Technology is becoming an everyday topic for logistics and supply chain managers. At the same time consumers are embracing digital technologies and robotics faster than ever. Retailers of all sizes are trying to implement not only something that looks nice but also that brings true value. We spoke to Russell Holmes, Business Development Manager at AutoStore UK & Ireland about tech adoption in logistics retail. He is part of our Warehousing & Fulfilment Hybrid event in March. Get your ticket here and watch the video below.
Russell, how do you evaluate technology adoption for logistics retail in 2022?
In the last 12 months we have seen a general shift away from large scale mega projects, that were the traditional backbone of the industry. Typically those projects are space hungry. They lean more on fixed automation designed for specific performance criteria, often requiring new DCs.
Organisations are now seeing how flexible the market is and are pushing more towards utilising the existing infrastructure, which means that the automation needs to be much more flexible, be deployed possibly in smaller areas in a more modular fashion, and then be able to be scaled quickly afterwards.
We’ve seen this trend of automation needing to make the existing property more efficient, and it means smaller, scalable systems that are being deployed
Is this because companies are more careful about how they are using the money they have or due to consumers’ attitudes?
The challenges faced within the supply chain are still the same as they were a year ago. There is a labour shortage, energy crisis and increased SKU demand by consumers, as well as increased demand for customisation. There is a requirement to deploy automation in different facilities but the focus is not on how it is being done.
So the organisations are having to adjust what they’re doing in terms of operations, finding different pockets where automation fits, which has pushed the way from these mega projects to smaller projects. The theme is to utilise the space in an existing warehouse better.
What type of technologies are going to be used in 2023 and beyond in retail?
We already mentioned SKUs profile and how much stock can be held. But the other thing is how consumers are purchasing and interacting with the technology. There was a shift from in-store to online which has now slightly decreased but is still there. There is a rise of the omnichannel approach which is not always solved very well.
We are now talking about how to enable users to order online and pick-up in-store. This is something Autostore has introduced and is about improving consumers’ experience.
Isn’t there a barrier to adoption of such systems due to the fact that they might be too complicated for consumers to use?
With tech implementation in a company there is always time for training. With consumers’ facing technology there is no such time. The project is live on the day. We have developed a technology which instructs shoppers, with the correct safety mechanisms and they follow an on-screen light. It is a very simple system.
And what about technology that is used by logistics operators who serve retailers?
Everyone expected that various technologies will be deployed to the 3PLs market to assist operations.
Although people are convinced that technology has its place, it has taken 3PLs longer to adopt it. It might be down to how contracts are deployed or just purely operational. Flexibility within those organizations perhaps didn’t match the automation that was available.
But we have seen a trend within that area where the 3PLs are actually starting to adopt precise technology also in particular Autostore. And it is because the automation has become flexible and adapts to their operations easily.