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Greater warehouse automation needed to enable retailers to cope with increased demand


Increasing demand is placing a greater emphasis than ever on the need for automation in the warehouse, according to a new survey from Conveyor Networks.
The survey of more than 100 mid-tier online retailers, which was commissioned by Conveyor Networks, found that 83% believe that automation will drive future online retail growth.

More than three-quarters (76%) said that they were handling up to 50,000 orders per day, with this rising to 75,000 orders per day for some during peak periods. In such peak times the added pressure can increase the risk of errors.

Online retailers admit they’re facing big challenges and are feeling the pressure to deliver on time. And almost half blame a lack of staff to fulfil orders (45%) and order errors (42%) as hurdles to meeting delivery schedules.

Despite this almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents said that they have less than half of their warehouse management processes currently automated, and almost half (49%) are planning to further reduce manual warehouse processes before their next peak spell. More than half (59%) admitting that meeting increased expectations around delivery is the biggest challenge they face.

However it seems retailers do recognise the need for automation. Almost three-quarters of online retailers believe that increased warehouse automation will help them improve their customer service capabilities. Just under half are planning to change their order fulfilment processes in the future with 49% believing that increased automation will enable them to handle orders more quickly and efficiently during peak periods.

In addition 41% said it would help them to respond to orders more quickly; while 38% said it would help reduce picking and packing errors.

David Carroll, managing director, Conveyor Networks, said: “Today’s savvy online shoppers have high expectations when it comes to deliveries. They want to receive their goods quickly and conveniently and if they don’t want to keep them, return them just as easily. As a result, online retailers can no longer suffer order delays or errors, or difficult ordering and returns processes because shoppers will take their business elsewhere.”

“By increasing automation – from mobile devices such as handheld scanners to help the pick process, to using a fully automated bagging line in packing –a range of slow, laborious and error prone manual processes in the warehouse can be made much more efficient. Retailers can meet delivery promises more effectively, process orders more efficiently during peak periods, and reduce the number of returns due to incorrect orders,” he said.

Image credit: Fotolia

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