Labour shortage throughout the supply chain is a growing pan-European problem. There will be 95 million fewer working-age people in 2050 than in 2015 in Europe, yet 44.6 million warehouse workers will be required by 2023. The global road freight market is at crisis point too; Europe has an estimated 400,000 shortage of lorry drivers, with around 20% of lorry units standing empty.
High ecommerce volumes and customer expectations relentlessly challenge the overstretched workforce. Across Europe, ecommerce sales are expected to grow 8.5% a year until 2023 and shoppers demand rapid and convenient delivery that’s ‘right first time’. Consequently, supply chain leaders recognise that investing in collaborative automation from first to final mile is imperative to optimise workflows, productivity and warehouse space. This article explores five emerging automated technologies that facilitate end-to-end agility, efficiency and scalability, whilst engaging and empowering workers.
Transforming the first mile
Warehouse pain points include processing errors in the goods receiving area, lack of real-time inventory intelligence and inefficient/inaccurate loading and shipping. However, multi-modal voice recognition technology, vision-based (or camera-based) technologies such as Visual Sort Assist (VSA) and ImageID and mobile autonomous robots are drastically improving visibility and operational efficiency, even in peak periods. Warehouses investing in multi-modal voice recognition technology can operate 30% more efficiently with picking accuracy exceeding 99.99%. Combining the latest voice technology with other forms of data capture such as scanning and RFID, this wearable technology facilitates safe, hands-free working for optimum picking speed and performance. Other processes can be performed using the same device, offering the best return on technology investment.
To optimise goods receiving, inventory and shipping processes, ImageID technology captures and verifies hundreds of barcodes simultaneously, achieving 100% detection rate. Improving loading verification efficiency and enabling high accuracy inventory counting, ImageID technology eradicates human error and enables faster loading with 100% shipping precision and flexibility to accommodate change. Pallet scanning times are reduced to mere seconds and inventory counting time can be reduced by 50%, with accuracy rates of >99.8%. These robust camera-based technologies are intuitive and quickly scalable, ideal for organisations looking to introduce automation into the warehouse.
In the fast-paced sorting area, Visual Sort Assist (VSA) enables semi-automated parcel sorting and offers simple scalability. This vision-based technology vastly increases the capacity, agility and wellbeing of the workforce, without the need to expand existing facilities. Cameras read a barcode and project a number and colour on each parcel to guide workers at speed, minimising human error and fatigue, whilst meeting tight deadlines.
One of the latest technologies offering smart material handling, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are optimising warehouse efficiency by working collaboratively with operatives. Incorporating their capabilities with conventional technologies, such as voice picking or put-to-light, can deliver a fast ROI. Robot deployments will have increased to over 53,000 European sites by 2025.
Orchestrating a flawless final mile
As this stage can account for 30% of total order fulfilment costs, efficiency and visibility are essential for decision-making and insight. Electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) digitises the final mile delivery process, empowering drivers to meet customer promises. Critical real-time delivery data drives updates and alerts with photographic evidence at any touchpoint, enabling communications, KPI monitoring and continual performance improvements. Routes are optimised for ‘right first time’ delivery and guided workflows provide an intuitive employee experience.
Maintain a competitive edge with smart augmentation of workers
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