With demands uprising, so is the rising growth of e-commerce, retailers are facing a colossal labor crisis, with a significant need for order pickers be it store employees or third-party service providers. The initial goal of the retailers is to decrease the lead time to increase order picking time and accuracy. To counter these issues, retailers use several types of strategies, for example- shelving fast-moving inventories at the back of the store to improve the pick rate of products. But that is not quite the whole solution to the problem as there remains a highlighting problem of overcoming shopper dissatisfaction with substitutions and out-of-stocks. These problems only amplify for the dynamic live stores with a magnitude of SKUs. That is where automation swooped in and saved the retailers as the e-grocery volumes continue to increase. According to a McKinsey survey, automation reduces the lead times significantly when used as opposed to the manual order picking process. Automation can improve pick rates by eight to 10 times, which becomes critical as order volumes climb. These systems also deliver the added benefits of reduced labor requirements and increased order accuracy due to the total visibility of products available for sale. Thus in 2022, automation seems to bring several benefits to retailers. For perishable goods and seasonal items, it is imperative for the retailer to meet the demand as well as efficiently deliver on time, to increase profitability and reduce warehouse expenses or holding costs. This is where automation comes and saves the day for the retailers. Similarly, automation helps in using the labor strength optimally as in the case of cold storage operations, keeping the workers out of the cold areas and using a robotic retrieval system instead, increases the efficiency. Hence, automated solutions can be implemented to prioritize product freshness, maintain supply operations, save space, and fill labor gaps.
Automation requires a significant upfront investment and seems to be supporting the large e-grocery volumes. But, using automation, getting more and more orders, and fulfilling them efficiently is the biggest payout, using the same workforce, posing as a significant advantage over manual packing. With time, whether the e-grocers will be able to implement this automation tech in a sustainable way without dissolving the human factors completely in the future, is the question.