant Robotic U-Shaped Putwalls to autonomously sort items from mixed-SKU totes into order cubbies.

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Automating sortation with Covariant Brain-powered robotic putwalls

For batch-picking operations, Covariant’s robotic putwall systems help automate the order sortation process. Batch-picked totes can be routed to these putwalls where items are picked up, scanned, and then placed into the corresponding order cubby. These also integrate into the existing pack-to-light process that the packers use to pack completed orders.

Crucial to how well robots can pick and place the wide variety of SKUs at Trade Port 2 is the Covariant Brain, our universal AI that allows robots to see, think, and act. Pre-trained on millions of picks from connected robots around the world, Covariant Brain-powered robots can pick most of the SKUs at Trade Port 2 out-of-the-box, and learn and adapt when they experience new items.

An AI Robotic deployment at scale

With the 12 Covariant U-Shaped Putwalls fully integrated into Trade Port 2’s operations, the Radial team has a clear competitive advantage – and so do their customers. At full operation, each robot can average about one hundred thousand picks per month with a throughput of 425 puts per hour (PPH).

With a more flexible sortation system, Radial can fill gaps in its workforce, reduce worker strain, and improve overall productivity. When there is an influx of demand, the robots can run longer. When demand decreases, the robots can run less.

1.2
million units picked across 12 robots per month
400 K
units processed weekly
100 %
of SKUs are pickable

A dedicated partnership to ensure continued success

From the beginning, Covariant’s dedicated on-site deployment team worked with Radial’s engineering and operations team members to ensure a smooth deployment. This included carefully integrating into existing systems and workflow, installing the hardware stations within the existing footprint, and training the Radial team on the day-to-day operation of the robot stations.

“As far as vendors go, we’re very proactive,” Matt Thompson, Deployment Engineering Lead at Covariant, said. “With most vendors, you order something, they ship it to you, they test it to make sure it works, and then it’s your problem. We’re right there on the floor with our customers, collaborating through deployment and beyond to make sure we not only meet but also exceed performance goals.”

As the systems at Trade Port 2 became operational, Covariant’s proactive support model ensured smooth continuing operations with minimal disruptions. The Radial team can request on-demand support via various channels, including iPads at each station with one-button-push for support requests and video chat for real-time troubleshooting.

From planning and deployment to proactive support and continuous enhancements, Covariant is dedicated to driving success for our customers throughout the life of our relationship.

Foundation for future AI Robotics innovation

With the Covariant Brain at the core, robotic putwalls are just the beginning. The same AI that powers automated sortation can power multiple applications, from induction and goods-to-person picking to kitting and depalletization, at one warehouse or across many.

Radial and their parent company, bpost, are already expanding their relationship with Covariant to new use cases across their global customer base. They also made Covariant their preferred provider for the standard solutions toolkit they present to customers.

“Innovation isn’t just about evolving our operations,” Raniero said. “It’s about standing out to our customers, working ahead of their needs, and ensuring we can guarantee them the success they rely on us to deliver. With Covariant, we do just that.”