Staging flawless fulfilment

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You can hardly look at a newsite at the moment without reading some form of doom mongering regarding Christmas shopping deliveries or Brexit.

If it’s not the red tops warning that toys and turkeys may have to be rationed, it’s the likes of Which? reminding us that 69% of people had delivery problems last Christmas, or Citizens Advice claiming almost half (47%) of Brits have had parcel delivery issues since lockdown began in March.

Unquestionably, and ‘bubbles’ aside, this will not be a normal Christmas but then little of this year has been normal so far. The logistics industry is still facing way more parcel traffic this year than at any other time since ecommerce started. It’s not just the 592 million parcels that retailers’ deliveries alone will put into the system, it’s all the presents people will be posting to friends and family because they can’t be together over the festive break. Royal Mail was said to be hiring a record 33,000 temporary workers to cope with this Christmas blitz. 

To pre-empt any Christmas delivery meltdowns, some retailers have sensibly pushed back final order dates while others have suspended next-day services. But if warehouses focussed more on their packing, staging, loading and delivery processes, they’d be in a better position to avoid any logistics disasters this year. 

When real-time information is missing from the critical last steps of the order fulfilment process, you start to get complications such as delays in order turnaround time and shipping because of issues like: 

  • inaccurate product and customer data 
  • inefficient packing and loading dock operations
  • poor carrier and container use. 

Such pain points can lead to higher shipping costs, reduced customer service and satisfaction, increased returns and, inevitably, lost sales and revenues.

Packing and staging are the most hands-on tasks in distribution centres and warehouses. A distraction or error at these points leads to incorrect shipments and unhappy customers. Zebra found* that almost half (49%) of North American decision makers identified outbound packing, staging and loading as a challenge.

Mobile devices at these critical points provide the accuracy to streamline the final stage of order fulfilment. They ensure the right order containing the right products is shipped to the right customers at the right time by the right shipment method. 

When Zebra surveyed* decision makers, it discovered that up to 62% planned to upgrade or add mobile devices by 2022; I suspect many are now fast forwarding these plans! And Android devices like Zebra’s ET56 rugged tablet and its MC2200 and MC2700 mobile computers really improve accuracy in fulfilment. They are highly affordable and effective both in the warehouse and outdoor spaces like yards and ports.

The Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) reported that online retail sales growth for Black Friday week (23-30 November) was +30%. It acknowledged that carriers had been living and dealing with higher volumes for most of the year and that if they managed to deliver all orders in the run up to Christmas without too much disruption then it was testament to their good planning and execution.

As we end the mother of all ‘annus horriblises’, our thoughts are with the warehouse leaders trying to optimise productivity, efficiency and accuracy against a rising tide of orders and the prospect of chaos that Brexit additionally brings. Few* (16%) believe full automation is the answer; the majority (73%*) still anticipate human interaction, albeit aided by devices. 

As ever, Renovotec will be providing support throughout the Christmas period and would like to praise and thank the keyworking transport and logistics firms who have worked so hard this year to keep us fed, clothed, watered, entertained but, most of all, safe. Wishing everyone season’s greetings and I hope you enjoy your Christmas ‘bubbles’ with a glass of something sparkling.

* Source: Warehousing Vision Study, Zebra

Richard Gilliard

Renovotec is the UK’s largest independent rugged hardware and maintenance, software and services company. Managing Director Richard Gilliard has helped lead the organisation for over 25 years, supporting customers across many sectors including warehousing and distribution, transport and logistics, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, seaports and field mobility. Richard's drive is to enable firms through…

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