Using Technology to Manage Expectations in an Omnichannel World, Part 1

USING TECHNOLOGY TO MANAGE EXPECTATIONS IN AN OMNICHANNEL WORLD, PART 1

By Jeff Cashman

From Total Retail
July 14, 2020
By Jeff Cashman

The retail supply chain has experienced some dramatic evolutions over the last 10 years to 15 years. What started out as a straightforward process for getting goods from a warehouse or a distribution center (DC) and out onto the retail floor has become a central focus for companies managing a complex supply chain, including e-commerce, omnichannel, and brick-and-mortar.

No longer focused solely on storing and shipping pallets of goods, the true omnichannel warehouse must have the capabilities to intelligently optimize fulfillment and increase store efficiency by packing replenishment orders according to individual store layouts and preferences, as well as orchestrating the fulfillment and delivery of single orders to individual customers’ doorsteps. Covering this spread and keeping these order promises can be difficult, and presents high hurdles for retailers that rely on a hodgepodge of manual systems, spreadsheets and older technology solutions to run their supply chains. Concurrently, the lines between offline and online retail sales continue to blur, with offline players improving their online presences (e.g., Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com) and vice versa (Amazon.com’s purchase of Whole Foods). This, coupled with the sheer uncertainty over what channel a customer will eventually adopt, stokes the need for a more modern fulfillment operating system.

The fast-changing world situation has given retailers an opportunity to redefine the supply chain and step up capabilities to succeed in this new era. The opportunity is impossible to ignore.

Read the full article at Total Retail.

Robotics Finds Its Place in Fulfillment

ROBOTICS FINDS ITS PLACE IN FULFILLMENT

From Bdaily News
By Roberto Michel
Jul 09, 2020

Robotics has gained rapid traction in the last few years of economic growth and low unemployment, as companies began implementing as a means of increasing productivity and coping with the labor crunch. Now the COVID-19 disruption has changed the unemployment picture, but vendors still see a pressing need for innovation.

Extraordinary times—and a need for proven measures—may be what propels robotics to the next level in warehouse and distribution center (DC) operations.

Not that robotics has been slow to catch on in warehousing. According to analyst firm ABI Research, the global mobile robotics market will reach $23 billion this year. In a 2020 survey by Peerless Research as part of our annual “Industry Outlook” study, 9% surveyed told us they were already using robotics, and 19% were considering them.

But can robotics for intralogistics keep growing quickly, given the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic? Unemployment has skyrocketed. Some manufacturers temporarily had to shut down sites, and many companies have tightened their budgets, at least in the short term.

At the same time, e-commerce has spiked, especially in sectors like grocery. And while it may be too early to tally the impacts of the pandemic on robotics, in the long term, the technology’s ability to increase productivity with minimal added labor bodes well for the technology, says Rian Whitton, a senior analyst at ABI.

“From what we’re seeing, there has been a huge increase in demand for e-commerce during the pandemic,” says Whitton.”

“And the greater the percentage of retail that shifts to online, the more heavily automated these warehouses and other facilities involved with fulfillment will need to become, which should accelerate the market for mobile robotics.”

Robotics spans autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that transport goods or assist workers with picking, as well as fixed robotic arms that can identify and pick goods. Some workflows may combine the two, with AMRs transporting bins to robotic arms. Some vendors, such as IAM Robotics, offer “mobile manipulation” robots that can pick items.

In short, there are multiple types of robotics, and they often work in combination with people, or with fixed forms of automation like conveyors. This range of solution types is the first thing potential users need to realize about warehouse robotics.

Robotics vendors say there are other ways that robotics is evolving for intralogistics, including new workflows, better exception handling, and deeper leveraging of artificial intelligence (AI). What’s more, robotics aligns with the times in that they can help keep human co-workers safe, while keeping orders flowing to customers.

Right for the times

During the last couple of years, when unemployment was at historic lows, an often-cited driver for robotics was how it could make the labor you could find more effective by doing away with much of the non-value-added time spent walking or pushing carts in large DCs.

While for the recently unemployed, warehousing can provide much needed work, since due to health concerns, many companies will likely continue to struggle to find enough people without increased automation, say some vendors.

“From a business perspective, the big challenges are that we’re running out of people, we’ve been running out of space, and we’ve been running out of time,” says Jeff Cashman, COO with AMR vendor GreyOrange.

“Even before COVID-19, it was difficult to hire and retain enough associates,” adds Cashman. “Now, because of health risk concerns, it’s still difficult to find enough people, and on top of that, there’s the need to practice social distancing, and time pressures operations face haven’t gotten any easier. Those three problems—running out of people, running out of space, and running out of time—can be seen as underlying drivers for robotics. It’s important, however, that the robots are integrated with a software that is real-time and flexible, to solve those problems.”

Software as differentiator

Vendors generally agree that the key to robotics effectiveness is the software smarts that leverages technologies like AI and machine learning so that the system constantly learns from factors like order mix, labor resources and material flow patterns.

The software platform for most robotics solutions also employs AI to constantly learn from operations and dynamically adapt to tasks and routes as the work unfolds. “The most important part of a solution is the software, which is AI-based software that is real-time in nature,” says Cashman. Robotics software, he adds, should be able to adjust tasks on the fly, based on factors like what’s currently coming into the order pool, where each robot is, and the current performance level of the workers.

“The software is really integrated into the robots so that when the system is thinking about orders or inventory or the particular people that are picking, or the available robots, it’s weighing these factors all at once,” says Cashman. “And it’s that ability to orchestrate all of these components in real time…that’s the difference with the robotics of today versus a generation ago.”

Read the full article at Modern Materials Handling.

Ready for flexible fulfillment that adapts in real-time? Let’s chat.

Will the pandemic accelerate automation in supply chains? Part 3: Micro machines and the move to micro-fulfilment centres

WILL THE PANDEMIC ACCELERATE AUTOMATION IN SUPPLY CHAINS?

Part 3: Micro machines and the move to micro-fulfilment centres

From Reuters Events
By Alex Hadwick
Jul 08, 2020

Meeting e-commerce demand without crippling costs is a huge challenge for logistics but a fundamental shift in how we build, position and operate fulfilment systems might change all of that. Reuters Events: Supply Chain investigates

It’s no secret that e-commerce has been a challenge for a huge number of brands, a challenge that has grown since the advent of COVID-19. The tension is between competing in a way that matches consumers’ desires whilst maintaining margins, with even brands as huge and powerful as Nikeand Amazon reporting or expecting quarterly losses even as e-commerce operations boom in 2020. This is because consumer’s desires to buy online and send deliveries to their homes have accelerated far beyond forecasts made for three or even five years in the future in the space of just six months

Organisations can’t just keep bulking up operations in a conventional way. There isn’t enough warehouse space near key markets. There aren’t enough available workers who can help when demand peaks. There isn’t the transportation capacity in the last mile. Critically, there isn’t the cash available to keep scaling up our current way of doing things given the expected trajectory of e-commerce.

The only real solution is a radical rethink that puts more automation into fulfilment centres and distributes those fulfilment operations closer to the consumer in smaller spaces than have been attempted before.

Macro change – micro-fulfilment

Put simply, the current mode of fulfilment is unsustainable for many. The costs of delivering goods to consumers were already burdensome for a host of retailers in 2019. Skip forward to 2020 and we are looking at a whole different ballpark for those expenses, particularly in the last mile.

The massive and sudden demand for goods to be delivered direct to consumer’s homes, as well as changes in consumption patterns has sent many scrambling for capacity and delivery capability. As we covered in part one of our series on automation, there is also the need to account for worker safety, reducing the capacity for many facilities. On top of this, warehouse space is at a premium right now, adding additional expense. It is therefore an incredibly tough environment where companies are trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of their facilities and workers.

“I think there will be smaller distribution centres, close to urban areas, which are really specialized in piece picking”

The second part of this is the potent effect the pandemic has had on the physical shopping space. With many shopping streets around the world already feeling the strain before the arrival of COVID-19, the advent of social distancing and quarantine has broken the back of many retailers. Bankruptcies have been widespread and we are not yet at the end of the tough trading conditions that have brought on those liquidations. Suddenly there is a lot of real estate looking distinctly empty in and around city centres.

We are therefore at a crossroads where moving more fulfilment into smaller facilities closer to consumers is looking increasingly attractive.

“I think there will be smaller distribution centres, close to urban areas, which are really specialized in piece picking,” thinks Markus Schmidt, President of Swisslog Americas.

Fergal Glynn, VP of Marketing at 6 River Systems, agrees seeing “What previously were massive stores” that ringed cities getting turned “into fulfilment centres.

“We do see as well that outside of the big box stores, there could be retail stores that are even smaller, that will become fulfilment centres,” believes Glynn.  

Already Terrie O’Hanlon, CMO at GreyOrange, is seeing that those companies that “Were able to immediately flex into omnichannel and e-commerce fulfilment,” when stores were forced to close “were in better stead than others who had more of a kind of a firewall between those two sets of inventory. I would say that’s in the past.”

Automation at scale but scaled down

Whilst this seems like a neat solution that makes the most of the current crisis, there is a reason why this model is not yet widespread.

The logistical demands of e-commerce has traditionally meant that the only way to account for the costs put back onto the company for picking and delivering items, while still being able to deliver rapidly to the consumer, was to operate at scale.

That scale has largely been massive. Most warehouse specialising in e-commerce fulfilment try to take advantage of economies of scale and usually sit in the hundreds of thousands of feet of floorspace or even millions. Amazon, for example, has largely taken up leases for warehouses of around a million square feet in the recent past.

“The problem is that customers expect great selection with very, very low lead times. The only way to do that is to pre-deploy inventory. The only way to do that is to create automation solutions”

The reasons are economies of scale that result in a chicken and egg scenario where it is very hard to make operations smaller. You need to keep enough inventory on hand to meet consumer demands, which are unpredictable. Therefore, this usually means large volumes.

How do you then sort, pick, pack and distribute this volume? Largely this has been answered through large-scale automation, which is expensive and often requires a large floorspace, with pick and pack stations linked by conveyor belts, further incentivising huge facilities.

“The biggest trick has always been how do you keep the inventory saved, or basically stored as efficiently as possible, but still let people walk through it and pick it themselves?”

Then at the store level, “The biggest trick has always been how do you keep the inventory saved, or basically stored as efficiently as possible, but still let people walk through it and pick it themselves?” asks Lior Elazary, founder and CEO of inVia Robotics, presenting another problematic dimension to putting fulfilment into stores.

“The problem is that customers expect great selection with very, very low lead times. The only way to do that is to pre-deploy inventory. The only way to do that is to create automation solutions,” says Scott Gravelle, co-founder, CEO & CTO of Attabotics.

And it is this new wave of automation that is changing matters, as robotic aid has become smaller and more cost efficient, making a two-tier highly automated system at last functional and attractive.

“We are investigating everything a customer could need for fulfillment, whether it’s in a half million square foot building, all the way down to your local retail store”

Major, centralised warehouses will still in all likelihood be necessary but the most sought-after inventory can now be positioned closer to consumers through micro-fulfilment centres that reduce distance and last mile costs.

“The difference between the traditional sort of omni-channel fulfilment” and the new wave says GreyOrange’s O’Hanlon, “is that you have a bigger operation that’s accommodating multiple form factors of automation to both replenish stores and to answer e-commerce demand,” that then feed into smaller operations closer to the consumer.

This is why 6 River Systems are “Investigating everything a customer could need for fulfilment, whether it’s in a half million square foot building, all the way down to your local retail store,” says Glynn.

Making micro-fulfilment work

The challenge is not just in terms of scale but also in the nitty gritty of functionality of automation in these smaller spaces.

“You’ve got to have automation in those facilities, which is extremely reliable,” points out Schmidt. This, once again, comes down to economies of scale. “If you don’t, you cannot afford to have a lot of technicians running around. It’s too small. If you build a big distribution centre, you have so much throughput and the system is so big, you [can afford] to have technicians on staff, no problem. However, the small fulfilment centres are typically a bolt on to store” and this means there isn’t the room for specialisation to the same degree “because otherwise you need to employ additional expensive people, which defeats the purpose.”

“You’ve got to have automation in those facilities, which is extremely reliable”

So, we have issues around scaling, cost, reliability and size that need to be solved before we can really consider the idea of semi-automated micro-fulfilment centres possible.

One company that thinks it has cracked the code is Attabotics. The start-up from the heart of Canada in Calgary makes the astonishing claim that it can shrink the footprint of a warehouse down to “12% to 15% of its previous footprint.”

“I asked what would be ideal for a robot not for a person. Then I ended up ripping off leafcutter ants”

The secret lies in a rather surprising place: Leafcutter ants.

“I asked what would be ideal for a robot not for a person. Then I ended up ripping off leafcutter ants,” says Gravelle. “I’m really, really glad that they don’t have IP representation, because we’d be in trouble.”

The ideas is to take “Their three-dimensional distribution of goods and create a 3D robotic shuttle,” which would lead to “the highest density storage solution currently being offered, while also providing the additional functionality of sequencing and sortation buffering and conveyance all in one footprint.”

“Items can be picked packed and shipped within about 90 seconds of receiving the order, depending on the backlog”

By going vertical and compressing storage through robots passing through a matrix of bins and eliminating conveyor belts, Attabotics thinks it has cracked the complexity behind micro-fulfilment.

Attabotics’ system first asks their robots to get totes with the various items requested as part of an e-commerce order and “brings those items to a single point…. One system can take those three items, put them in a box in a single touch in a single location.” That box is then “put back into our system and sorted by postal code or carrier or by time and then delivered from there into the truck or it can now be used for micro fulfillment, it can be delivered to a transport vehicle.”

Gravelle claims that a small order of “items can be picked packed and shipped within about 90 seconds of receiving the order, depending on the backlog.”

These micro-fulfilment systems are supported by “a larger warehouse that’s out of market that actually can backfill” items, “So we don’t have to carry all the inventory in a single place.”

The future of shopping

So, it seems we’ve got strong conditions for the segmenting of the delivery structure into major centres feeding smaller distribution nodes closer to the consumer, driven by economic, social and technological changes. Where does this leave the future of retail?

“I think it will probably be like an 80-20% type of thing, where maybe 20% of the store is just showcase, and then 80% might be, fulfilling orders”

Elazary believes it will be a dramatic shift from the once dominant high street. “I think it will probably be like an 80-20% type of thing, where maybe 20% of the store is just showcase, and then 80% might be, fulfilling orders and things like that. Then they’re closer to the customer.”

O’Hanlon also thinks we should reimagine the store to “More almost like a vending machine in a way, where … the person walks … up to the kiosk and they’ve been assigned online to pick up their order, or they can walk directly up to the kiosk themselves and place an order there.”

O’Hanlon gives the example of a shoe store, where “The person can actually observe the robots going to get the shoes, almost as an entertainment factor. The shoes come and you they’re delivered to a locker or a similar means and you can try them on. Then at that kiosk, you can say, ‘Now give me a half size bigger’. So, there’s a whole shopping experience … and the robots are taking any inventory that you don’t take with you and obviously immediately putting it back into stock.”

This will only require “Three or four people in the back of the store who are receiving inventory and putting it into the mobile stock units,” and providing customer service and this store will then also be able to fulfil e-commerce through the same systemic approach.

“The biggest cost with most retailers is the inventory they’re carrying, which is just a buffer”

The next step for refining the micro-fulfilment approach so that it can become this widespread will be the adoption of demand-predicting machine learning. This is critical, as the interplay between inventory held in larger, more remote warehouses needs to be kept in a careful ballet of effective replenishment between there and the micro-fulfilment frontline.  

“The biggest cost with most retailers is the inventory they’re carrying, which is just a buffer,” notes Gravelle. “So, if you can create more transparency in optimisation, you can lessen the size of the buffer, thereby freeing up more of their capital for digital transformation, or for recovery, or for expansion or, ideally, for paying their staff more.”

“Most companies have historically looked at software for this piece, but at the end of the day supply chain is about moving atoms”

According to Gravelle this means “Monitoring all the influencers of purchases, and I don’t just mean Kim Kardashian, but what she does tweet changes demand. I mean, the weather, holiday schedules, major sporting events, the latest rap video, all of these things can influence what gets sold in markets.” Using IoT and big data to correlate the influential factors and eventual sales will mean predictive analytics can place inventory where it is really needed and eventually be expanded to the transportation network as well.

“Most companies have historically looked at software for this piece, but at the end of the day supply chain is about moving atoms. Rethinking how you move atoms but also utilizing all the emerging technology” is going to be the key that unlocks this last mile segment of the distribution puzzle.

Read the full article at Reuters Events.

Ready for flexible fulfillment that adapts in real-time? Let’s chat.

Rex Brown To Roll-Out Modular Sortation Robots

REX BROWN TO ROLL-OUT MODULAR SORTATION ROBOTS

From Logistics Manager
By Christopher Walton
July 1, 2020

GreyOrange is to supply a fleet of modular sortation robots to UK-based e-commerce specialist Rex Brown.

The sourcing, branding and distribution specialist has chosen the GreyOrange Ranger Mobile Sort, which was launched in February 2019, which will run on its GreyMatter software platform.

Rex Brown currently processes 2.5 million orders per year for customers ranging from Unilever to SME’s such as Emma Bunton’s Kit & Kin baby care company. Following the implementation Rex Brown will have the capacity to process over 10 million orders per year.

Rex Brown currently processes 2.5 million orders per year for customers ranging from Unilever to SME’s such as Emma Bunton’s Kit & Kin baby care company. Following the implementation Rex Brown will have the capacity to process over 10 million orders per year.

Ash Kandhari, managing director of Rex Brown, said, “We chose Ranger Mobile Sort because we are seeing an increase in growth volumes from customers and we have our own ambitious goals for our company, so we need a partner that can support us to grow the business without any constraints. Ranger Mobile Sort easily integrates with our operations. A partner like GreyOrange that aligns with our future-orientated mission is key.

“Ranger Mobile Sort seamlessly connects with our existing packaging machines through auto induction. The inherent flexibility in the system enables us to start as per the current needs and allows for scale-up as the business grows, thereby reducing the risk of large capital expenditure in the initial stages.”

Ready for flexible fulfillment that adapts in real-time? Let’s chat.

Rex Brown to Roll Out GreyOrange Robots for Retail Fulfillment

REX BROWN TO ROLL OUT GREYORANGE ROBOTS FOR RETAIL FULFILLMENT

From Robotics Tomorrow
July 1, 2020

GreyOrange (www.greyorange.com), a global software and mobile robotics provider that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize fulfillment operations for companies worldwide, today announced that Ranger Mobile Sort, the new GreyOrange fleet of modular sortation robots, will bring the latest automation to Rex Brown’s warehouses in a simple and scalable way.

Rex Brown, a fast-growing e-commerce expert in sourcing, branding and distribution, chose Ranger Mobile Sort for its ability to adapt to changes in real time, both within the distribution center and externally as order patterns and fulfillment expectations fluctuate. Additionally, Ranger Mobile Sort will help Rex Brown meet their own ambitious sustainability targets.

Rex Brown currently processes 2.5 million orders per year for customers ranging from major household name brand Unilever to small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) challenger brands, including Emma Bunton’s Kit & Kin baby care company. With the implementation of Ranger Mobile Sort and GreyMatter, Rex Brown will have the capacity to process over 10 million orders each year for its customers.

GreyOrange launched Ranger Mobile Sort in February 2019 at LogiMAT in Stuttgart, Germany. These mobile sortation robots can operate in fleets to efficiently and fluidly move parcels from receiving through dispatch to avoid sortation bottlenecks that can occur with rigid systems, especially during periods of peak volume. GreyMatter intelligence software is incorporated as a learning layer in the Ranger robots, enabling the robots to communicate with each other and the GreyMatter central system to continuously recalculate order fulfillment priorities and inventory movement patterns.

The AI-enabled mobile sortation system is easily scaled, making it an investment-friendly option for a range of applications across retail and logistics industries.

Ash Kandhari, Managing Director, Rex Brown, said, “We chose Ranger Mobile Sort because we are seeing an increase in growth volumes from customers and we have our own ambitious goals for our company, so we need a partner that can support us to grow the business without any constraints. Ranger Mobile Sort easily integrates with our operations. A partner like GreyOrange that aligns with our future-orientated mission is key.” Kandhari adds: “Ranger Mobile Sort seamlessly connects with our existing packaging machines through auto induction. The inherent flexibility in the system enables us to start as per the current needs and allows for scale-up as the business grows, thereby reducing the risk of large capital expenditure in the initial stages.”

Nigel Lahiri, Sales Director EMEA, GreyOrange, said, “Today, complexity within the warehouse is the norm due to constantly shifting business requirements which include volume changes during peak periods and a constant pressure to cut operational costs. By choosing our solution under consultancy of our partner BigBox Group, Rex Brown will implement Ranger Mobile Sort to manage the complexity of the inventory they distribute as well as scale their sorting capacity to 20,000 parcels per shift with plans to double this volume over the next few years. With Ranger Mobile Sort, this is entirely possible.”
Rex Brown’s services cover sourcing, branding and distribution, with both B2B and B2C capabilities. It operates across EMEA and is expanding across APAC, with a growing capacity of 30,000 daily shipments.

Ready for flexible fulfillment that adapts in real-time? Let’s chat.

UK eCommerce Specialist Invests In Warehouse Robots

UK ECOMMERCE SPECIALIST INVESTS IN WAREHOUSE ROBOTS

From Handling & Storage Solutions
June 30, 2020

Rex Brown has announced a strategic partnership with AI and automation supplier GreyOrange which will see order capacity progress to 10 million orders per year.

GreyOrange says the Ranger Mobile Sort, the new GreyOrange fleet of modular sortation robots, will bring the latest automation to Rex Brown’s warehouses in a simple and scalable way.

Rex Brown, a fast-growing e-commerce expert in sourcing, branding and distribution, chose Ranger Mobile Sort for its ability to adapt to changes in real time, both within the distribution centre and externally as order patterns and fulfillment expectations fluctuate. Additionally, Ranger Mobile Sort will help Rex Brown meet its own ambitious sustainability targets.

Rex Brown currently processes 2.5 million orders per year for customers ranging from major household name brand Unilever to small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) challenger brands, including Emma Bunton’s Kit & Kin baby care company. With the implementation of Ranger Mobile Sort and GreyMatter, Rex Brown will have the capacity to process over 10 million orders each year for its customers.

Ash Kandhari, managing director, Rex Brown, said: “We chose Ranger Mobile Sort because we are seeing an increase in growth volumes from customers and we have our own ambitious goals for our company, so we need a partner that can support us to grow the business without any constraints. Ranger Mobile Sort easily integrates with our operations. A partner like GreyOrange that aligns with our future-orientated mission is key.”

Kandhari adds: “Ranger Mobile Sort seamlessly connects with our existing packaging machines through auto induction. The inherent flexibility in the system enables us to start as per the current needs and allows for scale-up as the business grows, thereby reducing the risk of large capital expenditure in the initial stages.”

Ranger Mobile Sort

GreyOrange launched Ranger Mobile Sort in February 2019 at LogiMAT in Stuttgart, Germany. These mobile sortation robots can operate in fleets to efficiently and fluidly move parcels from receiving through dispatch to avoid sortation bottlenecks that can occur with rigid systems, especially during periods of peak volume. GreyMatter intelligence software is incorporated as a learning layer in the Ranger robots, enabling the robots to communicate with each other and the GreyMatter central system to continuously recalculate order fulfillment priorities and inventory movement patterns.

The AI-enabled mobile sortation system is easily scaled, making it an investment-friendly option for a range of applications across retail and logistics industries.

Nigel Lahiri, sales director EMEA, GreyOrange, said: “Today, complexity within the warehouse is the norm due to constantly shifting business requirements which include volume changes during peak periods and a constant pressure to cut operational costs. By choosing our solution under consultancy of our partner BigBox Group, Rex Brown will implement Ranger Mobile Sort to manage the complexity of the inventory they distribute as well as scale their sorting capacity to 20,000 parcels per shift with plans to double this volume over the next few years. With Ranger Mobile Sort, this is entirely possible.”

Ready for flexible fulfillment that adapts in real-time? Let’s chat.

GreyOrange Announces Strategic Partnership with E-commerce Company Rex Brown

GreyOrange Announces Strategic Partnership with E-commerce Company Rex Brown

AI and automation leader GreyOrange to provide warehouse automation to UK-based e-commerce expert

 

LONDON – June 30, 2020GreyOrange, a global software and mobile robotics provider that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize fulfillment operations for companies worldwide, today announced that Ranger™ MOBILE SORT, the new GreyOrange fleet of modular sortation robots, will bring the latest automation to Rex Brown’s warehouses in a simple and scalable way.

Rex Brown, a fast-growing e-commerce expert in sourcing, branding and distribution, chose Ranger MOBILE SORT for its ability to adapt to changes in real time, both within the distribution center and externally as order patterns and fulfillment expectations fluctuate.  Additionally, Ranger MOBILE SORT will help Rex Brown meet their own ambitious sustainability targets.

Rex Brown currently processes 2.5 million orders per year for customers ranging from major household name brand Unilever to small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) challenger brands, including Emma Bunton’s Kit & Kin baby care company. With the implementation of Ranger MOBILE SORT and GreyMatter, Rex Brown will have the capacity to process over 10 million orders each year for its customers.

GreyOrange launched Ranger MOBILE SORT in February 2019 at LogiMAT in Stuttgart, Germany. These mobile sortation robots can operate in fleets to efficiently and fluidly move parcels from receiving through dispatch to avoid sortation bottlenecks that can occur with rigid systems, especially during periods of peak volume. GreyMatter intelligence software is incorporated as a learning layer in the Ranger robots, enabling the robots to communicate with each other and the GreyMatter central system to continuously recalculate order fulfillment priorities and inventory movement patterns. The AI-enabled mobile sortation system is easily scaled, making it an investment-friendly option for a range of applications across retail and logistics industries.

Ash Kandhari, Managing Director, Rex Brown, said, “We chose Ranger MOBILE SORT because we are seeing an increase in growth volumes from customers and we have our own ambitious goals for our company, so we need a partner that can support us to grow the business without any constraints. Ranger MOBILE SORT easily integrates with our operations. A partner like GreyOrange that aligns with our future-orientated mission is key.” Kandhari adds: “Ranger MOBILE SORT seamlessly connects with our existing packaging machines through auto induction. The inherent flexibility in the system enables us to start as per the current needs and allows for scale-up as the business grows, thereby reducing the risk of large capital expenditure in the initial stages.”

Nigel Lahiri, Sales Director EMEA, GreyOrange, said, “Today, complexity within the warehouse is the norm due to constantly shifting business requirements which include volume changes during peak periods and a constant pressure to cut operational costs. By choosing our solution under consultancy of our partner BigBox Group, Rex Brown will implement Ranger MOBILE SORT to manage the complexity of the inventory they distribute as well as scale their sorting capacity to 20,000 parcels per shift with plans to double this volume over the next few years. With Ranger MOBILE SORT, this is entirely possible.”

Rex Brown’s services cover sourcing, branding and distribution, with both B2B and B2C capabilities. It operates across EMEA and is expanding across APAC, with a growing capacity of 30,000 daily shipments.

Webinar: How Hyper-Local and Micro Fulfillment are Changing the Game in Bullet-Proofing Fulfillment

With COVID-19 accelerating demand and shortening the timeframe for disruptive innovation in the supply chain, micro fulfillment is a crucial strategy for retailers to better service local markets and improve profitability.

Join eDelivery and GreyOrange for a webinar on Wed., July 1 to learn how to successfully implement a winning hyper-local and micro-fulfillment strategy that easily responds to sudden shifts in channel volume and also meets customer expectations for next-day and same-day delivery.

About GreyOrange

GreyOrange is a global company that modernizes order fulfillment through Artificial Intelligence-driven software and mobile robots built together so they cooperate in deciding on and executing warehouse activities that maximize payoffs and minimize tradeoffs to create the highest yield.  The company’s Always-Solving™ Fulfillment Operating System GreyMatter considers predictive and real-time data regarding orders, promises, inventory, shipping windows, and resources to orchestrate how workers and robots work together to fulfill the right orders at the right time. GreyOrange experts help organizations master fulfillment in the Age of Immediacy so they keep promises, capture more revenue, and improve the work experience for warehouse employees. GreyOrange has core operations in the United States, Germany, Japan, Singapore and India. www.GreyOrange.com

About Rex Brown

Rex Brown is an award winning UK based ecommerce specialist, enabling both multi-national brands as well as fast growing challenger brands unlock their potential in the ecommerce space. Through the use of cutting edge hardware and software technology, Rex Brown ensures their clients are able to deliver best in class service. In addition their extensive access to ecommerce retailers and urivalled experience of working with marketplaces, ensures enviable levels of top line revenue growth underpinned by ongoing profit optimisation for all brand partners. Rex Brown primarily services Western Europe from its core operation in the UK, although this will be extended to a global coverage over the course of 2020.

Will the pandemic accelerate automation in supply chains? Part 1: Labour shortages in a time of high demand

WILL THE PANDEMIC ACCELERATE AUTOMATION IN SUPPLY CHAINS?

Part 1: Labour shortages in a time of high demand

From Reuters Events
By Alex Hadwick
Jun 29, 2020

Crushing levels of inventory need to be shifted for many, even as workforces are pared back by the effects of COVID-19. Will automation provide some relief and is it here to stay?

It’s a world of extremes for supply chain managers. Shops shut down, but online operations in overdrive. Huge pressures on distribution centres, but illnesses ravaging workforces and distancing requirements reducing productivity horizons. Consumers desperate to get orders delivered to their homes but supply frequently constrained.

There is then the need for innovation.

One route, and an increasingly prominent one, is automation. Companies are now putting automation on a high priority footing as they look to drastically increase productivity per worker and per available unit of space in order to better cope with the COVID-19 crisis, risings costs and to compete long term.

We sat down with experts from a variety of high-tech robotics companies to understand the dynamics at play and how the pandemic is playing into the long-term trajectory of supply chain automation.

The COVID crunch for warehouses and factories

The pandemic has introduced a troubling dynamic for distribution centres and factories. One the one hand demand is returning for many products and soaring when it comes to e-commerce. One the other is the need to keep workforces safe and distanced and handle absentees hit by coronavirus, meaning understaffed facilities in many cases.

The boom in online shopping is also generating big demand for industrial space at a time where it is at a premium and is therefore placing upward pressure on costs through this expansion in warehousing floor space, as well as the expense of handling more products behind the scenes, both outwards to the buying consumer and in terms of return logistics.  

“E-commerce has accelerated probably 10 to 15 years ahead of schedule”

This is causing many to ask how they can squeeze more productivity from what they have currently?

Most are finding that the only realistic answer is to invest in automation.

For those fortunate enough to have an online presence and fulfilment operation, the change in demand has been extreme.

“E-commerce has accelerated probably 10 to 15 years ahead of schedule,” believes Lior Elazary, Founder and CEO of inVia Robotics, as does Fergal Glynn, VP of Marketing at 6 River Systems, who notes that the kind of demand projections made in some industries for “2030 has arrived far earlier than expected.”

“It drove a lot of pressure upstream into the warehouse”

When 6 River Systems “Looked at the data from our platform at what was fulfilled in May of 2020 across our customer base, many of [our customers] were operating at their peak level.” This led 6 River Systems to have conversations with their customers, as they’re “going to have another two- to three-X spike come November and December of 2020.” In particular, this has meant 3PLs are “looking to bring in automation into buildings that aren’t automated right now,” and “doubling down” on automation according to Glynn.

It’s not just 3PLs who are looking at the demand spike with trepidation, as COVID-19 turbulence “Came as a massive wake up call to the retail brands about how they’re going to deliver their goods to consumers” says Karen Leavitt, CMO of Locus Robotics. “It drove a lot of pressure upstream into the warehouse, because now there are consumers who still want to buy goods and services, but now they want to be able to get them online.”

“They then had to figure out a way of doubling, tripling or quadrupling the direct-to-consumer volume out of their warehouses in very short order”

For many retailers, they were looking at a complete switch in their business, from an overwhemingly physical sales base to “A 90% e-commerce-to-retail mix,” notes Leavitt, “and that of course changed the volumes in the warehouse. So, they then had to figure out a way of doubling, tripling or quadrupling the direct-to-consumer volume out of their warehouses in very short order.”

This meant “Getting more productivity out of their associates, hiring more associates if they could, but of course, that was also stymied by social distancing concerns.” Therefore “bringing additional automation into the mix rapidly became, became a major, major initiative.”

Covering the distance

The social distancing issue was noted across our interviewees as being a critical driver in more interest in automation.

“Just before COVID,” many of Fetch Robotics’ customers “were already dealing with reducing headcount challenges or labour shortages,” notes company CEO Melonee Wise “and COVID only made that much, much worse. One, just due to artificial constraints, like social distancing reducing number of people you can have in the building people, and then [secondly] through real constraints of people being sick or unable to work.” This meant that robotics were often really the only real solution allowing companies to come close to matching demand expectations, while operating with a sparser warehouse from a worker perspective.

“Here in the US before Coronavirus, there was already a 500,000 person shortage of jobs”

It’s not like this came at a time of easy hires walking into warehouses, either.

“Here in the US before Coronavirus, there was already a 500,000 person shortage of jobs for people willing to do warehouse picking, packing and restocking jobs,” points out Terrie O’Hanlon, CMO at GreyOrange.

Although there has been a sudden increase in labour as a result of economic contraction globally, none of the industry figures we spoke to expect to see automation fall back as a result.

“For every person that leaves, you can assign a $10,000 cost in terms of getting a new person in and retraining them”

Elazary notes that “People don’t want to walk around in the warehouse day in, day out,” leading to continued turnover even in periods such as this. Furthermore, the costs of this cycle are huge. GreyOrange found in research conversation with a senior figure from Walmart that “it’s hard to retain those employees because the job from company to company to company is all the same. So, for five cents more an hour, you’re going to switch jobs and he was telling us that Walmart had a 70% per year turnover in that position. He said, for every person that leaves, you can assign a $10,000 cost in terms of getting a new person in and retraining them.”

This is particularly problematic for companies like Walmart, as several figures noted that the grocery sector is an area where there has been one of the biggest mismatch in capabilities.

“I think the biggest move we see [towards automation is] in grocery,” says Markus Schmidt, President of Swisslog Americas, largely as so few in the sector had expected the scale of transition to online or invested properly. “Right now most of the grocery retailers are willing to invest because they are damn afraid of Amazon’s might to be frank. They want to do something in order to stay in the game. They also are willing to raise funds in order to invest.” However, there is a further driver in that picking in supermarkets “is super expensive, because the peak efficiency of the one who’s picking instead of the customer is so low. That’s why a lot of these grocery retailers have been thinking about micro-fulfilment systems,” which will have to put automation at their heart to make the economics work (stay tuned for part 2 of this feature for more on micro-fulfilment and automation).

However, it’s not just in the retail or 3PL space where swift progress is being made, as manufacturers further upstream are putting automation on a higher level as well.

“If you boil it all down, what we’re really selling is flexibility as a service”

“There’s an awful lot more interest in the collaborative robots being used at various stages of the production line” notes Tom Bouchier, Managing Director for FANUC UK. In particular, “there’s a lot of queries for the robots designed for the end of the production line because of social distancing.

“There are cash flow issues, but interest is rising. Industries that haven’t been automated are now looking at automation.”

Cost is also a driver here as some elements of manufacturing shift to closer to market (see here for more on reshoring and near shoring). Although Bouchier has found that “Every company that I’ve been to or talked to over the last two months is talking about returning more manufacturing to the UK,” it is not possible to compete without adopting automation in production and packing lines as a developed economy with high wages, which is pushing more robots into production facilities in these places.

Wise summarises the reasons driving adoption of robotics and the ways in which it solves these issues in three pieces. “One it it’s the flexibility that empowers,” as robots are increasingly deployed as a service and can be scaled up or down. Leavitt agrees wholeheartedly with this. “The problem that we’re solving for is the lack of availability of labour, and the and the cyclical demands for that labour. We wanted to give customers a solution that was positioned along those same lines. If you boil it all down, what we’re really selling is flexibility as a service. We’re allowing our customers to take on additional robots The same way they would take on temporary labour during certain peak demand periods, and then scale that back when they no longer need it.” This is especially important in the current climate as “businesses have traditionally had fairly predictable cycles of an on season and offseason, of steady state and peak. Well, now that’s all been thrown up into the air.”

“How do we increase the efficiency of the people that we can hire?”

Secondly, Wise believes “It’s the labour contingency that it supplies, because the reason people were adopting our product before is they were struggling to hire. Now they’re doing it to make up for a labour shortage or a labour gap to increase the efficiency of the people that are there. It’s still solving the same problem, which is how do we increase the efficiency of the people that we can hire?

“And then, thirdly, to basically deal with all the things around social distancing,” and safety concerns. Robots reduce the amount of human contact and Wise notes “the carts can be sterilized, disinfected very easily. They can be washed down and so you’re limiting the amount of cross contamination between people with the robots greatly.”

An evolution becomes a revolution

These are the push factors but what about the pull of changing dynamics in the production and operation of robotics in the workplace?

Outside of COVID-19 the falling costs and growing adaptability and compatibility of robotics throughout the supply chain is helping to boost adoption. inVia Robotics’ goal has long been “To automate all the 80% of the midsize businesses that need the automation, but don’t necessarily have the millions of dollars in their budget to support that. We are capable of scaling the system depending on the customers needs, so that it can handle anywhere from 100 orders a month to 100,000 orders a month,” says Elazary. 

“I don’t think people realise how quick payback on this CapEx is”

Whereas in “traditional automation you have to adapt the warehouse to that automation. You have to build specific racks. You have to build special conveyor belts and things like that, which costs a lot of money. Here, we bring the robot in directly into the existing operation, and it’s able to adapt to the warehouse. And again, what it does is it really lowers the barrier of entry to most customers.”

Bouchier agrees that “[Capital costs] have come down a lot in recent years. I don’t think people realise how quick payback on this CapEx is. It can be less than 18 months, depending on your output and what you are doing, but certainly 18 months is a feasible return period for that CapEx.”

Elazary notes that a further component in cost reduction is the falling cost in key systems and the use of software that makes robots more adaptable to different environment and can also “Compensate for the lack of hardware precision. So, in the past, the way you build a robot is to make it extremely precise, because it has to be within the millimetre to reach that exact location. What we’ve done instead, is we have less precise machine and we have a vision system that allows us to get the items. Now, the motors are not as expensive, the actuators are not as expensive but the vision system closes the loop to allow the robot to always hit the point. That’s how we’re able to lower the cost of the robots in general.”

“We’re also providing real time and retrospective data back to the customer to address what’s happening”

Linking up data monitoring software to robotics is also a major driver of added value, which makes the proposition of robotic systems more attractive.

“Through the course of the operation, we’re not just doing those things that are related specifically to the robot deployment,” explains Leavitt, “but as the as the work progresses day after day, month after month, we’re also providing real time and retrospective data back to the customer to address what’s happening. So, we’ll give our customers heat maps of where the picks are being made and they may find, for instance, that there’s an area of high activity because there are a lot of popular items in it that are located relatively far from the packing station. Therefore, they may want to re-slot their goods to have high frequency items located closer to induction and drop off. They may want to take items that are less widely used and position them farther back.”

Both O’Hanlon and Bouchier also note the importance of software, and particularly the predictive analytics, that these kind of systems can bring. Bouchier gives the example of “One of [our] largest automotive customers, which has been using predictive maintenance on something like 5,000 robots around North America and they’ve had minimal downtime because they have been able to predict the failures that are coming up.”

A transition long in the waiting

Critically, as with a huge number of the biggest trends we are seeing now across business and society, COVID-19 is not the originator of these sweeping changes but merely a catalyst causing the reactions to strengthen.

E-commerce was already disrupting both high streets and supporting supply chains.

Workforces were already challenged by labour shortages and recruitment issues.

Manufacturing bases were experiencing transitions geographically as the cost of labour and terms of trade were changing.

These all impact automation in supply chains, as does the falling cost of producing and deploying systems.

“To be a quarter of the robot population of Germany is crazy”

Bouchier gives a telling example between Germany and the UK. “It’s well known that we have just under a quarter of the robots per 10,000 workers that Germany have,” which plays into the productivity gap between the two countries. “If you work on the numbers that a German worker is 30% more productive than a British worker, it has to be” at least partially down to the different levels of automation believes Bouchier. “We [the UK] can’t compete. We’re not a low-wage economy, so we have to be as efficient as everybody else…. To be a quarter of the robot population of Germany is crazy.”

The wider adoption of robotics has therefore been a long time in the making and is going to be critical to remain competitive, with those exploring its capacity giving themselves an early mover advantage. We can expect automation to accelerate both during this crisis and after it passes with widespread implications for supply chains and societies.

Read the full article at Reuters Events.

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A bigger boom in warehousing on the way? Part 2: E-commerce, automation and the long-term outlook

A BIGGER BOOM IN WAREHOUSING ON THE WAY?

Part 2: E-commerce, automation and the long-term outlook

From Reuters Events
By Alex Hadwick
Jun 24, 2020

As e-commerce turns from a building wave to a massive tsunami in the wake of COVID-19, warehouses are in high demand, but they will need to adapt to fulfil the new environment. We explore the trends shaping the industry long-term with a host of industry experts

Warehousing has been on a long journey in the last two decades, rising from a necessity few were interested in on an organisational level, to a critical asset that has to run smoothly for an operation to be effective. Amazon shone the way, demonstrating that there was much more that could be done to make distribution centres more efficient and a critical competitive advantage.

“Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen it go from an unloved asset class to the top asset class”

“When I first started doing this job approximately 34 years ago, the industrial logistics sector was viewed as a very grubby and dirty and at the end of any asset class,” says Len Rosso, Head of Industrial and Logistics, Colliers. The overwhelming view was “We needed it, but we won’t bother about it…. It was viewed as a very sort of unloved asset class. Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen it go from an unloved asset class to the top asset class.”

This rise has been nitro-boosted by the rise of e-commerce as a critical growth driver for many brands and an area that is increasingly vital to a consumer experience that builds repeat business. As we noted in our feature on e-commerce here, growth is explosive right now as consumers stay away from the high street and look online. Although often driven by necessity currently, this doesn’t mean those behaviours will evaporate and it will all return to the pre-COVID status quo once lockdown is lifted.

A whole new segment of consumers are now versed in buying goods online and those who were already shopping digitally have been lured further in.

Critically, for distribution centres this is creating a race to snap up industrial properties, especially those that are well placed near large consumer bases, as companies try to deal with the greater space that is needed for an e-commerce operation.

However, it is not just about finding the right real estate but making the guts of each one work for the new environment of heightened e-commerce demand and high-speed fulfilment. Maintaining profitability is a huge challenge in this new age and, therefore, warehouses will need to be structured and fitted out for high-end efficiency that befits a new post-pandemic world.

Pivoting away from the high street but towards consumers

“I think really what COVID has done is just accelerated a whole load of a whole load of thinking and challenges that process that were there beforehand,” says Peter Ward, CEO of the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA).

“We should expect a significant change and expansion in the future as a result of Coronavirus”

“What COVID has done over the last 12 weeks, it’s actually created a new set of users, the older generation who we never even factored into our figures,” which “were all predicated on Millennials, Generation Z, and the next generation after that,” notes Ward. “Little did we ever think about people like my mother suddenly becoming an internet user because it’s the only way she can get a delivery of groceries.”

The net effect of this is that “We should expect a significant change and expansion in the future as a result of Coronavirus,” say Chris Caton, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Research at Prologis. “I think that’ll take years not months to adjust as consumer habits will clearly pivot away from exclusively shopping in store to … kind of a hybrid, where you go to the store periodically but a lot of your consumer staples are bought online.”

“Online retail fundamentally requires more warehouse space closer to population centres”

“There’s going to be this transfer of activity from what we used to call a kind of bricks-and-mortar high street, to where more and more goods are going to be fulfilled in distribution centres and go direct-to-consumers from logistics operations, fulfilment centres, and the like, than through traditional retail channels,” believes Ward.

Kevin Mofid, Head of Industrial Research at Savills, sees the “Online retail piece as without doubt the biggest driver,” but critically “online retail fundamentally requires more warehouse space closer to population centres” to give the customer the right mix of speed and choice. This will drive a major change in dynamic in most markets, from one where much of the final logistics is directed from large out-of-town warehouses and then into cities, to one where resources are more distributed and often smaller facilities closer to urban centres play a major role.

“The core fundamentals of location and connectivity will remain key,” says David Sleath, CEO of property giant Segro. “Sites which are close to urban conurbations, with large employment pools and customer base, and key transport routes will always be in most demand and attract strong competition from developers.”

“There’s about three types of real estate strategies,” explains Caton, “one is a centralized distribution centre,” such as the UK’s large midlands warehousing parks, “two would be to have a large DC on the periphery of the city … where the rents and labour are a little less expensive, but you’re around an hour’s drive or more from the city centre. And then the third would be last mile locations, which are within the markets, and you could even go so far as to talk about urban depots. The trend absolutely is to go towards these last touch facilities that are within the cities…. Last touch and urban are categories where we’re seeing more demand.”

“We actually have one client who has is moving ahead with taking a look at their entire distribution network, taking previously low foot traffic locations and re-doing them for e-commerce only”

“The biggest change,” that fulfilment automation firm GreyOrange has seen recently “is a really heightened interest in hyper-local and micro-fulfilment [centres] and in re-tooling existing retail space to either be 100% e-commerce focused, or moving the back of the store up, so that there’s a less space on the front-end for traditional foot traffic and more space on the back end for for-e commerce fulfilment,” notes company CMO Terrie O’Hanlon. “We actually have one client who has is moving ahead with taking a look at their entire distribution network, taking previously low foot traffic locations and re-doing them for e-commerce only.”

Ward thinks this emerging dynamic “Presents a land of opportunity, and a phenomenal growth opportunity,” for the sector. For the UK, even “In a non-COVID world, we were talking about predictions for an expansion of additional warehousing to the tune of 20 million square feet every year for the next 20 years,” and the additional demand as a result of e-ommerce is a further boost on top of that.

Investing in e-commerce operations

The same pressures that are driving distribution centres closer to population centres and into smaller facilities are also behind the drive to make each facility more efficient, which largely means investment into technology and automation.

“Assuming that the economy will bounce back strongly in 2021 and fully recovered in 2022,” says Andrea Ferranti, Senior Analyst, Head of Industrial & Logistics Research at Colliers, the sector will see “more investment in automation, and mechanization to make the operation more resilient, and less, less labour-dependent, more efficient.”

“There is a huge opportunity for the 3PL market now to step up and fill that gap”

However, the burden of doing this is likely to mean a big boost to Third Party Logistics (3PL) providers, as the expertise and investment will be daunting to many, especially with the number of companies now investigating Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) business models.

“Retailers, notoriously, don’t enjoy complexity. And this just gives them another load of complexity to deal with so they’re likely to outsource,” believes Ward. “I can’t see any supply chain director at the moment or logistics director going to the board of a retailer and saying, ‘I need a massive capex to build an new logistics network around the UK where I can hold stock in multiple locations near to the consumer base’. This is because there’s a market out there full of 3PL providers that will do that on a very flexible agile pay-as-you-go basis. So, [there is a] huge opportunity for the 3PL market now to step up and fill that gap and respond to that challenge.”

“Automation is continuing to grow rapidly within the logistics facility”

For Caton, the catalysing effect of the crisis may finally mean progress in several “Technology trends that I think will remedy the e-commerce profitability” issue that has bedevilled so many in the sector. “On the transportation side, which is obviously the most important, most expensive part of fulfilment,” scaling as a result of e-commerce expansion “is part of the solution as the truck goes from stopping every other block to making three you know, stops per block, but also there’s a fair amount of technology aimed at transportation in terms of route optimization.” Then “automation is continuing to grow rapidly within the logistics facility to also streamline cost there,” which will “really lead to a step change higher in profitability for e commerce, as it relates to logistics facilities.”

The long-term outlook

The market for industrial space is the tale of bigger tales being told in the logistics and retail sectors. Already present trends towards high take-up of space for e-commerce operations, demand for facilities closer to urban centres, the decline of physical retail spaces, distribution centre automation and the move to view supply chains as competitive advantages have been thrust fully into the spotlight by coronavirus and will continue after the virus is under control.

A key net effect of this will be elevated long-term demand for space, however “Supply levels were already low,” says Mofid for several markets, such as continental Europe.

“What this crisis has done is accelerate online penetration in continental Europe”

“The interesting thing about continental Europe is that the online retail penetration rates are much lower,” than in the UK, for example. “What this crisis has done is accelerate online penetration in continental Europe. What that should mean is that the amount of warehouse space needed in continental Europe increases in the same way that it did in the UK five or six years ago. The problem is that when this happened in the UK, back in 2012, we had much more supply of warehouses and in Europe, the vacancy rates are already much lower. So, in many respects, the situation in continental Europe is going to be amplified even further.”

This is going to lead to rates remaining higher than one would expect given the economic shock we have just gone through and for this to continue out into the long-term as demand driven by e-commerce requirements but constrained supply, particularly in those coveted spaces near lucrative markets, creates a floor for prices.

“One of the trends that we had, we had clearly observed over the last three or four years was the increased importance of energy availability”

This will push the need to drive efficient operations even further up priorities, especially as the economy improves and company balance sheets become less perilous, spurring executives to invest into automation at scale.

“One of the trends that we had, we had clearly observed over the last three or four years was the increased importance of energy availability,” notes Mofid. “The reason for that is that warehouses are being fitted out now much more with robotics, automation and so on, and they have huge energy draws. Not all sites where you would consider building a warehouse and actually have the ability to provide that power…. What that means is actually locations where traditionally you wouldn’t choose to locate a warehouse actually and now becoming much more popular, because they have the ability to provide high amounts of energy.”

This need for power underlines the journey warehouses are undergoing. From once unloved assets, to high-tech buildings at the centre of a company’s success, stuffed with sensors and robotics in order to keep up a frantic delivery pace to consumers and hybrid facilities ever closer to the end customer.

You can find part one of our piece on the state and future of warehousing here. Keep up to date with all of our analysis, events and content by signing up to our newsletter here.

Read the full article at Reuters Events.

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Five Priorities for omnichannel retail supply chains

FIVE PRIORITIES FOR OMNICHANNEL RETAIL SUPPLY CHAINS

From Bdaily News
By GreyOrange
Jun 09, 2020

The opportunity is impossible to ignore. E-commerce sales worldwide are expected to grow from $2.9 trillion in 2018 to $6.5 trillion by 2023, according to Statista.

Through it all, retailers – like most organisations – also want to increase their bottom lines and cut costs, all while managing the growing onslaught of e-commerce returns. In fact, the volume of inventory that retailers must write off at the end of the year has become so significant that they’re looking at how they can move to a “one-inventory model” with more advanced fulfilment science that allows them to cut their costs and reduce their losses.

As the retail industry continues to evolve and is faced with these new challenges, there are essential components that must be embedded into all omnichannel retail supply chains to be successful. Here are five key elements that all retailers should be incorporating into their demand driven omnichannel supply chain strategies:

      1. A Single Inventory View Across Multiple Channels
      2. Multiple Hierarchies of Inventories
      3. A Common Hardware and Software Infrastructure
      4. Good Resource Utilization Across All Channels
      5. A System that can Quickly Adapt to Change

In today’s age of immediacy, the term ‘storage’ is an obsolete concept – all inventory should be visible and accessible.

To enable high yield, omnichannel fulfilment, retailers are adopting automated mobile platforms and high yield fulfilment operating systems to help them meet the demands of consumers for faster and cheaper delivery without the need for more human labour.

As the lines continue to blur between offline and online sales, and as companies continue to tackle issues like the warehouse space crunch, persistent labour shortage, and the Amazon Effect, the need for automated fulfilment strategies will continue to rise. More demanding than in-store buyers, 30% of online buyers in the U.S. will take their business elsewhere after just one poor service experience, according to an American Express survey.

Using the five strategies outlined, retailers can effectively design omnichannel supply chains that not only help them efficiently meet their customers’ ever-changing needs, but also ensure cost-effective, on-time, accurate fulfilment in a world that demands it.

Read the full article at Bdaily News.

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