Over 60 delegates from the UK’s leading retailers and leading logistic consultancies attended the ‘Automation for e-Logistics’ event hosted by SSI Schaefer, all eager to expand their knowledge-base surrounding the expanding and evolving e-commerce sector and understand better the role of automation within a DC in contributing towards servicing end-customer’s needs more effectively and efficiently.
Limitations of automation within the supply chain for online retailers were highlighted by Jaap Vos, Managing Director, SSI Schaefer. Using examples such as gift wrapping items and ironing clothes before dispatch, Jaap clearly stated that such actions could never be automated. He said: "However, as online retailers are continually looking to gain competitive advantage whilst keeping up with growing customer demand, it is clear how crucial the role of automation is becoming within DC operations in terms of achieving faster, more reliable customer deliveries."
Speaking at the event in Leicester was Kirsten Tisdale, a Logistics Consultant from Aricia, discussing the ‘Rise & Rise of e-Commerce’ focusing on current trends, customer expectations and company responses. Interestingly, Kirsten told the audience to look out for m-commerce – Mobile Commerce – set to take over from the PC within five years.
Kirsten said: "Customers ordering products online expect quick and easy, yet high standards of service including; product range offered, navigation, easy payment methods, flexible delivery times and pain-free return options – it’s about the end-customer experience and this is what every business providing an online service should be focused on at all times. If the use of mobile technology through i-pads and smart phones continues to expand at the current rate, in five years time m-commerce will take over from e-commerce powered along by an even greater need for speed and immediate access to the internet – adding to the immediacy needed on the e-fulfilment side."
David Hibbett, Business Development Manager for SSI Schaefer, pointed out the need to ‘think outside the box’ when installing systems to achieve rapid and sustainable order fulfilment as no two products are the same. He said: "As e-commerce continues to grow, operations need to look at systems that can support new demands within the warehouse and supply chain environments – fulfilling demands due to high volume throughput for next and same day delivery."
He continued: "The potential for small e-commerce distribution operations to grow far more rapidly than conventional retail is clear – this is why such operations need to be ready to rapidly scale up their picking and packing operations and migrate to new technologies in order to achieve this."
Delegates also heard from Paul Brooks, Sales Director for Unipart Logistics who spoke about the company’s current contract with online clothes giant ASOS – he talked about the importance of people and processes working together as one and said: "Online retailers want logistic providers to really engage with the brands they are representing – in terms of how customers view them – successful supply chain performance is critical in fulfilling that brand image and expectation right the way through from customer order to delivery."
The event closed following a trip to view Office Depot’s Automated Order Fulfilment System in Leicester – delegates were given a VIP tour of its world class storage and distribution facility designed, supplied, manufactured, delivered and installed by SSI Schaefer. Located at Bursom Business Park, the system plays host to two main business operations processed within the warehouse; Viking Mail Order and Office Depot Contracts and is designed to allow Office Depot to process 75,000 order lines over a 12-hour period with a daily picking capacity of 36,000 cartons.