“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” While 2015 didn’t turn out quite as the Doc predicted, he wasn’t far off. Technology in eCommerce fulfilment has developed rapidly, powering you to offer customers quicker, cheaper and more accurate deliveries. And it isn’t about to stop.
Emerging tech paints an exciting picture for retail and eCommerce businesses over the next couple of years, with advancements making fulfilment processes more efficient, effective and profitable. Are you prepared to embrace the change?
Let’s find out by looking at what’s being delivered.
Automatic distribution centres
Warehouses are becoming increasingly autonomous, and new technology from Microsoft is taking that a step further.
Working with Lenovo and NVIDIA, Microsoft has created smart sensors that use vision algorithms to locate missing products, detect damaged goods, and identify wrongly packaged items. This technology can be used to scan inbound goods and current inventory and then automatically send identified items for inspection by warehouse operatives.
Not only will these smart sensors prevent sub-quality items from being inadvertently shipped to customers, but they will also save significant time spent handling and rectifying such issues.
Blockchain has been a buzzword since it arrived in 2008, but the complicated nature of the tech has led to slow adoption and deployment in fulfilment; until now.
The Blockchain in Transport Alliance is working hard to drive this technology forward in the logistics sector, and we’re already seeing significant developments.
Recap: Blockchain is an open ledger of transactions shared between computers in a given network. Everyone has access to the same ledger, creating transparency that makes the system impossible to trick or hack.
Startups such as ShipChain are using this technology to build end-to-end track and trace systems, allowing you to follow products throughout the entire supply chain. This helps with locating missing items, identifying inefficiencies and preparing each stage of your chain for incoming shipments.
Digital twinning is the digital replica of a real-world object, and it has some interesting potential in the world of fulfilment.
You can use digital twinning to replicate your products, buildings or processes to analyse and manipulate circumstances. This can help you understand, predict and optimise performance without disrupting current operations.
For example, you can test packaging materials, enhance shipment protection, improve warehouse layout, train staff, and find the fastest and most efficient delivery routes – all using accurate data to guarantee success when implemented in real life.
For an operations director or 3PL, digital twinning is the ultimate continuous improvement tool.
3D printing is getting bigger, better and more affordable. It’s predicted that within the next 20 years we’ll have local and regional 3D printing centres, printing products on demand for last-mile shipping (or last-mile production). But in the meantime, how will 3D printing assist with order fulfilment?
Packaging and spare parts. After your smart sensors have identified a damaged or wrongly packaged item, 3D printers can re-print packaging or parts to rectify item defects quickly. In fact, the skincare industry is already using 3D printing to create cheaper and more attractive packaging for products.
Accordingly, 3D printing will save time and money, reduce waste, and create extra space in the warehouse.
Autonomous vehicle delivery
We’re quickly heading to a world where your products will be delivered using uncrewed vehicles. Wing is already offering drone deliveries in Australia, Walmart is currently testing autonomous cars in America, and StarShip robots have been delivering groceries in the UK. What’s next?
Wide-spread adoption. As these trials prove successful for businesses and consumers, last-mile delivery will be conducted by autonomous vehicles more regularly. This will enable you to guarantee fast shipping regardless of how congested or inaccessible the final destination is.
There’s also scope for unmanned ariel vehicles (UAVs) to be used as surveillance in high-risk areas, protecting your deliveries and staff.
Robotic Process Automation as a Service
Automation warehouse tech isn’t anything new. Amazon has already shown us how robots can help pick, pack and ship items to increase efficiency, reduce costs and achieve faster shipping. What’s about to change, is your access to it.
Robotic Process Automation as a Service (RPAaaS) removes the upfront barriers of cost and expertise to enable 3PLs and retailers to employ robots in their warehouses. This gives everyone greater access to automation technology that can help with order processing, shipment scheduling, procurement, inventory management, picking, packing, and more – without worrying about deployment or maintenance.
While robots certainly aren’t going to overtake the world in the next couple of years, they can help your staff or 3PL to perform with better speed, accuracy and safety.
How to prepare?
Keeping ahead of the game in eCommerce and logistics can be tough. One minute everyone is offering five-day deliveries, the next day Amazon’s delivering items in under one hour. How can you keep ahead of and benefit from this emerging technology?
- Keep up-to-date with the latest trends and developments by following eCommerce logistics blogs, forums and sources.
- Start identifying how this emerging technology can help to optimise your processes and practices.
- Speak to your eCommerce 3PL to find out how they’re using and preparing to use this tech to improve your fulfilment.
- Get excited about it – technology isn’t here to take your job, it’s here to help you become bigger and better at what you do.
The future isn’t coming – the future is here. By learning about and embracing new fulfilment technology now, you can spend the future benefiting.
About Synergy Retail Support
Synergy Retail Support is a trusted 3PL and fulfilment partner that is as invested in delivering your brand experience as you are. We invest heavily in the latest logistics technology to deliver an outstanding service and maximise efficiencies so you don’t have to.
To find out more, get in touch.
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