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.

Dark DCs: A Retail Fulfillment Strategy That Addresses Both Labor and Last Mile Challenges

With consumers worldwide turning to e-commerce and online shopping in 2020 out of necessity due to COVID-19 lockdowns and continuing to embrace that convenience as the pandemic surges and ebbs, retailers were thrown into a tailspin trying to keep up. Brick-and-mortar stores shuttered (and continue to do so, although currently at a slower pace according to Coresight Research), while warehouse stock keeping unit (SKU) counts rose 21.7%, as found by a Peerless Research survey.

This increase in demand for direct-to-consumer shipments and buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) offerings posed multiple challenges for retail fulfillment operations – both those selling hard and soft goods and in grocery outlets. Perhaps the two largest challenges were the struggles to attract, hire, and retain an adequate workforce to help fill orders in a timely manner, and to ship those orders in alignment with shoppers’ expectations while managing costs.

Enter the Dark distribution center, or Dark DC. While the concept has been kicking around for a while, not many operations were able to justify an investment in one or more fully automated, lights-out facilities with minimal staffing requirements. At least not when labor was more affordable and more available.

With the pressures driven by COVID-19, however, retailers are increasingly looking to deploy more automation in more locations to alleviate workforce challenges. They’re also transitioning away from having a few mega-DC locations within their networks to multiple, smaller footprint facilities (outfitted with automation) located closer to end customers to reduce delivery speed and distance.

Indeed, findings from a study conducted by Researchscape International found that in 2021, 50% more retailers plan to fully automate their fulfillment locations, including Dark DCs/stores, pop-up (short-term lease) DCs, and micro-fulfillment centers (often in the backroom of an existing brick-and-mortar retail outlet). Looking ahead 24 to 36 months, the report notes:

Over the next 2-3 years, retailers’ usage of pop-up DCs will double, rising from 12% of networks today to an expected 26%; dark stores will double from a small base, growing from 6% of networks today to 12%; and micro-fulfillment centers will nearly double, rising from 15% of networks today to 27%.

Implementing automation – such as crane or shuttle-based automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) that store the fastest-moving, most frequently ordered SKUs; goods-to-robot or goods-to-person picking and packing stations for selection of items; and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) or automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) that deliver the packaged orders to outbound delivery vehicles – dramatically decreases reliance on labor.

With these automated solutions, a traditional workforce of hundreds of pick-and-pack workers walking up and down conventional warehouse aisles to fill orders is no longer needed. Instead, only a few workers are required to fill and pack orders (or, in a truly Dark DC, robotic picking arms replace human pickers), plus the staffing of a few key positions – such as maintenance technicians and managers – in the operation. With rising wages and the expenses associated with training new hires in a high-turnover field, the investment in these solutions increasingly pencils out for more retailers.

Additionally, because the automated solutions are engineered to store a maximum number of SKUs in a highly compact, dense configuration, Dark DCs require a considerably smaller footprint than a traditional fulfillment operation. That allows them to be located in non-traditional square footage. Shuttered storefronts and anchor stores in malls and downtown urban cores are prime locations, as they are located in densely populated areas.

Such proximity permits a grocer or retailer to provide same-day delivery to a consumer’s home or to a nearby retail outlet for pickup by the purchaser both considerably faster and more affordably than shipping from a centralized, large-scale DC. Further, many retailers are locked into leases or ownership of these closed stores; converting the unused space into Dark DCs allows them to leverage that investment.

To make a Dark DC fulfillment strategy work, it’s critical to have effective warehouse management system (WMS) software in place. With the right WMS, a company can continually analyze the velocity of SKUs across geographic locations, ensuring that the right mix of inventory is stocked in the right regions to match consumer demand. Additionally, a WMS updates inventory levels in real-time while improving visibility throughout the network. It also allows a company to provide accurate delivery estimates for ordered items to guarantee customers’ expectations are met – which is, of course, the primary objective of the Dark DC concept for today’s retailers and grocers.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Connect with us.



Satyen-PathakSatyen Pathak, Account Executive,

As an SME in material handling, Satyen has an extensive background in creating solutions for the retail/e-comm, Parcel, Post, and baggage handling market verticals. He has worn several hats including Product Management, Applications Engineer, Technical support and most recently as an Account Executive with DCS. Satyen has conducted numerous educational speaking engagements and has sat on committees for MHI.