How can automation help omnichannel fulfillment?
According to 32 percent of U.S. retailers, the top priority around store fulfillment over the next twelve months will be implementing automation, as per the “2020 Supply Chain Survey” by enVista. The calls for more automation come as stores have been straining to quickly add or amplify BOPIS, curbside pickup and ship-from-store capabilities in wake of the pandemic.
“For some stores, picking, packing, and shipping from stores is an entirely new concept; in others, the infrastructure is in place, but the labor processes and training are not,” according to the study. “In most cases, additional processes and technology are required to standardize the desired customer experience.”
Thirty-one percent of retailers plan to increase in-store inventory storage, while 29 percent are prioritizing the optimization of back-of-house processes to support store fulfillment, according to the survey.
One focus, according to the report, is investing in technologies to ensure associates can access inventory and other information needed to fulfill customer orders in a timely manner. For BOPIS and curbside pickup, shoppers are increasingly expecting flexibility in how they can get their orders fulfilled, as well as ways to complete their purchases or make returns quickly and efficiently.
Having stores efficiently fulfill online orders includes addressing staffing levels and personnel responsibilities, the physical store layout, back-of-house inventory space, plus the ability for real-time inventory visibility across the stores and warehouses. Adding automation and a dedicated MFC (micro-fulfillment center) face challenges due the height and size of the space required.
Evaluating the progress being made in key delivery/fulfillment areas, the survey found:
- Two-day delivery: 92 percent had implemented, 28 percent indicated it needed improvement;
- One-day delivery: 84 percent had implemented, 46 percent indicated it needed improvement;
- Same-day delivery: 64 percent had implemented, 42 percent indicated it needed improvement;
- BOPIS: 84 percent had implemented, 24 percent indicated it needed improvement;
- Ship-from-store: 87 percent had implemented, 47 percent indicated it needed improvement;
- Vendor dropship: 78 percent had implemented, 40 percent indicated it needed improvement.
- 67% of Consumers Indicate That Inventory Visibility Across Stores, Online, and Mobile is an Important Service to Offer – enVista
- 2020 Supply Chain Survey – enVista
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can automation solve the execution challenges facing newer store fulfillment models (i.e., ship-from-store, BOPIS, curbside pickup)? Where do you see limitations in implementing automation for fulfillment purposes?