With online sales increasing by 46% last year, eCommerce businesses are under immense pressure to optimise their order fulfilment processes and meet this growing demand. Driven by new technology, eCommerce businesses have managed to enhance their order fulfilment; a transformation that’s far from over. With increasingly sophisticated software emerging and artificial intelligence building momentum, it’s clear that the picking and packing process will see drastic changes in the coming years.
The Future Of Order Fulfilment?
Before the industry’s technological transformation, the order fulfilment process was characterised by inefficiencies that cost billions in manpower, time, and money. Industry leaders started to adopt new technological solutions and integrated them into the warehouses, leading to improved decision making and faster fulfilment times. Today, the following technological advancements are already being used by progressive eCommerce companies to satisfy customers whose expectations of an exceptional fulfilment service continue to rise.
Cloud-Based Warehouse Management Systems
Although warehouse management systems (WMS) are a fundamental requirement within the order fulfilment industry, most legacy WMS operate using local hardware which limits their capability while requiring an IT specialist to manage the system. Removing the need for on-site hardware, a cloud-based WMS offers a smooth, fast transition and can be used on any web-enabled computer.
Some benefits of a cloud-based WMS include:
- Minimal capital investment
- Offers exceptional scalability
- Upgrades are included in most SAS (software as a service) services
- Enhanced cybersecurity
- Rapid implementation
- Improved warehouse efficiency
Augmented Vision Order Picking
Set to disrupt the eCommerce market, augmented vision integrates augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and computer vision in an intelligent device designed to provide visual instructions to warehouse operatives. Equipped with AR glasses, the worker receives visual and audio instructions which help them locate, pick, scan, and fulfil each order with greater accuracy in less time. Augmented vision can easily be connected to an existing WMS and used to speed up the picking process and reduce picking errors.
Forward-thinking companies have already begun implementing robotic picking systems to improve the order fulfilment process and reduce the number of staff required. Using advanced order management software and mobile fulfilment robots, companies have successfully automated all or a portion of their picking process. Powered by AI, these robot pickers calculate the quickest routes through the warehouse based on the number of stops and turns required to pick the highest number of items in the least time possible.
The majority of robotic picking systems are designed to be integrated into a warehouse’s existing infrastructure and deal with repetitive picking tasks that robots can be easily programmed to perform, freeing up employees to focus on fulfilling challenging orders. Currently, these robots require human supervision, but in the future, they will be able to pick, pack, and ship orders independently.
One of the most commonly discussed technological innovations in order fulfilment is drones. With drone developers still ironing out the kinks, companies are keeping an eye on how innovators like Amazon are using drones to make deliveries. Using small drones, Amazon promises to deliver packages up to 5 pounds in 30 minutes or less. The eCommerce giant made its first Prime Air delivery back in December 2016, taking just 13 minutes. To facilitate this service, Amazon has set up a patented beehive-like structure to store small parcels which drones can easily collect and transport to the customer. Due to their design, drones are highly effective in densely populated areas where delivery drivers are slowed down by traffic.
Emerging technology is set to revolutionise fulfilment warehouses and help eCommerce businesses meet the rapidly rising volume of online orders. Over the coming years, these technological innovations will become increasingly efficient and more commonly used.
Technology has allowed eCommerce businesses to:
- Improve warehouse operational efficiency
- Make life easier for warehouse operatives
- Reduce picking times
- Increase picking accuracy
- Reduce costs
- Provide a better service to customers
If you’d like support in any aspect of your eCommerce fulfilment, please contact us.