How Online Retailer Hollar Conquered Holiday Rush with Innovative Warehouse Processes

    Posted by Guadalupe Pagalday on Mar 5, 2018 11:00:00 AM

    Find out about how Internet retailer Hollar leveraged WMS adaptability

    Hollar is a rapidly growing eCommerce business, and a solid portion of that growth can be attributed to the company’s dedication to supply chain innovation.

    Founded in 2015, the online retailer sells a wide variety of items at discounted prices. Hollar envisions itself as an online dollar store, selling a wide variety of products like toys, electronics and personal care products.

    In August 2017, the e-tailer started using HighJump warehouse management system (WMS), a Tier 1 solution that replaced a cloud-based system designed for smaller businesses. Hollar developed a number of creative, intelligent processes that it started using immediately after the go-live. But it didn’t end there – the company has continued to fine-tune its operations over the last several months.

    Constantly evolving is mandatory in the fast-paced world of eCommerce.

    “Our business model is changing – not as much as it was, but it is changing,” Octavio Reyes, enterprise systems manager at Hollar, said. “We wanted our logistics to mirror what we wanted to accomplish. In order to do that, we had to change – we couldn’t do that with the previous solution. So what HighJump has done for us is allowed us the flexibility of changing things and adding on.”

    Conquering the Holiday Rush

    Just three months after the go-live was Cyber Monday, and Hollar saw a record number of orders that amounted to nearly four times its typical daily volume. Those orders were also larger than usual, averaging about 15 lines apiece, up from the 10-11 lines the online company averages. (Hollar’s typical orders include more lines than most online retailers because its average price point is just $3, and the minimum for free shipping is $25.)

    Orders spiked by about two-and-a-half times on Black Friday, and business remained steady on the Saturday and Sunday between those two landmark days. Though it took some time to catch up on the 25,000-30,000 orders that piled up over that four-day stretch, Hollar recovered quickly and never fell too far behind.

    Much of that success was a result of the hyper-efficient workflows the operations team implemented in the months leading up to peak season.

    The New and Improved RF Scanner – Smartphones

    Hollar has taken full advantage of the HTML5, mobile-friendly HighJump One platform. Instead of purchasing hundreds of traditional RF devices, the retailer invested in Android smartphones that act as RF scanners.

    Reyes built screens for different warehouse tasks. The devices are touchscreen and extremely user-friendly.

    “Typical warehouses use that green screen, they have to type in F1, for example, to go back on the screen or hit a function key – it gets a little tricky,” Reyes said. “Training takes hours to days sometimes. Our training usually takes about 30 minutes and we have a temporary employee up and running because it’s all touchscreen.”

    The user interface on the consumer-grade devices is intuitive, with buttons like “Go Back” and “Start Pick” in place of the less descriptive physical keys. The screens can be adjusted as necessary to make workers more efficient.

    Not only is training much faster, but the devices are saving the company a lot of money. The devices cost about one-fourth the price of a high-end RF device.

    Cart Building as a Science

    In most warehouses, pickers are responsible for building their own carts. But Hollar has one employee dedicated to building carts so the pickers can quickly pick one up between order runs.

    The e-tailer has three cart profiles – one for larger orders with four levels and two large totes on each shelf (8 total totes), another for medium orders that has four levels with five totes on each shelf (20 total) and one more with five levels and seven totes on each shelf (35 total). Each tote generally represents one order.

    The WMS analyzes order profiles and then instructs the cart builder on what type of cart to build via his smartphone (functioning as an RF device). That system has increased the number of lines a picker can cover in one trip, and that drives up productivity.

    “What we found is obviously if we cut down the picker’s travel, it helps with efficiency,” Reyes said. “So the more orders we can fit on the cart, the more we can consolidate as far as the pick and pack and we become more efficient.”

    Hyper-efficient warehouse workflows support their retail peak season

    eCommerce-Friendly Picking and Replenishment

    Before HighJump, Hollar employees would start picking an order without knowing if enough product was available to complete that order. If the necessary product was not there, incomplete orders were put in an exception area and sent out a second time after someone replenished the empty slots.

    Hollar developed a much smarter picking and replenishment method with its new WMS. Replenishment is now automated based on demand. Picking is much more efficient since there is always sufficient inventory for orders that have been released, which helped cut cost per unit by about 50 percent. Cost per unit is the most important KPI for a company that ships a large volume of inexpensive products.

    Additionally, the online retailer uses a unique process it calls “replenishment consolidation.” Boxes from vendors are taken to a special consolidation area where a team breaks the boxes open and pours them into pickable totes. This separates products into eaches, which fits the online retailer business model where most shoppers only buy one of each item. Although more labor is invested in preparation, it speeds up picking, which is especially valuable during peak times.

    In another effort to increase picking efficiency, Hollar puts its most popular items of the day in a full-pallet area. Pickers grab these hot items directly out of the vendor boxes. That allows the company to skip the entire replenishment process for those fast-moving items.

    The full-pallet area is strategically located at the end of the pick path so it does not disrupt the picker’s route.

    Finding a Better Way to Pack  

    To improve order accuracy, increase customer satisfaction and speed up the packing process, Hollar created a visual packing process.

    Packers have touchscreens that pull up pictures of all the products in an order, and they hit “pass” or “fail” for each item. That prevents an error in an order with 20 lines, for example, where not all items are visible on the screen at once. Any order with a “fail” is put in the exception area where it’s fixed before being shipped out.

    “Since we have the pictures of the product on the screen, our packers don’t have to scan anything,” Reyes said. “They can see the pictures of all the different items and they can see what the quantities are and they can just cross-reference visually.”

    Final Thoughts

    When Hollar opened up its search for a new warehouse management system, it wanted a flexible solution that would support its current eCommerce fulfillment needs while leaving the door open for future improvements. The innovative approaches to basic warehouse processes show that Hollar has taken full advantage of the adaptability of the system.

    Reyes and his team will continue to find better ways to execute tasks as the business grows and evolves. And it will have a system that supports that continuous improvement every step of the way.

    “It really comes down to what your company does and if you want to remain flexible and change in something as fluid as the internet or eCommerce,” he said. “It’s constantly changing, especially with a company as progressive as Amazon that’s constantly pushing everyone else. You have to be able to change and remain nimble.

    “I would definitely highly recommend HighJump because of the flexibility, because of the toolset, because of the ease of use and the support has been great since Day 1.”

    Topics: Featured, Retail, Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)