Package Handling
DCS’s design and engineering team has more than 40 years of experience creating unique parcel handling systems for diverse customer applications. With installations including semi-automated handling in small city distribution centers and fully automated, integrated hubs with advanced conveyor and sorter equipment, DCS routinely thinks outside the box.
E-Commerce and Multi-Channel Fulfillment
DCS designs and implements end-to-end warehouse automation solutions for e-commerce and multi-channel retailers that address numerous workflow challenges. This includes solutions for receiving, putaway, storage, replenishment, order fulfillment, picking, packing, sortation, and outbound shipping. Our custom integrated warehouse, distribution, and fulfillment systems draw from a deep pool of conventional, semi-automated, and automated material handling technologies.
Various Distribution Applications
Whether an operation is considering the construction of a new distribution or fulfillment center, or a retrofit or expansion of an existing facility, it’s important to create a solution that fits the overarching supply chain strategy. DCS has four decades of experience designing and integrating comprehensive, end-to-end material handling solutions that meet a multitude of operational goals. Whether conventional, semi-automated, or fully automated, DCS can help your organization implement a custom solution that meets its goals while maximizing return on investment (ROI).
Supply Chain Consulting
The DCS Supply Chain Consulting team offers a range of services to help your operations address the challenges it faces. Working in partnership with you, DCS consultants analyze your business data- existing workforce, workflow processes, inventory, order data, operations, and more- to determine a strategy that addresses your unique needs. Whether you need an operations assessment, process improvement recommendations, or distribution design services, DCS consultants will help guide you to the material handling system or operational solution that best meets your current and future needs, as well as your budget.
Customer Support
Keeping your warehouse operations and material handling systems running smoothly and at the peak of productivity are the goals of DCS’ Customer Service Team. By partnering with DCS, your warehouse automation solution is supported from commissioning to end of life. You’ll receive comprehensive in-house training of your personnel, including specialized training of your designated internal system expert. Plus, DCS offers a complete package of spare parts and expert system troubleshooting support from qualified engineers dedicated to your installation.
System Design & Integration
DCS offers a broad range of material handling equipment and automated system design, installation, and integration services for a multitude of projects. These include retrofits, expansions, upgrades, and more. While every project is unique, our system design and execution processes are the same, encompassing meticulous attention to detail, frequent communication, and a dedicated partnership with our clients.
About Us
Designed Conveyor Systems (DCS) has 40 years of experience serving major clients in multiple industries by providing material handling, full-scale warehouse operations, and conveyor design solutions that are custom crafted for their needs. DCS does not sell ready-made conveyor systems but builds relationships that empower collaboration to craft custom warehouse designs together. DCS utilizes consulting, engineering design, project management, installation services, and client support to ensure our customers can keep their promises to deliver on time.
With more than 40 years of experience providing automated system design, installation, and integration services, DCS has created solutions for companies throughout the United States in a broad range of industries and markets. We’ve completed more than 1500 projects ranging from greenfield facilities with completely new systems to expansions and retrofits of existing operations.

Current Trends in the Evolution of Micro-Fulfillment

Deploying automated micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs) as a strategy to help retailers more efficiently and cost-effectively meet their customers’ demands continues to grow. Indeed, my colleague Curt Kincaid anticipated the growth of micro-fulfillment investment in May 2020.

At the time of Curt’s post, the majority of the U.S. was still in some level of lockdown, and retailers who historically stocked brick-and-mortar stores suddenly had to shift to a primarily direct-to-consumer order fulfillment model. While this development affected both big box and grocery retail operations, it is grocery where some of the biggest investments in micro-fulfillment are occurring.

Grocery store chains’ profit margins historically hover between 1-3%, and according to a recent survey – State of Digital Grocery: Growth at the Cost of Profitability – 86% of them say their biggest challenge is mitigating the losses associated with e-commerce. The same report found that 70% of grocery retailers report losing money on digital orders, and:

  • 92% of grocery chains are unhappy with their online order picking efficiency
  • 86% feel labor utilization could be improved
  • 72% lack an accurate view of store inventory

To address those issues, 55% of grocery retailers plan to deploy or test MFCs over the next 24 months. Furthermore, by 2025, grocers expect 3.6% of all online orders to be filled by these facilities. With 76% of online grocery shoppers saying they prefer the convenience of not having to shop in-store, this strategy will allow grocers to reduce their own handling costs while meeting each customer’s preferred method of receipt, including buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, or direct-to-door delivery.

Many mainstream grocery chains have already implemented MFC solutions. Inventory is redistributed away from a small number of centrally located, large-scale DCs and into many smaller footprint, automated facilities that are closer to their customers. Because MFCs are frequently located in densely populated areas, grocers can improve profitability by reducing their middle and last mile costs.

That said, because micro-fulfillment is so new and each grocer’s unique objectives for its application are different, there are multiple approaches to this strategy. They include:

  • Dedicating space within an existing warehouse or distribution center (DC) to micro-fulfillment of digital orders (although the downside to this is that the majority of warehouses are not located in densely populated areas, meaning longer transportation times).
  • Locating a micro-fulfillment warehouse in a dark store. This approach uses smaller industrial space or even low-traffic, inexpensive retail space in shopping centers and strip malls, allowing online orders to be filled in close proximity to shoppers. Orders can be picked up curbside at the dark store by the customer, delivered from the dark store to the customer’s doorstep, or routed to a grocery store for curbside or in-store pickup by the customer. This method takes advantage of central fulfillment on a local level.
    Equipping the backroom of a grocery store (or an adjacent space) with a micro-fulfillment solution. Orders can be picked up in-store or curbside by customers or delivered to them. This fulfillment option is closest to the consumer, but requires the largest network of fulfillment sites or a careful selection of the highest-impact sites within the network.

Key Components of Micro-Fulfillment Success

The determination of where within a network MFCs should be deployed requires a careful analysis of a range of factors. These include inventory location in relation to the demand for it; a facility’s storage capacity; the degree of perishability of the items; the costs associated with delivery, both direct to customers or to retail stores for fulfillment; and the minimum number of potential delivery points within a small radius of the facility. With profitability in an e-grocery delivery operation being made or broken in the final mile costs, ensuring the ability to serve a sufficient number of customers in that small radius is critical in the business case analysis.

Likewise, data analysis on order history is crucial when determining which stock keeping units (SKUs) will be housed in an MFC. In a back-of-store application, the most commonly ordered items can be stored in the back while employees supplement those items with picks from the retail shelves. Both sets of picks are consolidated in a buffer zone prior to customer pick up or delivery. Conversely, micro-fulfillment from dark stores or space within an existing DC could offer only a limited number of SKUs for customers to select among (although a larger set than that would be located within the back-of-store solution); those orders could be delivered to a retail store for consolidation with other items for customer pickup or delivery or delivered directly to the customer.

Software is also a critical component of a successful micro-fulfillment strategy. It must be tied into real-time inventory management, customer-facing order portals, and order data. This ensures that only available inventory is made available for purchase. The software also analyzes orders to batch and route those with common items to the optimal MFC location; likewise, it can group outbound deliveries based on geographic proximity and expected service level agreements. For example, if one customer pays extra for delivery at a certain time, and a second customer a block away will accept a delivery at any time free of charge, the software will plot them both on the same delivery route to cut costs and fulfillment time.

Micro-Fulfillment Technology Options

In their simplest form, MFCs can be outfitted with static shelving and basic conveyor for manual picking, packing, and buffering of orders. This, however, requires a large enough footprint to achieve the desired throughput without excessive congestion that can slow staffers down.

Operations with tight footprints and needing greater cubic storage density of inventory are more likely to utilize a higher level of automation. Solutions might include autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) or goods-to-person (G2P) automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS). Facilities in areas where labor is difficult to attract and retain may also consider automation as a means to allow their current employees to be even more efficient in filling customer orders.

Clearly, the options are virtually endless at this point in the evolution of micro-fulfillment strategies. It will be interesting to see how this trend continues to develop in the coming months as consumers continue to embrace the convenience of online shopping.

Wondering if micro-fulfillment can help your operation better serve your customers? Connect with us.



Matt Greene, Vice President of Life Cycle,

Matt brings five years of experience in the Material Handling Industry. Matt helps lead a team dedicated to ensuring operations run smoothly for DCS’s partners through maintenance, training, 24/7 support, and life cycle projects. Before entering the Material Handling industry, Matt served eight years as a Naval Officer, filling roles for technical training and ensuring uptime of critical infrastructure on aircraft carriers, including nuclear reactors, electrical distribution systems, and auxiliary engineering equipment. Matt received his Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering and his MBA from The University of Florida. Matt also has PMP and Lean Six Sigma certifications.

Outside of work, Matt enjoys carpentry, running, and open water swimming. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and three kids, where they are trying to raise third-generation competitive swimmers.