Bonobos Uses Robotic Technology to Streamline Processes

By Caterina Pontoriero

Being the mad rush that it is, the holiday season is time-pressing, with customers trying to make purchases in time for the big day. Likewise, retailers — particularly online retailers — are in a rush to ship orders out to customers as quickly as possible. Fulfillment speed is key to customer satisfaction during the holiday season, as online men’s clothing retailer Bonobos learned from customer surveys.

“One of the things our customers noted on surveys for satisfaction is that speed is a really big thing,” says John Rote, director of operations and customer experience with Bonobos.

That’s why the business, which Rote says is “rapidly growing with month-on-month growth,” decided to outsource its logistics processes to third-party provider Quiet Logistics to handle inventory, packing up orders and sending them out the door. Bonobos and Quiet Logistics accomplish all of this by leveraging the material-handling robotics of Kiva Systems.

Holiday Rush
Prior to deploying Quiet Logistics, Bonobos filled and shipped orders in-house. “It was great doing it in-house for a while because we were able to learn a lot about that,” explains Rote. “But we were getting to a point with our operations where we were just having difficulty keeping up.”

As a start-up, many people working various positions within the company would work on packaging and shipping orders. As the company continued to expand, other aspects of its business began to fall through the cracks.

“Ultimately we got to a point where we were rapidly scaling and we’d have marketing meetings and technology meetings and say, ‘Hey guys, sorry, but for the next two or three hours we need to box packages,’” says Rote. “It was very valuable time for us and there were other things we wanted to focus our internal team on. So we thought it best to find a third-party partner to help us with our shipping technology issues, inventory control, etc.”

Bonobos deployed Quiet Logistics’ Fulfillment Management System right before the holiday season in 2009. Kiva Systems uses hundreds of autonomous mobile robots and sophisticated control software to manage all aspects of fulfilling online orders, from receiving to picking to shipping, all without conveyor technology.

The system delivered the help Bonobos was looking for — and just in time. Just a few weeks after implementing the system, the company was faced with its largest sale day ever: the Monday after Thanksgiving.

“Before we would have been packing all day and all night for two or three days,” says Rote. However, using the automated system, the company filled all its orders in one day, saving many days’ worth of time and labor costs. “It was taken care of. It wasn’t a big deal, and we all went out and had a beer to celebrate.”

The benefits of speed from using automated fulfillment technology has been not only a boost in sales and efficiency, but a boost in customer satisfaction as well. “[Fast fulfillment speeds has] really become something that we’re known for,” says Rote. “That’s great because customers know they can get something reliable very quickly from us.”

About Quiet Logistics
Quiet Logistics delivers an exceptional, high volume customer experience for some of the eCommerce industry’s fastest growing fashion and lifestyle e-tailers and brands.