Covid-19 – and the lockdowns introduced in an effort to restrict its spread among the population – changed the way goods are stored, picked and moved to the consumer dramatically, with the switch to online shopping in particular forcing retailers and their logistics partners to radically rethink and rapidly adapt well-established working practices.
The pace of change was breathtaking. Ten years of forecasted e-commerce growth occurred during the first month of the first national lockdown in 2020, and between February and October of 2021 the value of online sales in total retail sales grew from 19.6% to 28.5%.
The logistics sector’s ability to scale-up and adapt its services in response to such massive and rapid changes in consumer spending patterns was hugely impressive and without the expertise and dedication of the industry there can be little doubt that the public would have found the restrictive lockdown conditions even more difficult to live with.
For warehouse or distribution centre operators the need to keep pace with the shift away from bulk deliveries to retail stores towards the fulfillment of individual online orders directly to the consumer has necessitated significant adjustments across all aspects of the warehouse operation.
For instance, the e-commerce boom prompted many storage operations to reconsider their order picking methodologies. In particular, the space constraints generated by the need to hold more SKUs and the shorter pick times and quicker throughput rates needed to meet the delivery expectations of internet shoppers meant that storage solutions had to be rethought to make the most of the people and (in the majority of cases) limited space available.
A plethora of systems and solutions specifically developed to meet the distinct needs of online retailers and their fulfillment operations will be under the spotlight at the forthcoming IMHX 2022 (6-8 September, NEC, Birmingham).
Narrow Aisle Ltd, for example, will demonstrate the benefits of the Easi-Pick, a compact ride-on electric-powered vertical order picker designed specifically with e-fulfillment operations in mind.
The Easi-Pick delivers hugely improved productivity and increased safety for warehouse staff as they carry out a range of picking duties at both lower levels and at height within warehouse aisles. Its ability to work in very narrow aisles (VNA) means 30% more pallet and shelving locations can be designed into storage systems compared to traditional wide aisle operations.
Meanwhile, a range of storage and picking technology ideal for equipping ‘dark stores’ – the new breed of micro-fulfillment centres that are widely regarded as one of the most exciting online retail developments to emerge from the pandemic, will be highlighted by Bito Storage Systems.
Dark stores require shelving, pick and pack desks, picking trolleys, plastic containers, labelling, cupboards and lockers and having a one stop supplier is an important consideration for any micro fulfilment company that does not want to spend valuable time contacting a multitude of different providers. Dark store operators will be able to find everything they need on Bito Storage Systems’ stand.
Of course, the internet shopping boom has resulted in a substantial and sustained hike in the amount of cardboard required by internet traders to construct the boxes that protect their e-commerce orders in transit. Indeed, an estimated 5 billion corrugated boxes are used in the UK alone each year, so it is important that online retailers and their fulfilment partners – who are among the biggest users of cardboard packaging material – embrace a commitment to sustainable and more eco-friendly packaging, not just as a key component of their corporate social responsibility efforts, but as a way of optimising both operational and financial efficiency and driving supply chain performance.
A simple way for internet retailers and the logistics companies who fulfil orders on their behalf to slash the volume of cardboard that they use across their business is to ensure that, when goods are being packed prior to leaving the warehouse, they are put into an appropriately sized cardboard box.
Sparck Technologies (formerly Packaging by Quadient) will use IMHX to demonstrate its eco-conscious packaging technology that creates fit-to-size boxes for every consignment quickly and efficiently. For example, Sparck’s CVP Impack automated packaging solution can pack up to 500 parcels per hour and requires only one operator while the CVP Everest model packs up to 1,100 parcels per hour with two operators.
Narrow Aisle, Bito and Sparck are just three of literally hundreds of exhibiting companies who will ensure that logistics and e-commerce fulfillment professionals leave IMHX 2022 having seen the very latest technological advancements that will enable them to meet the expectations of today’s increasingly demanding online shoppers.
IMHX 2022 takes place from 6 – 8 September at the NEC, Birmingham. To register for your free visitor pass, please go to www.imhx.net