Is the high street dead? How are retailers using their warehouses to revitalise their businesses for the better?
Successful retailing is all about maximising margin, growing sales volume and getting faster throughput. But for the last two years, omni-channel businesses have, by necessity, had to rely on their ecommerce channels for survival. The strain on fulfilment centres has been enormous, particularly as ‘single’ and ‘few’ item picking and packing operations are traditionally highly labour intensive activities – and labour has become a scarce and costly resource, leading to concerns over performance during critical peak periods.
Now that consumers are returning to the high street, how can businesses re-balance their fulfilment operations to cope with growth and higher throughput across all channels, and at the same time contain costs to maximise margins?
In addition to the challenges of finding labour, the National Living Wage is set to rise from £8.91 to £9.50 per hour in April 2022, coinciding with a hike in National Insurance of 1.25p in the pound for both employers and employees.
With operational costs rising and fewer people available to carry out manual picking operations, many retail fashion businesses are turning to the use of automation to boost the productivity of their labour force. Automation applied to the right processes can free up people for tasks that require human ingenuity, judgement and manual dexterity – tasks such as packing and inspecting returns.
An innovative technology helping to transform operational performance in the fulfilment centre, freeing-up human resources for value-adding activities, is the pouch sorter. Overhead pouch sortation systems offer a flexible and highly scalable, conveying, sorting and dynamic buffering solution appropriate for both fulfilling ecommerce orders and assembling store friendly sequenced replenishment. One pouch system is capable of sorting and processing many thousands of orders an hour, with each pouch able to carry both hanging garments and flat items, such as shoes and flat pack goods, enabling fast order fulfilment from a single pool of inventory.
Creating a single pool of inventory from which store replenishment and ecommerce orders are served offers significant financial and operational benefits. Efficiencies in accessing available stock, greater flexibility in allocating stock to maximise sales and faster processing times for preparing orders, are just some of the key advantages.
In particular, pouch technology lends itself to ecommerce operations, allowing for greater wave picking efficiency, with late order cut-offs of around 10pm for a promise of delivery to the customer first-thing the next day. The speed and reliability of Skyfall, Ferag’s ultra-fast automated pouch sorter solution, enables the retailer to gain greater operational efficiencies by accumulating orders in advance of a final pick-wave at 10pm. With processing speeds of up to 25,000 units per hour orders can be picked, sorted, packed and dispatched within the shortest time window, giving fashion brands the keen competitive edge of a late cut-off with an early next day delivery.
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