Article by Edward Chow, Vice President of Asia-Pacific Sales and Services, Stratus Technologies.
If you’ve ever fancied a Tiger beer or a tub of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip ice cream in Singapore, a tap of the phone sends those groceries in about 30 minutes, even during odd hours. of the day.
Through a network of cloud stores, grocery and food delivery providers like Foodpanda can arrange the packing and shipping of these frequently requested items in no time. Meanwhile, major e-commerce stores like Amazon are offering two-hour nationwide deliveries for much longer lists of items, from headphones to fresh fish. Competitors such as Lazada and Shopee also offer same-day delivery as they compete for the same discerning consumers in the city-state.
Across Asia-Pacific, such battles between e-commerce players are fiercely fought as online retail becomes the channel of choice for consumers accustomed to using their laptops and phones to buy what they need. need during the pandemic.
In Australia, the 11th largest e-commerce market in the world, e-commerce revenue is expected to reach $32.3 billion by 2021, a 15.5% year-over-year increase from to 2020.
A common denominator in the different markets is the criticality of logistics. With price differences often becoming marginal, what is increasingly important today is the fast and secure fulfillment of customer orders.
How fast can products get to the customer? Is there a guarantee that they will be delivered on time, without damage? To what extent do logistics and warehouse systems that take orders from the front-end, pick items off the shelves, pack and ship them, while providing customers with constant updates on the delivery status?
To answer these questions, some of the most competitive online retailers have advanced logistics centers that are highly automated to take much of the load off of human workers.
In South Korea, for example, retail giant Shinsegae turned to automated sorters in 2021 to pick items customers ordered online and pack them in the right packaging to be ready for delivery. in a few minutes.
This meant it could increase its same-day delivery service to each pick-and-pack center six-fold, from 500 to 3,000 deliveries a day.
It was a direct challenge to compete with Coupang, which also plans to build capacity at its center, though it still relies on human labor, Aju Business Daily reported.
With warehouse management automation, not only are manual errors minimized, but worker safety and well-being can also be improved. Today, robots or automated carts can perform heavy tasks tirelessly, such as searching a logistics center for ordered items and then gathering them for packing later. They could contribute to the improvement of working conditions.
These issues are increasingly important to consumers, who not only demand faster same-day deliveries, but also prefer to patronize more sustainable and responsible businesses.
In 2021, a firefighter was sadly killed after a fire broke out in one of the biggest logistics centers near Seoul. The horrific loss of life has prompted a consumer backlash against the company, with many calling on it to be more responsible for workplace safety.
This means that e-commerce companies must ensure that the well-being and safety of workers is not compromised by the speed with which goods are packaged and delivered in a competitive market.
To achieve this, warehouse automation will be the name of the game. From picking and packing to determining the best delivery routes, artificial intelligence (AI) and year-round continuous operation will be essential to the successful e-commerce players of tomorrow.
A network of intelligent sensors, already important today, will be responsible for making the execution process more transparent and more robust. This Internet of Things (IoT) will depend on the low latency connection at the edge of a network, for example, directly on the racks of a warehouse, to allow employees and customers to instantly discover the status of a article. Moreover, this IoT network must be equipped with intelligence to make real-time decisions when a particular element is missing or damaged.
All of this digital magic also means that the computer systems that power these new features must be robust and fault-tolerant in order to support the operation of e-commerce businesses year-round.
When online sales operate 24/7 and deliveries happen in hours, not days, any digital infrastructure downtime is costly in many ways, especially negative impact on customer satisfaction. It’s not something a serious e-commerce business can afford to lose.
It is also important to consider the quality of operation of its digital systems. Buying and installing a complex setup only makes costs high, upgrades difficult, and any future changes time consuming. This way you lose the agility so important given the dynamic nature of e-commerce.
What is needed instead are systems that are simple to install, run and manage. They must be protected against cyber threats and unexpected failures caused by potential hardware failure. They must also be self-contained, robust, and reliable without the need for costly monitoring, repair, and maintenance by IT professionals.
The less one has to manipulate the critical systems involved in the operation of automated robots that traverse a warehouse or other important parts of the logistics system, the more time there is to devote to increasing sales and improving the customer loyalty.
Let’s not forget that an e-commerce business lives and dies by its customer service, commonly measured these days in terms of how quickly and securely an order is fulfilled.
So, as competition intensifies across Asia-Pacific, it’s no surprise that more e-commerce players are looking to bolster their digital warehouse management systems to increase efficiency. automation and logistical security in their warehouses. A reliable yet agile logistics system could help e-commerce businesses meet ever-increasing customer expectations and improve delivery efficiency to reduce the cost of business operations.