Home' MHD Supply Chain Solutions : MHD Mar-Apl 2016 Contents I
n today’s retail market, the old adage of
‘time is money’ has never been more true.
By automating processes within a distri-
bution centre (DC), supermarkets can make
huge savings and ensure maximum efficiencies
across the whole supply chain.
Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that
this will soon become the accepted standard
in the industry, and is fast becoming a reality
already. Supermarkets can readily profit from
replenishment orders that are delivered to
match individual store layouts, on time and in
the most efficient way.
An excellent customer experience
Of course, the primary concern will always be
for consumers, who expect variety, competitive
prices, and an enjoyable experience in store.
By automating the processes within a DC, con-
sumers will reap the benefits directly, without
noticing a hidden revolution is taking place
across all of the background processes.
This begins with providing excellent planning
support for suppliers. Their time is important, so
they must not be kept waiting outside a DC due
to internal inefficiencies. All processes should
come together to ensure deliveries are tailored
to match individual store layouts. This helps
them replenish stock quickly and accurately.
Distribution centres should factor individual
store layouts into their systems to define an
ideal stacking pattern. This means that products
are carefully positioned on pallets, so no
additional sortation needs to be conducted in
store. This reduces disruption for consumers
and ensures products are never out of stock.
Bringing pallets straight into the store, rather
than the warehouse, means shelves can be kept
The future of manual operations
It is hard to imagine achieving these benefits
with a traditional, manual operation. For
instance, manual procedures cannot be altered
to match the layout of an individual store. It is
impossible to pick and stack products in the
required sequence. Therefore, automation is vital
in ensuring flexibility and reducing lead times.
Going further, various parameters can be
assigned to individual products in an automated
system. This includes criteria such as size,
weight, if glass is used in the packaging, and
fragility. An automated system can also check
whether products are the correct weight, if the
packaging is intact, and perform many other
checks not possible in a manual operation.
By scanning every SKU into the system,
it is easy to map which products need to be
retrieved from the warehouse first, and in which
order they need to be stacked. This more
sophisticated method of product retrieval means
that transport volumes can be reduced by up to
five per cent, because delivery trucks are loaded
Automation does not mean, however,
that huge job losses are the only inevitable
outcome. Realistically, it will most likely be the
case that the traditional role of manual order
picking soon becomes a thing of the past.
Manual heavy lifting will also be consigned to
the history books.
Instead, the core work for employees in a
DC will change, and become more engaging.
Importantly, installing an automated system
does not happen overnight. It is possible to
retrain staff ahead of the system going live,
while working conditions are also improved.
A shift in focus
Innovation in warehousing is happening at
a phenomenal rate as automation becomes
In recent times, supermarkets have realised
they must take measures to reduce costs
across the entire supply chain. This even
includes the way that the transportation of
products is executed. In the near future,
automation is destined to become the accepted
way of doing things.
This means that supermarkets may have
to shift their positions to ensure the customer
experience becomes the absolute focus.
Naturally, the largest growth will be seen in
online sales, which is gathering most pace in
the UK and US, with Australia not far behind.
In these countries, the layout of supermarkets
is already changing to facilitate the trend
toward e-commerce. Staff within stores are
also having to redefine their positions and main
responsibilities in line with this.
Ultimately, automating warehouse operations
simply makes good business sense. It is not out
of the question that the product range within
certain supermarkets could exceed the seven-
figure mark in the next few years. This means
that it has never been more crucial to rethink
whether manual processes can still meet the
rapidly changing demands of the retail market.
Michael Jee is the sales director at
Vanderlande Industries. For more information
email email@example.com or visit
IMPOSSIBLE TO RESIST
MHD SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS — MARCH / APRIL 2016
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