With COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders plus the boom of e-commerce and banner retailer events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 2020 saw online shopping totals reach new heights. Adobe Digital Insights calculated a staggering $188 billion was spent online over the course of the 2020 holiday season, up 32% year over year. Since the 2020 holiday surge, e-commerce still hasn’t fallen from its lockdown peaks and is likely to remain at these unprecedented levels, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Every day, facilities are operating at peak period levels, so it’s vital that they have the right solutions to keep up with constant demand and unpredictable consumer behavior.
Not only are e-commerce order volumes continuing to surge, but so are customer expectations. What used to be viewed as a perk is now an expected standard. Think about next-day or two-day shipping. Expedited shipping used to be something that allowed retail companies to stand out. Now, if customers can’t receive their order within the next couple of days, it’s on to the next website, and your competition is just a click away. Delivery speed and customer experience have never been more vital.
Combating fluctuating order demand isn’t something you do overnight. You should plan to streamline everyday demand, but find a solution that is flexible and scalable to also tackle expected and unexpected busy periods. One of the most effective and reliable solutions to minimize downtime and boost productivity is through autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Finding the right type of automation is crucial to adapt to productivity expectations, delivery demands, and disruptions.
Finding the Right Autonomous Mobile Robot
To best accommodate your day-to-day material handling flow as well as your busiest peaks, you should find a solution that is flexible and scalable. In addition to easily adjusting to temporary changes, you will also want the ability to quickly adapt to future growth—whether that means a change in your procedures or moving your chosen technology to a different facility completely—without jeopardizing operational goals.
As you know, even minor interruptions in production can have a serious impact. That's why traditional automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that navigate based on built-in physical infrastructure—following wires or magnetic tape embedded in the floor or using lasers with reflectors placed throughout your facility—can impede continuous improvement. When things change, you would need to tear up your existing infrastructure and rebuild—costing you extended downtime and money.
The ability to eliminate the reliance on such substructures provides much more flexibility. Seegrid Palion AMRs are infrastructure-free and designed to provide maximum reliability in dynamic environments by using an industry-proven vision technology system. These self-driving robots are vision guided and see the world just like humans do. Fusing a unique computer vision system and real-time sensor data, Seegrid’s proprietary algorithms create a fully autonomous robotic fleet with an unmatched ability to see, understand, and learn.
This robust navigation technology not only enables Seegrid Palion AMRs to react to a fast-paced, always-changing environment with people and material on the move, but the mobile robots can easily be retrained for new routes to match changes in your process. Simply drive the AMR through the new route one time, and it is ready to take on your new challenge. No need to shut down production or wait on a service representative for reprogramming, thus saving you time and money.
Building a Safer Environment: Collaborate with Automation
Some of the biggest challenges warehouses face during peak periods are connected to labor and staffing. With industry growth outpacing the labor pool, finding quality labor is extremely difficult—and retaining workers is even harder. A company may attempt to bulk up its staffing to accommodate the influx of orders. But when the facility itself isn’t getting any bigger, overcrowding becomes a major productivity and safety issue. In fact, nearly 100,000 manual forklift accidents occur in the U.S. every year.
By integrating automation to work in unison with human workers, you can increase your throughput, cut costs, and create a safer, more reliable work environment. Start by automating repetitive dangerous tasks and redeploying employees to high-value, cognitive tasks. This keeps employees safer and will help with employee satisfaction and retention.
Keep Up with the Constant Peaks
As you plan for automation, keep the following in mind:
- Find the right type of automation for your workflows
- Do your research, because not all AMRs are the same
- Find a solution that is flexible to change with your needs
- Think about the big picture for your facility, not just peaks
- Start small, evaluate, adjust, and scale
For many e-commerce retail warehouses and distribution centers, the holiday season is hands-down the busiest and most stressful period of the year. But, now that these facilities are faced with a constant surge, they have to be prepared to manage heightened order volumes, shopper expectations, and staffing challenges, all while striving toward hitting metrics, driving down costs, and increasing throughput. Organizations need to be flexible to pivot with fluctuating, and often unpredictable, surges in demand. With a proven product offering and robust team of experts at your disposal, Seegrid can help you efficiently tackle peak times, streamline for your everyday demand, and look ahead to future growth—ensuring your goods arrive on time, every time.
Download the Planning for Peak Demand eBook to learn the best practices about how to brace for surges in business and leverage automation as your peak shopping demand solution.