Dematic’s garment-on-hanger and inter- aisle transfer systems to speed store replenishment and direct-to-consumer fulfillment. The technology has helped them move items into their distribution center and sort products for delivery to stores faster, while reducing reliance on manual labor. Technology can also be used to optimize what labor there is at a distribution center. AutoScheduler.ai is an artificial intelligence tool that orchestrates production schedules within a warehouse setting. It works by creating mathematically optimized strategies for manual decisions (what trailer needs to be in what door or what inventory can be crossdocked), and then integrating the plan with a customer’s warehouse management system, says Keith Moore, chief product officer. Let’s say that a team wants to avoid detention charges at a facility. Not only would employees have to factor in multiple truck’s arrival times, but they would also need a plan to unload inventory that accounts for outbound shipments. In that scenario, AutoScheduler could generate an optimal unloading schedule instead of having a staff member plan one out. Procter and Gamble has used AutoScheduler technology to reduce workforce planning time from eight hours to 20 minutes per day. Leaders are facing a pivotal moment, as they confront the twin needs to plan for the worst while remaining agile. One top challenge will be “investment in digital and driving toward autonomous supply chains,” finds Ernst & Young’s Future of Supply Chain report. And 52% of executives surveyed state that autonomous supply chains either are here or will be by 2025. As a result, organizations are encouraged to digitally transform their operations with lights-out, hands- free and self-driving technologies. Doing so will optimize supply chains, make supply chain professionals’ jobs easier, and deliver needed products more effectively. It’s time to roll up our sleeves. n
online. In March 2020, in response to the pandemic, GNC added enVista’s order management system to deploy buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) and ship-to-store strategies. DELIVERY IN AN INSTANT A final piece of the puzzle is maximizing speed and efficiency within the walls of a distribution center. On top of the usual complexity that accompanies e-commerce fulfillment, retailers in 2021 were challenged to meet expectations for faster fulfillment—and to do so with fewer workers, to boot. “Speed of delivery is becoming a top-of-mind issue for our customers,” says Kim Baudry, market development director at Dematic, a materials handling systems, software, and services supplier headquartered in Atlanta. “As Amazon pushes the envelope, fulfillment times have dropped from two days to a few hours,” she adds. “Companies are trying to shorten cycle times to deliver products within that time frame.” At the same time, warehouse labor has gotten scarcer and more expensive. The State of Warehouse Labor, published by staffing solutions provider Instawork, finds that 73% of warehouse employers struggled to attract enough labor in 2021. Once employees are hired, they tend not to stick around, either.
Companies increasingly turn to warehouse management technology to address labor shortages and turn inventory faster.
As of January 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts warehouse labor turnover at 43%. This is where automation enters the picture. Technology such as automated storage and retrieval shuttle and robotic piece picking are becoming increasingly prevalent to turn inventory faster and compensate for labor shortages. One example is Landmark Group, an apparel retailer servicing 2,200 stores in 24 countries across the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Landmark uses
Using artificial intelligence, AutoScheduler.ai creates mathematically optimized strategies for manual decisions—such as what trailer needs to be in what dock door—and then integrates the plan with a customer’s warehouse management system.
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