As Consumer Demand Booms, 3PLs Look to Bolster Tech Capabilities

As Consumer Demand Booms, 3PLs Look to Bolster Tech Capabilities

COVID-driven shopping behaviors resulted in a torrent of eCommerce activity during 2020, and while third-party logistics (3PL) companies saw new opportunities for growth, they concurrently struggled to keep up with the wave of demand. Industry analysts are predicting that 2021 will see a continuation of last year’s trend, with online purchases expected to continue gaining momentum. But don’t think this only applies to eCommerce order fulfillment. Traditional brick and mortar locations are being equally challenged in keeping their shelves stocked and are relying heavily on 3PLs to deliver.

Amidst the boom in consumer demand, driven largely by a shift in consumer behavior related to the pandemic, labor and facility costs continued to rise and 3PLs increasingly turned to technology to drive scalable efficiency. According to the 2020 Third-Party Logistics Warehouse Benchmark Report – an annual study by 3PL Central of logistics professionals who own or operate 3PL fulfillment centers – those who fared best have invested in robust systems.

As 3PLs shoulder more responsibility, it will be paramount for them to focus on the integration of innovative technologies designed to meet increased demand quickly and efficiently.

Tech-Forward Fulfillment Center Management

3PLs often make ambitious promises to customers that can be difficult to meet even during the best of times. Under the crush of 2020’s eCommerce demands, many found themselves struggling to make good on their pledges.

Much of the success and failure to meet customer expectations falls on warehouse services and their ability to move product promptly and accurately through the fulfillment center. Findings from the 2020 Warehouse Operations and Trends – an annual survey conducted by Peerless Research Group – reveal that investments in warehouse automation technology are lagging behind the recent surge in eCommerce activity. (Reader’s Note: See Voxware blog post for additional insight on this report.)

Fulfillment center technology that had been planned for a future investment in accuracy and speed has suddenly become urgently essential to business success and survival. Voice automation and augmented reality consistently help warehouses operate 30 percent more efficiently and provides picking accuracy exceeding 99.99 percent.

Voxware Voice Management Suite® (VMS) is proven to optimize workflows and employee performance for all fulfillment center functions. From receiving and put away to packing and loading shipments for delivery (and all processes in between), voice-enabled workflows remove time and errors from warehouse activities.

Not only must companies ensure that supply chains can execute shipments on time and accurately, they must also be able to ensure fast and convenient returns processing.

Voxware provides voice picking and augmented realty solutions on a price-per-user-per-month basis, allowing customers to avoid a large upfront capital outlay to achieve results. Their Solution as a Service (SaaS) model is ideal for 3PL’s, as it offers flexibility for length of contract to match up with your customer’s length of contract. Licenses can also be transferred within 3PL locations to adjust to customer changeout.

Ability to Onboard Quickly

With demand for new hourly workers exceeding 475% in eCommerce fulfillment centers over the holiday season, the need for adding personnel was clear. With new hires comes the importance of having the ability to onboard quickly, particularly during high-volume periods.

The need to streamline the process of integrating new and temporary employees has always been a priority for 3PL management, but once again 2020 simply magnified the task.

This procedure has grown easier in recent years, and as traditional paper picking made way for speaker -dependent voice automation there were exponential improvements in the time needed to get a new employee on the warehouse floor.

Now, 3PLs using natural language voice recognition technology are able to achieve even greater efficiency. Voxware’s VoxTempo® eliminates the need for voice training, and any individual can equip themselves with a headset and immediately begin issuing commands that the system will recognize, register and provide a response. This practically eliminates the time and effort needed to introduce new workers to the warehouse floor.

Additionally, VoxTempo supports 30+ languages, removing a major barrier to entry for the large population of warehouse workers whose native tongue is not English, considerably expanding hiring options.

Analytics for the Bigger Picture

Supply chain analytics can help fulfillment center operations react to changing conditions quickly and adjust staffing as necessary. In the demand-heavy year of 2020, they evolved from a luxury to a necessity.

However, many warehousing operations have still not implemented this technology. According to the 3PL Central survey, reporting and analytics ranked as the top-planned investment for 3PLs in 2021, with 36 percent of respondents making it the top priority to implement or improve upon.

Voxware’s enterprise supply chain analytics solution, VoxPilot®, aggregates and analyzes internal and external data sources and presents real-time and historical information, predicts future events and helps users navigate the right course of action to immediately resolve problems that may surface.

Whether you are providing direct order fulfillment or shipping to brick-and-mortar locations, if you are struggling to meet the rush of customer demand, now is the time to consider upgrading your technology. For a no-pressure consultation, contact Voxware to learn how warehouse automation and a robust analytics program can streamline your operation.

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