As the oldest retailer in North America, Hudson’s Bay sells a huge variety of retail apparel and home goods. Its catalog has changed considerably since the company was founded in 1670, but today it conveys everything from lipsticks to couches.
For hundreds of years, it handled those logistics purely by hand, but seven years ago the storied company finally embraced modern technology and took the leap into automated fulfillment systems. It jumped in with both feet, leaping in 2016 from a completely manual operation to a $60 million conversion to 16 towers of Opex Perfect Pick, a goods to person shuttle technology.
That timing was fortunate, since just a few years later, Hudson’s Bay shuttered many of its 85 retail stores across Canada for periods as long as 18 months as the supply chain world sheltered its employees and customers from the ravages of the covid pandemic, according to Mithun Sinharoy, Hudson’s Bay’s SVP for supply chain, fulfillment and logistics.
Suddenly, the company had to fund its entire organization through e-commerce sales alone, and the new system stood up to the challenge, Sinharoy said in a breakout session today at the Retail Industry leaders Assoc. (RILA)’s annual conference.
Whereas Hudson’s Bay in past years had promised service level agreements (SLAs) of 72 hours for new orders, it could now turn them around in just 15 minutes, he said. And they saw a productivity improvement of 10x compared to its manual processes with traditional racks and paper pick tickets, Sinharoy said during a session at the LINK2023 show in Orlando titled “Automation Isn’t Enough.”
Despite those huge gains, the company continues to rely on its human employees for certain portions of its workflow, according to Will Tritle, business development consultant with Bastian Solutions, a unit of Toyota Advanced Logistics, who worked with Hudson’s Bay on the automation implementation. Those workers are critical for pick profiles involving multiple items per basket and for providing flexibility at peak periods.
Flush with success, Hudson’s Bay is now adding an AutoStore automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) as a replenishment system for its Perfect Pick system, citing its combination of high density storage and an ability to pick discrete items as needed, Sinharoy said.