Here in the UK, most e-commerce businesses are likely to be in the middle of their peak season. Black Friday has been and gone, but the peak is still underway. For many consumers, the annual shopping event marks a starting point for Christmas shopping, making the holiday peak season even longer.

Workers are likely thinking it would be ideal if some e-commerce companies had their peak periods in the early months of the year, some in the spring and summer and some during the holidays. As we know, that’s not the case.

Almost all experience dramatic increases in sales during the holiday season, creating fierce competition for seasonal labour. In fact, according to a recent report from CBRE, the rapid growth of e-commerce will create demand for an additional 452,000 warehouse and workers in 2018-2019.

Swisslog’s Head of Sales in the UK, Shane Faulkner, says: “Relying on hard-to-find labour during the most important season of the year significantly increases business risk, especially for facilities based in logistics hotspots. Use of roboticbased automation can mitigate that risk in multiple ways.”

Goods-to-person picking solutions increase the productivity of warehouse personnel. Many CarryPick and AutoStore customers find they can increase pick rates by as much as 50 percent using goods-to-person picking, significantly reducing the need to supplement staff during peak seasons.

Shane continues: “Robots don’t have the physical limitations of human labour. They don’t get tired, take breaks or need seven hours of sleep each night. That provides the flexibility to extend work shifts by, for example, having robots stage orders before human workers arrive on the job.”

Another approach that is gaining popularity, particularly with CarryPick users, is to build a reserve of robots over time to handle seasonal demand. In this approach, a warehouse diverts some of the money it would spend on seasonal labour each year to purchase additional robots to help meet peak demands. This allows the organization over time to build ample reserve capacity and significantly reduce the need to supplement the labour force during the holiday season.

Shane concludes: “These robots are compact and consume very little warehouse space when they sit idle. Even if they are idle for ten months out of the year, the ability to gradually build reserve capacity over time, combined with the flexibility to instantly turn on that capacity to meet peak demand, can make this an attractive option for e-commerce providers seeking to reduce the risks associated with finding sufficient labour during peak periods.”

Read the full whitepaper on Using Automation to Manage Growth in ECommerce Fulfillment: