In today’s day and age, industries are betting on innovation to progress and the supply chain function is not behind the curve. With fast evolving market trends and emerging new demands from consumers, supply chain needs to be well organised and optimised to keep up with these developments. Imagine an ecommerce player receiving millions of orders every day and then dispatching them within one single day! In order to meet these sheer volumes of orders, supply chain becomes a highly critical function across for such companies.
India's retail market is expected to increase by 60 per cent to reach US$ 1.3 trillion by 2020.The phenomenal growth of e-commerce in a relatively short span of time and the rapidly evolving consumption patterns for consumer goods present a wide range of distribution challenges. There is stiff competition among players, more so, with the rise of new delivery patterns such as same day deliveries. With the advent of online shopping and the market expected to cross $170 billion by FY30, consumers today are looking for a more omni-channel experience.Furthermore, the implementation of GST has propelled consolidation of warehouses at one given location, which will make the task to manage the soaring volumes and demands a massive one. These factors have propelled supply chain companies to move beyond traditional systems to meet these challenges.
Businesses today operate in a volatile and multi-SKU environment, handling large numbers of orders to be shipped every day. Increased volumes, cost pressures, and the need to run leaner processes make inventory management in supply chain much more complex than before.
Warehouses are the most critical part of the supply chain, constituting about 60% of the function. They are the hubs for fulfilment and distribution services and catalytic to ensure a seamless supply chain. Hence, with growing complexities in supply chain and evolving market trends and consumer demands, flexible warehouse automation is the need of the hour.
So how are the warehouses evolving?
Convenience of instant gratification is only possible when the operations in the warehouses are driven by technology integration and automation. Retailers are now upgrading their warehouses with flexible automation as they race to meet the consumers’ demands for faster deliveries and omni-channel experience.We are also witnessing a shift towards smart, flexible and agile distribution facilities, laden with applications of robotics, AI and machine learning that help optimize the warehouse functions.
Today, Etailers and 3PL players are moving towards adoption of technology which can help them overcome the challenges that supply chain operations encounter every day. These technologies are also environmentally and workplace friendly which is a huge consideration for businesses. Companies are reaping the benefits of the huge advantage and potential that such technologies offer such as flexibility, cost-effectiveness, enhanced productivity and effective space utilization. For instance, ‘cobots’ or collaborative robots have entered the current warehouse scenario where they workwith a human operator to fulfil orders and enhance picking productivity. By combining AI and Machine Vision to revolutionise picking high-mix SKU inventory, these robots help improve the throughput multi-fold. Another example is where AI-driven autonomous robots are deployed to reduce order fulfilment and inventory replenishment time, thus enhancing business agility and growth as well as eliminating complexity.
As we move forward, we will see an uptick in this trend of adopting these technologies in warehouses to move up the value chain. More and more retail companies are now realising the advantages of these technologies and how it could help in reducing inefficiencies and operating costs in the warehouses. By providing the promise of agility, these technologies also help businesses tackle the growing demands and aggressive competition in the market. In the years to come, a company’s supply chain will help define its success and how it copes with the ever-growing customer expectations, and how digital transformation and bot economy will lead to futuristic, agile and flexible supply chains to stay ahead of the curve.
The article has been penned down by Vivekanand is Country Manager, India and SAARC at GreyOrange.