The introduction of modern automated technologies not only enhances the e-shop and its warehouses but also brings faster and, above all, error-free solutions to logistics processes. However, many e-commerce or fulfillment companies are waiting for the right time to invest in new technologies.
It is a significant investment that smaller e-shops may not have the funds for or may not be profitable considering current order volumes. Nevertheless, it is a step forward to catch up with or even surpass the competition and thus improve the customer experience.
The best indication of when to invest in automation is increasing order volumes. Similarly, frequent delivery delays, staff shortages, or the desire to bring additional benefits to the company are factors associated with investments.
Yesterday was late for automation
The question remains: when is the best time to invest money in new technologies? To answer that, e-commerce or logistics companies must prepare a plan and conduct research to determine how beneficial the technologies will be for their processes and whether they are ready for automation.
It is also important to consider the expected market trends and future plans, including potential expansion or increased production. However, if the e-shop or warehouse is unsure about the appropriate time for automation and digitalization within the company, they should ask themselves these fundamental questions:
- Are you experiencing delays in order processing and delivery?
- Do you struggle to find enough workforce for specific parts of the process?
- Does inventory reveal discrepancies in stock, and do you lack visibility on them?
- Do you have to learn about stock levels from manually filled documents?
- Is your capacity to fulfill orders decreasing?
- Are you experiencing a growing number of dissatisfied customers?
If several questions have affirmative answers with regard to the e-shop, then it is high time to embark on automation.
Countless possibilities for innovation
One of the first steps leading to technological advancement in a warehouse is the establishment of a comprehensive and high-quality information system, also known as a Warehouse Management System. Through this software, new devices can be interconnected, allowing the system to evaluate every step of the process.
The system takes care of storage, picking, packaging, delivery, order processing, cash-on-delivery (COD) and return management, as well as many other parts of the fulfillment process. Barcode scanning can be integrated into the system, and workers can be equipped with personal digital assistants (PDAs).
The process of packaging shipments can also be expedited, for example, by using an automated packaging lines that scans the product, prepares the necessary amount of packaging material, and wraps it in a matter of seconds. This significantly increases the number of packages wrapped per hour and saves on materials.
Automated conveyors and sorters are equally important, as they can quickly and flawlessly transport products from one place to another and sort them as needed. In combination with mezzanine racking systems, they represent an ideal improvement that can advance the logistics of an e-shop.
The warehouse space is thus maximized to its full capacity. Although the physical space may be smaller, fully utilizing the vertical space ultimately reduces the order processing time.
However, automation can go much further with technological devices that can move autonomously within the warehouse using an information system and artificial intelligence. Therefore, valuable can be various AI-powered forklifts, sorters, vehicles, and autonomous mobile robotic systems that utilize GPS for movement within the warehouse.
Voice-picking and many other modern technological innovations are also becoming popular tools. Even with such equipment, you can minimize the need for employees on-site, which is associated with a labor shortage in the market, and also eliminate the risk of human error in the process.
However, it should be taken into account that automation doesn’t just have to be pretty, it has to be useful in the first place. Therefore, it must be approached responsibly and logically.
Automation in Fulfillment by FHB Group
Not every e-shop can afford to invest in logistics. However, to keep up with the competition, especially in terms of delivery speed and accuracy, it is essential in the e-commerce environment.
As a solution, outsourcing logistics to a 3PL fulfillment company can provide smaller e-shops with the capabilities of larger players. Fulfillment by FHB Group offers complex logistics solutions and a competitive advantage.
Investments are crucial for us because they enable us to facilitate logistics for our clients and continue the development of our company. We have invested millions of euros in automation and digitization in recent years, and we do not plan to relent in the future.
Our logistic centers are managed by a warehouse information system that is interconnected with our automated technologies. The warehouses are complemented by extensive conveyors in combination with multi-level mezzanine racking systems.
Various automated sorters, vehicles, lifts, and one of the world’s fastest automatic packaging line also simplify the fulfillment process. This line can pack thousands of packages per hour and, thanks to product scanning, significantly reduces the amount of packaging material used. Our warehouses also have other packaging technologies, conveyors, and other equipment, thanks to which we progress with the latest trends in e-commerce logistics.