This past year, headlines around the world highlighted just how interconnected and vulnerable the global supply chain really is. While the pandemic fueled a 30% increase in demand for online shopping, Canadian e-commerce businesses, and smaller sellers in particular, struggled to keep up – logistical disruptions only made things worse, and consumers experienced longer-than-expected wait times for their orders to reach their doorstep. At a time when most consumers expect 2-3 day shipping to be the baseline, businesses need to find innovative ways to fulfill their orders and meet these growing expectations.
There are three major factors that can be attributed to the future of the fulfillment landscape – robotics and automation, data and analytics, and sustainability.
Robotics and automation are driving innovation
Warehouses and fulfillment centers are increasingly implementing automation and robotics, such as Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS), to improve productivity and efficiency. While these technologies may reduce the need for manual labor, they do not necessarily replace human workers. In fact, automation and robotics can help to enhance the value of human capital by allowing workers to focus on more strategic, value-added tasks.
Businesses that use automation and robotics in their fulfillment centers experience not only improved productivity and cost efficiencies, but also improved employee experiences. As we approach a potentially recessionary environment in 2023, cost savings are a top concern for many businesses. Automation and robotics can help to reduce labor costs while still maintaining a robust human workforce.
The use of robotics and automation in fulfillment centers allows for faster and more efficient order packaging and shipping. As technology continues to advance, it is becoming increasingly important for fulfillment centers to consider the integration of automation and robotics into their operations.
Data and analytics can democratize the industry
Data is a valuable asset for any business, regardless of size or industry. A sophisticated data infrastructure can provide insights into inventory levels, order status, and other important aspects of fulfillment processes. However, many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that rely on third-party logistics (3PL) providers may have limited access to this data.
Lack of access to fulfillment data can be a barrier for SMBs trying to compete with larger retailers in the eCommerce space. When businesses have access to this data, they are better able to manage their end-to-end operations and have more control over their fulfillment and logistics processes.
Fulfillment data is valuable because it can level the playing field for sellers and merchants of all sizes in the eCommerce industry. With full transparency into data associated with their orders, businesses can provide a better overall experience for their customers. By democratizing access to this data, businesses of all sizes can compete and thrive in the growing eCommerce market.
Sustainability is a priority
In Canada, about 33 million tonnes of plastic ends up in landfills. With the ban on the production and importation of single-use plastics, the country is on a mission to reduce plastic waste and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. As the government looks to make sustainability a priority, it’s critical for businesses to make sustainability a focus in every part of their operation too. Whether it’s packaging, transport or delivery, there’s a massive opportunity for the fulfillment industry to be more environmentally-friendly.
A major way fulfillment solutions can be made more sustainable is with a multi-tenant system. An effective multi-tenant system allows orders from various merchants to be consolidated, so shoppers can receive their goods with less packaging. Another consideration for going green is with delivery and transportation. Whether it’s the usage of electric vehicles, or reducing the number of delivery trips, businesses should take advantage of technology, data and existing infrastructure to reimagine the last-mile experience that prioritizes sustainability.
Going green isn’t just great for the environment, it’s great for business too. With 46% of Canadians preferring to buy items with eco-friendly or less packaging, brands that consider sustainability will be the ones to thrive in the future.
People want to shop and see their orders at their doorstep, faster than ever before. A perfect last mile delivery solution needs a perfect fulfillment solution – you can’t orchestrate an efficient system without perfect fulfillment. And in order to do so, innovating the industry with robotics, data and sustainability is critical to continue to meet these demands of consumers in 2023 and beyond.