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02/08/2021

Urban Outfitters to automate picking at robotic facility

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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A fashion and accessories retailer is building a new fulfillment center that will feature smart picking robots and automated conveyors.

Urban Outfitters will implement the TGW FlashPick system at a new fulfillment center it plans to open in Kansas City, Kan., in 2023. The FlashPick design builds upon a pilot program Urban Outfitters is running in the U.K. using the TGW Rovolution smart picking robot, which picks orders automatically and ensures the next phase of picking is being addressed. 

FlashPick incorporates two PickCenter Rovolution workstations, along with 46 PickCenter One workstations. Leveraging FlashPick, Urban Outfitters can use the horsepower or “engine” to pick orders discreetly. The engine horsepower is harnessed by TGW’s PickCenter One workstations. Urban Outfitters will incorporate the same workstations and software as it is using in the U.K. pilot.

At goods receiving, cartons are emptied into totes and transported to a storage warehouse, which is used to feed the shuttle system. Totes are then transported to 46 goods-to-person workstations, where items are picked into target totes. The different areas are connected by an energy-efficient KingDrive conveyor system. The TGW warehouse control system interfaces with a Manhattan Associates warehouse management system.

Regardless of channel (brick-and-mortar or digital), the operational processes remain the same and operational training for associates and maintenance support is simplified globally.

Faced with an unprecedented surge in online orders and significant workforce disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number retailers have been relying more on robots to perform picking processes.

Specialty apparel retailers Gap Inc. and American Eagle Outfitters have both been scaling their picking and packing operations for online orders with the Sort smart robotic solution from Kindred. Sort piece-picking robots utilize AutoGrasp, a robotics intelligence platform that identifies and singulates items to pick and place into an automated putwall. 

“TGW has been a strong partner, demonstrating agility of thinking in developing a solution that will enable capabilities to adapt our speed and efficiency to meet the needs of our rapidly growing business globally,” said Melinda McClure, executive director of North American Logistics, Urban Outfitters. “The new facility will be highly automated, incorporate robotics and provides the capacity necessary to support our fast-growing business. TGW supported us to design a modular solution we believe is simple, flexible and adaptable to the future needs of our customers”.

Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters operates a portfolio of global consumer brands comprised of Anthropologie, BHLDN, Free People, Terrain, Urban Outfitters, Nuuly, and a food and beverage division.