Signed, Sealed, Undelivered
I was at a family wedding recently where my brother-in-law was responsible for all the music. As an accomplished musician and DJ, he was going to perform a number of songs and then DJ for the rest of the evening. Expecting him to have lots of equipment I offered to help him carry things into the venue. I was shocked to find that instead of boxes of vinyl or CD’s and guitars, speakers and amplifiers etc., his equipment was basically a guitar and an iPad.
I subsequently discovered that he had a vast library of music, backing tracks and songs all stored on the iPad meaning that he could do everything from this tiny tablet device. This got me thinking about how technology and data has transformed pretty much everything that we do – both socially and in business. But are we fully harnessing technology and do we really maximise the value of the data that we hold?
In the warehousing and logistics industry, technology has already had a huge impact on workflow and efficiency. Ordering and stock control are instantaneous, inventory and pricing have been largely automated and the whole delivery process has been changed. I’m reminded of this when I buy from my local DIY store. I find what I want online, enter a number and can instantly check whether the item is available in my local store. I then have the option of either click and collect or selecting delivery, which allows me to track the item from the time of purchase to the point at which it is delivered to my home address.
But, have we gone as far as we can? Has the technological revolution finished or are we still in the middle of it?
There is no doubt that shopping habits have changed. Advancements in technology, particularly the increased use of smart phones, has seen fewer people shopping on the high streets and more online procurement. We are all sending and receiving more and more parcels. It is essential that as the demand for the number of parcels being sent increases, warehouses and shipping companies adapt in order to be able to deal with these requirements and prevent the lost parcel horror stories that haunt delivery companies.
This surge in parcel sending means it is inevitable that the use of manual data entry and hand picked and packed parcels will lead to errors. It is near impossible without automation systems in place to have complete control and accurate data for each and every item that comes in and out of the warehouse. Therefore, with more parcels being sent than ever and the pace at which they are expected to be delivered increasing, it is vital that information on all parcels is accurate for a warehouse to run smoothly, prevent lost items and critically increase profit margins.
Time is Money
With today’s global competition, speed and efficiency are key. Automation improves the speed of operations and enables data to be captured in real time. This data is then processed to provide meaningful management information that can be used for a number of purposes. Without this automation in place, a considerable amount of time can be lost, and many companies are still wasting time weighing and measuring parcels manually and then inputting data. The challenges facing the warehouse and logistics industry are backed up by these statistics:
- Globally, parcel volume grew 17% last year (2017) to a staggering 74.4 billion parcels.
- On average 22 parcels are shipped per person per year globally.
- In the U.K this is even higher, with around 45 parcels per person per year!
- A whopping 2,300 parcels are shipped globally every second! (https://edelivery.net/2018/08/parcel-shipping-volumes-hit/)
With demand from the e-commerce markets increasing, the workload for employees is moving with it. Without automation and technology solutions, errors are commonplace. When parcels are lost without automation, any said companies would find it hard to explain the whereabouts of the missing item. It is therefore impossible to keep customers up to date on their orders, leaving them with an unsatisfactory experience and asking the all-important question: how can their parcel just vanish?
How can we help?
With automation and scanners such as our M505 Freight Volume System, these problems are a thing of the past. Our scanners quickly follow a process to locate lost parcels:
- First, barcodes are read automatically
- The system holds a filter system of allowed barcodes
- This allows for production codes and other barcodes on the parcel to be rejected
- Which then verifies the exact location of the parcel
This system is essential for companies who are wanting to provide the best customer service, utilising automation in an extremely competitive and continually growing market. With complaints in the modern day being posted on social media for a wider potential audience to see, there can be no room for such errors. Customers are not only ordering more parcels online, but they are also expecting their delivery to arrive much quicker than in the past and therefore delivery companies need to adapt.
A study by Which found that of the people they surveyed who had a problem when shopping online, 18% received a faulty item, while 14% didn’t receive the parcel at all. Although not always the fault of the delivery firms, the data provided from automation systems can be much more accurate and provide reliable data without human error.
A lot of businesses think the resolution to errors, inaccurate information and the inability to locate a parcels whereabouts is to employ additional low salaried staff. They also believe this will help with the increased workloads. However, we believe this to be only be a short-term answer and a more sustainable solution of automation is inevitably required.
With business’ reporting ROI’s of under 3 weeks can you really afford to continue running your warehouse without automation? Automation itself is not new to warehousing operations or the wider supply chain, but with recent advancements in data it is reaching new levels of sophistication and is much more readily available to all levels of warehousing. Exciting times are ahead in the world of warehousing, but it’s not always easy to predict what the next steps should be in your own organisation.
The key is always to keep a close eye on the market in which you operate and to try to respond promptly to what it wants…before you get left behind in an extremely fast moving industry!
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Now I’m off to update my playlist on my smart phone…maybe I can add ‘wedding DJ’ to my CV?
My role within Scaletronic is to work with logistics clients across the UK to streamline processes and remove bottlenecks.