Third-party logistics provider ODW Logistics’ new 200,000 sq-ft technology center near Columbus, OH, is ready for multiple e-commerce customers/shippers.

The location provides ODW with a strategic hub located within a 10-hr drive to nearly 50% of the U.S. population and one-third of Canada. The Columbus center is equipped with technologies such as barcode scanning, manifesting software, static and in-motion scales, box dimensioning equipment, print-and-apply labelers, and sortation capabilities.

The technology center is set up for zone pick and pass with high and low velocity zones and has Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) dense racking and storage. A Tier1 warehouse management system (WMS) is used throughout the building.

“We are focused on delivering innovative supply chain solutions to middle market and growth-focused customers,” says ODW Executive Vice President Jeff Clark. “This facility brings scalable, out-of-the-box e-commerce fulfillment to companies that serve key U.S. and Canadian markets.”

These technologies continue to gain significance given that e-commerce represents the fastest-growing aspect of ODW’s business, now accounting for about 30% of its volume.

Rising e-commerce demand has driven ODW’s adoption of more warehouse technology and automation. A recent Business News story estimated there are 6.6 million unfilled jobs in the nation, whose impact is felt across numerous business sectors, including the healthcare and logistics markets.

“Finding workers willing to work in the warehouse is becoming a problem. Logistics service providers are beginning to think that robots are the answer,” noted a late 2017 Forbes article. E-commerce, the story said, is creating an even greater need for workers. “When wages are high, or labor is difficult to attract, automation is a natural solution.”

All of those factors come into play at ODW Logistics, which provides integrated logistics support, including warehousing and transportation services for Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies across multiple industries, including health and beauty aids (HBA), food and beverage, nutraceutical and medical device applications.

Clark says, “The challenge of an available workforce is not new, but it is having an impact on our operations. We’re looking to more automated warehouse management systems and equipment to take labor out of some of our work processes.”

Although the new Columbus technology center exemplifies the automation effort, these technologies are being deployed at many, if not all of ODW’s 16 facilities, which serve primarily U.S. customers, but also accounts in Mexico and Canada.

Skin care, hair care, and cosmetics represent the bulk of ODW’s HBA business, sold ultimately at mass merchandiser/big box retailers, or by professional dermatologists. Examples of nutraceuticals and medical devices would be formulas for elderly patients and infants, and devices such as feeding tubes sold to urgent care facilities.

To service these diverse business areas while addressing declining workforce availability, ODW has invested in several technologies, such as the following:

• Barcode printing and label print-and-apply equipment from both Zebra Technologies and Panther Industriesthat are now in use at all 16 ODW facilities.

• Warehouse management transportation systems from HighJump. Purchased in 2016, ODW has been gradually deploying the system and plans to ramp it up across all of its facilities.

• Automated logistics management equipment/IT from Savoye for product handling, pallet management, etc.

• Robotic A-frame, conveying and related systems provided by SI Systems that process up to 3,000 orders/hr.