18 Nov Smart Retailers Applying Automation to Deliver Holiday Cheer
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, supply chains were immediately put to the test. There was not a gradual shock to the system, they were stretched to their limits and many failed to meet customer demand.
Approaching the holiday 2020 rush, some retailers opted to start rolling out holiday deals long before the traditional Black Friday specials in hopes of spacing out holiday shopping. Shipping companies announced earlier dates for guaranteed delivery. But the smartest retailers spent the summer rolling out warehouse technology to help automate their distribution operations.
eCommerce is expected to drive holiday shopping sales this year. In its Annual Holiday Retail Forecast, Deloitte predicts that sales will grow by 25 to 35 percent, year-over-year during the holiday season, compared to only 14.7 percent in 2019.
According to the Voxware 2020 holiday shopping and shipping survey, 61 percent of consumers will be shipping more gifts to their homes this year. Another 77 percent of respondents plan to have more gifts shipped directly to recipients than last year.
In addition to volume considerations and increased order fulfillment, retailers also need to be aware that consumer sensitivity is more heightened around the holidays. 47 percent of respondents in the Voxware survey strongly agree that their expectations for correct and on-time delivery are higher during the holiday season.
Voice automation, augmented reality and supply chain analytics are a few of the technologies that retailers have deployed to help drive a successful and memorable holiday 2020 shopping experience.
Voice automation consistently helps warehouses operate 30 percent more efficiently. Voice technology is proven to optimize workflows and employee performance for all distribution 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 retailers ensure that supply chains can execute online shipments on time and accurately, but they must also be able to ensure fast and convenient returns processing.
Supply chain analytics are particularly adept at helping distribution center operations react to changing conditions more quickly and adjust staffing as necessary. Voxware’s enterprise supply chain analytics software, VoxPilot, aggregates and analyzes internal and external data sources and presents real-time and past DC activity, predicts future events, and helps users navigate the right course of action to immediately resolve problems that may surface.
VoxPilot helped Puerto Rico Supplies Group address a number of inefficiencies in its distribution operations. Not only did it help improve performance management issues, but it also helped achieve greater productivity numbers. Through VoxPilot’s integration with Puerto Rico Supplies Group’s routing system, the company eliminated manual tasks to reduce routing staff needs by 25 percent.
Augmented reality is another technology enabling workers to be more efficient and improve their accuracy in a variety of job functions within the DC.
For one of its retail customers, Voxware deployed an AR application for packing orders. With more than 200 unique packing instructions, Voxware’s customer wanted to automate the process for its workers.
The companies worked together to digitize all the packing instructions for each end-customer served (store fulfillment/direct to consumer). The worker scans the order at the pack station. From there, the specific packing instructions appear on a screen at the station matching the order with the customer packing instructions. The worker remains hands-free and confirms the actions of each step of the instructions by voice, so the order is packed accurately.
Unfortunately, mistakes in distribution operations still remain common. In 2020, survey respondents reported more delayed and more inaccurate deliveries than in years past. The result is a negative lasting impact on customer loyalty, reputation and ultimately the bottom line.
As more consumers rely on eCommerce as their means for shopping, automation will be critical and companies that have not taken the initiative to optimize their distribution centers will struggle to deliver the flawless experience customers expect. Consumers are able to switch retailers with the swipe of a finger, so speed and accuracy of delivery will be a critical differentiator moving forward.
To learn how Voxware can help advance your distribution operations, contact us today.