Despite delays due to the supply chain crisis, peak season is underway, amplifying the alarm bells that have already been ringing for the last few years. While everyone is focused on the last quarter of the year, it should be reaffirmed that this crisis is not going anywhere anytime soon. It is estimated that the bottlenecks will continue, with improvements coming gradually and subtly.
While the height of the pandemic may be fading, the ripple effects have left a detrimental impact on everything from manufacturing to last-mile delivery. The enormous pandemic surge of distribution immediately highlighted some key challenges that should curb expectations of timely delivery. Data from IHS Markit shows an enormous drop in delivery times since the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began, a reflection of increased demand and supply chain constraints. When combined with the labor shortage, it slows production and output.
These circumstances, coupled with the vast port backlog, all add to the recipe of disaster in the coming weeks amid the holiday season rife with expected delays and complications. For businesses working to provide consumers with e-commerce goods, it is essential to prepare for the holidays and beyond:
Set late arrival expectations
Be it for the holidays or any timely future event, it is best to persuade consumers to make early purchases. Merchants are also proactively communicating shipping times with banners or pop-ups on their online storefronts, sharing on social media and updating FAQ pages to maintain trust and transparency. Customers should have the knowledge outright of delayed shipments during the holidays and moving forward.
Businesses and consumers should begin to accept these trends as the New Normal. However, those working directly in the supply chain are continuously analyzing how to best circumvent the unparalleled obstacles that are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Increased employment benefits have been implemented to massage the labor shortage, with job postings more than doubling benefit advertising since last year and retailers are finding new ways of progressing sustainability with products to cut down on extraneous operational costs or materials. As alleviation begins to make itself clearer, shifting expectations and preparing for the long haul is prudent to staying ahead.
Behind the scenes, those working hands-on in warehouse fulfillment are finding the benefit of operating concurrently with robotic automation to reduce the stress and exertion that comes along with the challenge of meeting customer demand. Collaborative robotics redefine fulfillment, delivering immediate value to the strenuous pressure put on warehouse labor. They’re a human-first solution to an ever-evolving problem. The benefits of adding robotic automation in warehouse fulfillment are found in:
Cutting down employee exertion
Nearly 50% of time spent in warehouse fulfillment is walking, which reduces employee productivity and can increase safety concerns. With the number of SKUs in warehouses increasing every year and human error causing a majority of inventory or fulfillment issues, warehouse automation has a significant impact on aiding the supply chain crisis by getting last-mile goods to consumers as fast as possible.
Increased accurate picking
Warehouses that have incorporated automation have seen their numbers increase in key areas where it counts the most, improving order picking and increasing accuracy by 99%, enhancing the warehouse experience. One third-party logistics (3PL) struggling with accuracy was able to shift from manual picking to robotic collaboration and verification, eliminating the human error cost.
A morale and efficiency boost
In one such instance, Crocs increased throughput by 182% and exceeded pick rates by 25%, boosting both morale and efficiency for the workplace.
An increase in warehouse automation working hand-in-hand with improvements in other sectors means a quicker transition to mending the crisis. There is no easy fix, though finding ways to simultaneously increase productivity and retain a strong labor force will increase pick rates, improve efficiency, and boost employee morale overall.
For the time being, expect to see more of the same delays and demand shortages that retailers experienced last year through the holiday season and beyond. Warehouse operators should work to improve what they can control – warehouse logistics operations. Forward thinking and adapting to improve is the best way to see the light at the end of the tunnel.