Peak season is no longer on a set schedule, spanning a few predictable months out of the year—such as a holiday season—where retailers would gear up for an increase in demand, and then evaluate how to improve for the next round to meet performance targets.
In today's post-pandemic world, we now face a perpetual peak with order volumes surging on an everyday basis that puts incredible pressure on an already strained supply chain. Consumer demands are only becoming more complex with higher expectations for near-immediate deliveries from the logistics industry. Companies are racing to get consumers their products faster, which means it is more critical than ever to increase productivity and efficiency.
But with labor shortages plaguing the industry, meeting the increased demand is difficult to fulfill. U.S. job openings hit a record high of 8 million in March of 2021 according to labor department data, and companies are still struggling to find workers to fill their vacant roles. This poses a serious challenge for the logistics industry struggling to staff warehouses as well as retailers who rely on well-coordinated warehouse material flow to satisfy orders.
Automation is key to these industries moving forward, helping companies remain competitive and successful. If companies aren’t already considering or implementing the technology, they are falling behind.
Leverage Automation to Combat Labor Shortages
Labor shortages pose a significant threat—resulting in order delays, loss of revenue, or more importantly, loss of customers. Job openings are close to a 20 year high while supply chains are struggling to keep up with consumer demand. A recent survey by Indeed found that only 10% of job seekers are urgently looking for openings. Companies are needing to make strategic decisions about how tasks are allocated to current employees within their warehouses, and where they are lacking necessary resources that automation technology could handle. Automation enables companies to redeploy their existing workforce to focus on higher value tasks, rather than the dangerous, repetitive tasks like palletizing, transporting materials, or shelving items.
By 2023, it’s expected demand will quadruple for automation technology and software. With companies shifting focus to that technology, they are able to help retain and grow the talent of their current employees by allowing them to perform more satisfying jobs that require decision making skills and creativity. Robotics and automation will never eliminate the need for employees within a warehouse, but it can help mitigate risk during unpredictable times which have been brought to light by the pandemic.
Increase Supply Chain Efficiency with Data Collection Capabilities
In supply chain and logistics, it is always important to be agile. A “set it and forget it” mentality is not adequate for the seamless throughput that retail and logistics companies' warehouses need to keep up with demand. With many factors constantly evolving, material handling facilities require agile operations with enhanced visibility into material flow.
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) help companies gain insight into performance and allow for effective optimization to drive future growth. Material handling automation solutions, like Seegrid Palion AMRs, allow facilities to increase safety, gain a competitive edge, and continuously improve. Palion AMRs collect critical data as they move throughout a facility. Fleet Geek, Seegrid’s fleet analytics software, provides visibility into this performance data.
Management and workers can feel confident about their operational efficiency decisions when it is backed by objective data. Facilities can avoid operational disruptions and downtime by quickly identifying and addressing optimizations in workflows. Analytics software solutions can help operations identify where bottlenecks occur and where improvements can be made by streamlining material flow to provide continuous optimization, now and in the future.
The Time for Automation is Now
As a result of the pandemic, 51% of companies are more willing to invest in automation as a way to keep up with the distribution race and meet consumer expectations by getting products out the door faster. Demand for material handling automation solutions continue to increase as consumer expectations heighten and become more complex.
The perpetual peak season for the retail and logistics industries seems to be here to stay for the foreseeable future, and investing in automation technology is no longer a question of “if'' but “when.” With complete, holistic material handling solutions, like Seegrid’s proven and flexible AMRs, enterprise software, and best-in-class services, warehouses can achieve the agility they need to keep up with heightened demands and continue to drive continuous improvement.