The Future is Now: Embracing Digitalisation in Your Fulfilment Centre

Fulfilment centres need to constantly be on the lookout for innovative strategies to give them an edge in today’s competitive W&D industry. The traditional ways of addressing challenges and peak periods are simply no longer effective.

By BEUMER Group

Retailers are under pressure to meet customers‘ demands for greater transparency, faster delivery times and even same-day shipping.

In light of these demands and a growing labour shortage, it’s becoming increasingly important for fulfilment centres to embrace digitalisation.

According to Gartner, the next three to five years will see an increase in the adoption of digital supply chain technology, and companies who adopt digital processes have a better chance of not only succeeding, but thriving.

For example, when faced with a sudden increase in orders, digital tools allow you to assess your ability to handle the demand.

Additionally, you are able to accurately predict when orders will reach their final destination, which is a critical advantage for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retailers.

Using digitalisation to addressing supply chain challenges

The increasing complexity of the supply chain only emphasises the need for digitalisation.

Supply chain modernisation has simply become a necessity, and smart centres offer numerous benefits. The most significant are the opportunities to boost revenue and reduce costs through enhanced efficiency, accuracy, scalability and predictability.

And as the technology advances, distribution and fulfilment centres will reach the stage where the accumulated experience and data can be combined to reach a predictive level and can uncover patterns that might otherwise go undetected.

By adopting digital tools and processes, supply chains can be better managed and optimised, resulting in enhanced overall performance and increased customer satisfaction.

Optimising the Flow of Goods with a Warehouse Management System

A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is the heart of any digital transformation. It streamlines the flow of goods and the use of resources and serves as the hub for integrating other technologies like:

  • Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) that improve picking accuracy and streamline goods-to-person delivery. AMRs improve efficiency, growth, scalability and speed, helping your warehouse meet customer needs.
  • Voice and vision-based work solutions that free workers‘ hands and eyes to boost productivity, speed, accuracy, and safety. These auto-ID technologies replace manual systems and make warehouse workers more flexible and productive.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Machine Learning (ML) and advanced analytics to optimise warehouse operations and enable proactive decision-making.
  • IoT sensors in the warehouse track assets, detect low stock, and find lost items.
  • Automation and Material Handling Equipment (MHE) use tools like layer pickers, stacker cranes, and conveyors to reduce the amount of manual and repetitive work that needs to be done by humans.

A contemporary WMS can be integrated with these and other systems.

Scalable digitalisation

Digitalisation has the ability to enhance the operations of any distribution centre. In addition to cost savings, it has the ability to reduce the number of administrative and manual activities that too often result in human error.

The integration of technology has the potential to transform the W&D industry and lead to substantial improvements in efficiency and overall performance.

However, it is essential to know where your centre is in the process of adopting digitalisation:

  • Manual Operations – The traditional method of using pen and paper to track information. All information is recorded manually and stored physically. Problems are addressed as they occur, and optimisations are carried out only when necessary.
  • Basic digitalisation – Sensors in automated machinery collect information which is stored digitally. The system is constantly monitored, and data is collected to provide a clear picture of its performance.
  • Advanced digitalisation – By combining multiple data sources, patterns in the system’s performance and specific situations can be revealed. Algorithms are used to optimise the system through predictions on both operational and equipment levels.
  • Full digitalisation – The highest level of digitalisation, where the system can predict and solve problems before they occur.

The best strategy may be to combine manual, mechanised, and automated operations. Most available systems have a number of features, some of which are more important to your business and products than others. For example, the introduction of electronic reporting may be a modest step toward digitalisation, but one that could immediately improve existing processes.

Any distribution centre can benefit from digitalisation and, in time, advance to a higher level. However, taking the necessary steps might require some help from a systems provider. Working with a partner will help identify the opportunities and limitations of a proposed investment.

Takeaway: Digitisation Is Here to Stay

The digital revolution is here to stay, and fulfilment centres need to embrace it if they want to remain competitive. The demands on productivity and competitiveness are getting higher and higher, and digitalisation optimises user experience and improves the interaction between businesses and customers.

With a deliberate digital strategy, you can meet real needs and achieve real results.

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