How a warehouse put wall strengthens supply chain logistics

A put wall like this one from Berkshire Grey contains multiple cubbies with a digital panel. (Photo used with permission from Berkshire Grey.)

By Molly Goad

Are you ready for some football put wall?

Since football season is here, I couldn’t resist using Hank Williams Jr.’s catchy pigskin anthem to introduce today’s topic: put walls. These structures are one of the many innovations distribution centers can use to maximize output. Let’s take a look at how a put wall works.

Are you ready?

What is a Put Wall?

A put wall is a structure divided into many sections or cubbies used to organize orders before they are packaged, speeding up the order assimilation process. Each numbered cubby oftentimes contains a small digital panel and a button.

Put walls are used in fulfillment of both mixed- and single-SKU orders, and are great for high-volume items. They handle a large amount of orders in a small amount of space. The walls are usually freestanding, with workspaces in the front for the picker and in the backside for the packer.

How Does a Put Wall Work?

A typical put wall works as follows. First, large batches of orders are picked, placed in totes or bins, and then brought to the wall for sorting. 

The picker scans the tote, letting the wall know what batch it’s about to be hit with, and then begins scanning the items. Suppose the picker scans a package of socks. Cubby 3 lights up, the socks are placed inside it, and the operator presses cubby 3’s button, notifying the wall that the item has been “put.” (Some solutions even take it a step further: After the socks are scanned, multiple cubbies light up, indicating all the orders that get the socks. Socks are placed, the buttons are pressed for each cubby, and the picker moves on to the next item.)

Once all of the items have been assembled for an order, the back side of the cubby signals the contents are ready to be boxed, labeled, and sent out the door. The system lets the packer know which box size to use, flags multi-cubby orders, and prioritizes the order. Oftentimes, the pack-side display indicates the shipping carrier to be used on each order — a visible indicator that speeds up the packing process. As soon as the items are packed, the cubby is assigned a new order. 

Pretty neat, right? (As an aside, I need this technology for my children. The option to press a button after the toys are placed in the correct bin has to be a huge motivator for kids who drag their feet when it’s time to pick up.)

Robotic Put Walls

If you thought the put wall system was cool, you should see the ones operated by robots.

Berkshire Grey provides AI-enabled robotic solutions to automate order fulfillment and store replenishment operations. In September 2021, the company introduced its AI-powered robotic shuttle put wall (RSPW). 

“Our automation enables retailers to increase capacity to meet the growing demand and helps to deliver efficient revenue growth,” Tom Wagner, founder and CEO at Berkshire Grey said in a press release. “This new platform increases order processing speeds, optimizes the fulfillment workforce, and most importantly gets more orders out the door more quickly.”

According to the company, the RSPW allows for up to 240 orders to be processed at the same time as opposed to the industry average of 80 orders for a manual put wall.

Return on Investment

These systems can be costly, but the good news is put walls — with or without robotics — deliver a return on the investment relatively quickly. Speeding up the packing process means more orders go out each day. Put walls also increase order accuracy, so returns are drastically reduced and customer satisfaction is increased.  

Put walls can be customized to the needs of the warehouse and do not necessarily look like the photo above. The cubbies can be large or small, and most companies that offer these solutions will gladly work with the client to tailor the wall to the specific needs of the distribution center or warehouse.  Customers can start small, evaluate, and expand the wall system as needed.

In addition to Berkshire Grey, there are many other choices when it comes to put walls, including Lucas Systems, Honeywell Intelligrated, Softeon, Bastian Solutions, just to name a few. Be sure to conduct thorough research before selecting a provider.

Now, are you ready for some football?

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