By: Louis Kok, Head of Marketing & Sales, Körber Supply Chain Automation
The rapid adoption of digital technologies is transforming the way consumers purchase products. Empowered to locate and purchase the items they want at any given time, consumers are now expecting to access and receive products within a short timeframe. This poses a new and huge challenge for businesses as the movement of goods to and from warehouses are becoming increasingly rapid, bringing the efficiency of warehouses, distribution centers and order fulfilment centers to the fore.
In particular, many companies are turning to automation to improve warehouse operational efficiencies and to facilitate faster deliveries. At the core of the order fulfilment concept lies a host of innovative and effective warehousing and picking technologies:
Customers are placing orders more frequently and their orders contain diverse stock-keeping units (SKUs). In order to effectively manage an extensive mix of order types, while maintaining the highest level of service and remaining competitive, companies need a robust suite of solutions that they can rely on. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and other warehousing technologies such as automated storage, transport, sortation and other picking systems, can help companies to keep up with on-time, accurate deliveries and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction.
Such automated solutions can transport and store goods through a facility with high levels of speed and precision. In particular, a WMS gives warehouse operators complete visibility and control over warehouse operations. Furthermore, a WMS can also easily be integrated with material handling equipment to minimize human error and to improve overall efficiencies.
Order picking has a direct impact on the rate of order fulfilment. For instance, order fulfilment in manual facilities is highly dependent on the physical endurance and unpredictable speed of individual order pickers. High labor cost and widespread labor shortages across industries are also resulting in retailers scrambling to fill operational gaps and to deliver orders on time.
Automation can help to ease such concerns. Automated order picking technologies such as Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR), Voice Picking and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) can help companies tackle the high logistical demands of e-commerce.
For companies that operate in sectors compatible with automated logistics, such solutions deliver a great number of benefits, including:
- Higher order accuracy — Automation makes mundane tasks, such as locating and picking inventory, easier to complete and reduces the risks of order inaccuracies.
- Increased picking productivity — Warehouse operators can pick faster and more accurately using warehouse automation solutions such as RFID and ASRS.
- High-speed order sorting capability — Adding solutions such as voice-picking technologies enable warehouse operators to pick and sort orders at higher speeds.
- Improved labor management — Automated systems require less manpower and employees can be redeployed to higher-value roles that require specialized skills and knowledge.
As businesses turn to online storefronts, they begin to compete on a larger scale with new competitors. Speed of delivery and high levels of customer satisfaction are the two main competitive differentiators in the age of e-commerce, and many companies are turning to technology to help streamline and automate their order fulfilment process.
Companies looking to adopt automated solutions may be overwhelmed by the wide range of technologies options available. But with the help of supply chain professionals and a well-thought-out strategy to implement automation solutions, businesses will likely find themselves ahead of their competition in this e-commerce race.