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PUMA’s Automation Evolution: Retail eFulfillment with Advanced Warehouse Systems

Patrick Miner | 29 September 2021

“Quite frankly, we were gonna burst.”

Sports company PUMA was not only quickly outgrowing their primary U.S. ecommerce distribution center in California, they were also facing increasing pressures in the rapidly evolving and growing North America ecommerce retail market. And, this was prior to the rapid ecommerce growth triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking to reach their east coast customers faster and more efficiently, a new automated warehouse was planned and opened in 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Leveraging a decade-long relationship, together with Bastian Solutions and AutoStore, PUMA invested in what is now called, “a retail fulfillment game changer.”

“In our business, it’s innovate or die. It sounds brutal but I really feel like you’re either moving forward and using technology and automation and innovation to get better or you’re going backwards,” Bob Philion, President & CEO PUMA North America.

Game Changer for Today and Future Growth

Featuring advanced warehouse systems like the AutoStore Black Line and in-line automation for both inbound and outbound processes, the Indianapolis location gives PUMA 10x more capacity and 20% greater speed than their California facility.

The 640,000 square foot Indianapolis facility was designed to not only meet but exceed the capacity and speed of peak season market demands. Having developed a relationship working together for more than 10 years, on the Torrance, California site as well as some international work in Brazil and Mexico, Bastian Solutions engineers intimately understood PUMA’s operations, data and objectives.

Being a greenfield location, we planned the facility to accommodate for more than 1 million units shipped per month with the expectations to double in the first year of operation, plus enough scalability to continue growing for years to come.

24/7 Operations with End to End Automation

Taking innovation and longevity to the next level were the name of the game for this Indianapolis site. Together with PUMA and their 3PL partner NFI/Cal Cartage, we were able to bring attention to the common pain points and potential efficiencies of the day to day operations.

From receiving to outbound shipments, we implemented automation solutions that would make product storage more secure, picking more efficient and outbound shipping more cost effective. As an independent integrator, we were able to select cutting-edge technologies and tailor the system to meet the competitive and dynamic nature of the retail apparel and footwear industry plus rising ecommerce.

“Bastian actually brought this together into an end-to-end solution. From start, from the receiving up to the outbound,” Helmut Leibbrandt, PUMA Senior Vice President, Supply Chain Management & Logistics – Americas, “With the integrated solution, AutoStore together with iPack’s customized packaging we are saving space on trucks and also ultimately on freight charges.”

AutoStore Black Line20210511-Puma_Whitestown_IN-DSC_0325

Order picking is a fairly straightforward process, but when it comes to ecommerce which consists of mostly single pick orders, manual picking can be quite time consuming and inefficient. Already familiar with goods to person AutoStore technology, PUMA and NFI/Cal Cartage opted for the AutoStore Black Line for even higher throughput. Featuring larger bins, this meant better accommodations for larger retail items like footwear. Plus, the Black Line brings faster robots and faster bin presentation, with even more ergonomically designed workstations. The PUMA Indianapolis site hosts:

  • 305,000 bin locations
  • 175 bots
  • AutoStore ports: conveyor ports, carousel ports and relay ports

With fast-changing batteries, only seconds need to be dedicated to charging and power changes. This means the potential for around the clock, 24/7 automated operations. 

Software WES

Bastian Solutions’ Exacta software, for all intents and purposes, runs the facility. The Exacta warehouse execution software (WES) manages the facility throughput and integrates with NFI/Cal Cartage’s warehouse management software (WMS) to manage time and labor.

The WES provides multiple levels of data collection and, due to its modular design, helps to link together all the fulfillment technology in the warehouse. Together with NFI/Cal Cartage’s WMS, the WES ensures we have accurate order routing, order tracking and inventory management.

Right-Sized Packaging

To make the Indianapolis site as efficient as possible, Bastian Solutions engineers worked to provide right-sized automation solutions that support the AutoStore, the heart of the facility.

Approximately 16,000 feet of conveyor transports products to and from the AutoStore workstation ports. For single ecommerce orders, products are picked and diverted to an automated polybagging machine. In the meantime, larger orders are picked and packed into boxes that are prepped by automatic box erectors. Once fully packed they are sized down using automated box sealers. This saves with space and cuts down on shipping costs. In fact, PUMA and NFI/Cal Cartage have been able to increase the density for outbound trucks by 25% due to right-sized packaging.

In-line technologies like weigh check scales, automatic labeling and scanners helps to keep products moving from start to finish. Extendable conveyors top off the process with optimized truck loading and unloading.

Partners For Over a Decade

By leveraging cutting-edge technologies and a decade of industry knowledge, together Bastian Solutions, AutoStore, PUMA and NFI/Cal Cartage were able to bring to reality a system that is flexible to ecommerce market changes and features the necessary in-line support to get the job done accurately and efficiently, but more importantly to improve reliability and meet consumer expectations.

“I think this was a game changer for PUMA and the story continues together with Bastian,” said Liebbrandt.

Put to the test, now enduring COVID-19 market changes, the warehouse automated system has successfully scaled to meet demands. Peak season isn’t just Black Friday anymore. 

Author: Patrick Miner

Patrick Miner is a Bastian Solutions project engineering team lead. He has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. He has aided the design, quote and implementation of the Puma Indianapolis facility, as well as provided project support to the original Torrance facility. 

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