As warehouse automation grows in importance, many businesses are looking to do more than just purchase equipment from their supply chain partners — they also want direct access to manufacturers and EMS system integrators. What sets an automation vendor apart from the competition is its ability to offer equipment, cutting-edge inventory management software, and the expertise required to set up and run efficient system integrations.
For this reason, it is important for a logistics solutions partner to not only develop concepts for complex warehouse automation, management, and distribution systems but to be able to implement and manage them effectively with the relevant process know-how. This enables customers to proactively address labor challenges and build the resilience to withstand supply chain disruptions like COVID-19.
Tackling labor challenges with automation
Certain markets around the globe have been facing labor shortages and rising labor costs for some time now — issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. In response to these shortages (which research predicts could lead to 85.2 million unfilled jobs and $8.5 trillion in lost revenue across market sectors by 2030), businesses and logistics providers are looking for every opportunity to improve the productivity and cost-effectiveness of their operations.
For many, automation presents an obvious solution. Incorporating automation and robotics into supply chain operations improves efficiency while helping to maintain social distancing measures and maximize employee safety, also for the duration of the pandemic.
Further, the growth of fast-moving consumer goods markets — such as packaged foods, beverages, and over-the-counter drugs — requires that logistics providers be able to operate with high turnarounds. This means that the capability of a system to run more units as quickly and accurately as possible has become an especially important metric for supply chain success.
Building customer independence and resilience
In the wake of COVID-19, industries are trending toward “glocalization,” or standardized global solutions that remain close and accessible to local markets. As companies expand, they tend to look globally, but serving markets and customers often requires a tighter, more localized focus.
Having a local footprint is also proving to be critical for warehousing and logistics service providers, as it allows for better understanding of both regional perspectives and the precise needs of customers. This requires a different service concept — one that is likely to involve increased investment in regional factories, warehouses, and distribution centers as markets will likely shift away from relying so heavily on China for manufacturing.
To become more resilient in the face of large-scale supply chain disruptions like COVID-19, businesses need to develop a level of independence. This often requires rethinking warehouse set-ups and supply chain management practices from the ground up. The right automation vendor should therefore be able to offer expertise on all fronts — leveraging equipment, warehouse management solutions, and consulting services to not only provide stable and solid solutions for each customer, but to help create the next generation of supply chain ecosystems.
End-to-end automation solutions
Modular concepts and services address the different needs and challenges of clients in a range of markets. These allow customers to select the right combination of e.g. autonomous mobile robots and material handling equipment (MHE) that best supports the specific goals of their business. Modularity also extends to warehouse management system (WMS) integration, with different software options suited for different customer types.
A partner such as Körber offers full-package services, including both systems integration and machinery. This provides greater flexibility, which in turn helps companies meet rising consumer expectations. End-to-end solutions provide the efficiency and degree of automation customers need, including flexibility down to single item service and mixed-layer pallets.