The Perfect Fit
Before applying AI, FastFetch analyzed nearly 85,000 order records to identify 40 to 50 box sizes that would accommodate all of Snap-on`s past shipments with minimal wasted space. Then, the AI software used a two-step calculation process to cut those choices by about 30% - and spit out the best assortment of sizes.
[Generally speaking, having a larger number of carton sizes increases the likelihood of selecting a good fit for the items to be packed," says FastFetch`s Jack, but this [requires more storage space and perhaps includes a number of infrequently used carton sizes."
[At some point, increasing the number of carton sizes provides diminishing returns and increases costs," he says.
Once the boxes were on site and ready for packing, another AI formula came into play. Much like gaming algorithms that can determine a good chess move, FastFetch`s software explores possible item placements, orientations and other properties such as nesting (for example, tapered trash cans stacked together) and containability (items with a hollow center that can contain other items) to determine the best box for a given order.
Upon scanning an order`s barcode, the system computes optimal dimensions and chooses a box in less than a second. (Packing is left to the worker`s discretion, as item-placement instructions tend to slow the process, FastFetch says. Consequently, the system always chooses boxes that provide a small bit of wiggle room.)
Packers retrieve boxes from one side of a carton rack, and replenishers fill gaps on the other side. LED strips on both sides light up to indicate which boxes to choose for packing and restocking.