The market today has never been tougher or more competitive. Consumer experience expectations have never been greater; what delighted us yesterday becomes the new normal tomorrow and with so many potential areas of the supply chain to address, it’s hard to know where to start.
In order to deliver a first-class experience, there are two critical aspects of the logistics process that must be flawless. The first mile – a process triggered by a customer order, for picking, packing, validation and transport. And then the final mile – getting the item into the customer’s hand, whether that is in store via click and collect, at home, office, drop off point or smart locker.
Managing these two essential aspects of supply chain logistics in a seamless way is key to retailers’ and their logistics providers’ ability to succeed, with operational efficiency within the DC or warehouse essential to achieving visibility and transparency. Sébastien Sliski, General Manager Supply Chain Solutions at Zetes, outlines areas where retailers should be focusing their energy in order to gain maximum efficiency in the warehouse.
The Right Investment to Embrace Technology
Planning for a 10-year infrastructure is no longer the way forward. In a year to 18 months, technology will have evolved again and the existing solutions may become redundant. Adaptability, agility and flexibility are key. However, not only do businesses need to work with an agile technology partner but they also need to ensure the people, and processes within the operations will enable them to keep up with the current rate of change and have the flexibility to introduce the latest technology.
Move to the Cloud
To keep up with the pace of change and the fast-paced nature of supply chain operations, the use of the cloud must be embraced to ensure that the traditional order picking solutions, such as voice-picking software, can work seamlessly alongside newer technology and more complex picking processes.
The right solution will enable businesses to rapidly deploy new technology, increase the visibility of events affecting operations and empower staff on the picking line. It also allows the flexibility required to adopt a suite of solutions and these can include voice, pick/put-to-light, RFID, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and more.
Automation Add On
The industry needs to look to automation, artificial intelligence and robotics to drive further efficiencies, however these should be approached as an additional rather than the primary solution. Automation is an assistive technology that replaces manual tasks, reduces staff dependencies, increases efficiency and drives down costs. These developments will help to create more flexible solutions that move businesses from being reactive to proactive. The companies most likely to differentiate and succeed will be those that overlay digitisation on top of best practice processes and flexible systems to truly introduce greater agility and speed into their operations.
The face of retail is changing almost beyond recognition. As huge household names are falling victim to the success of the more agile ecommerce players and their logistics partners, retailers are being challenged like never before. However, not all is lost. If retailers are to appease the demands of the ‘need it now’, digital savvy consumers, they must rely on an efficient and well-connected logistics infrastructure – starting with the first mile – that helps them to provide a seamless customer experience, every time.
Now is the time for retailers to invest the time and money required to operationalise the warehouse to deliver maximum efficiency and a sustainable 21st century experience.