Automating Your Retail Operation
Each and every day automation is changing the way in which we operate. Retail distribution and fulfillment centers understand this firsthand, as they're increasingly integrating automated solutions into their day-to-day operations as consumer demand continues to increase. A recent report from Futurum Research interviewed industry leaders and executives to gather their thoughts on the challenges of automating retail warehouses and distribution centers and the approaches they recommend to those interested in the automation integration process. Below are five key takeaways that can be utilized within your retail operation:
Use Automation as a Tool to Support Human Workers, Not Replace Them
Automated solutions can allow more opportunities to leverage human skill sets. The value of implementing automation technology is how you can upskill workers and maximize their abilities to solve creative and challenging issues. For example, delegating repetitive tasks to robots designed to de-palletize can alleviate human workers from that role, allowing them to be placed into more strategic positions.
Anticipate the Future
How do you know what automation technologies are right for your retail distribution and fulfillment center? One executive of an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) provider said in Futurum Research’s study that anticipating your peak throughput (about three times to four times your normal throughput) requirements a decade from now is critical as you decide which automated solutions best fit your operational needs. Retail is all about supply and demand, and automated solutions go a long way toward allowing distribution and fulfillment centers to keep up with what consumers want, when they want it.
Implement a Data-Centric Approach
Industrial-grade software can help on your journey to implement automation technologies and measure success. Predictive data can help you get ahead of maintenance or downtime by exposing hidden inefficiencies in your systems and supporting data consistency for your team's work. Some businesses, in order to stay customer-focused, are using a data-centric approach to create digital experiences and commerce models that line up with the current behaviors and demands of consumers.
Integrate Management Systems
As you prepare to implement automation technologies into your retail distribution and fulfillment center, ensure warehouse operations data and records are part of your enterprise’s larger strategy. Integrating data and records across warehouse, supply chain, distribution and other business systems help provide a unified look at your entire enterprise — from the first supplier to the last customer.
Focus less on automating existing tasks or processes. Instead, think of the tasks that you envision being automated today, what opportunities that will bring, and what processes or tasks within your retail operation that you may want to automate in the future.
Hardly any industry has seen a bigger change in consumer demand and preference over the last few years than in retail. Sixty-six percent of consumers believe implementing automation can solve challenges such as long checkout lines, and 46 percent are willing to shift their online purchase to an automated retail store. With many businesses scrambling, integrating automation into day-to-day operations is a tactic that many retail distribution and fulfillment centers are utilizing in an attempt to meet growing consumer demand.
Keith Fisher is president of Honeywell Intelligrated, a global leader in automation and integrated end-to-end solutions for manufacturing, distribution and fulfillment operations.
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