Winning the last mile in the supply chain race

New Swisslog white paper discusses how micro-fulfillment can synergise online and storefront.

Global warehouse and logistics automation company, Swisslog, is introducing a new white paper on micro-fulfillment centres (MFCs), which focusses on how to utilise automation to maximise efficiency and profitability.

Automated MFCs allow companies with or without a brick-and-mortar footprint within a particular area to move fulfillment closer to customers in order to reduce transportation costs and enable shorter delivery times, benefitting both the retailer (or Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) producer), and the customer.

Companies can build a micro-fulfillment centre as a standalone facility, or inside or bolted on to an existing location, to expand fulfillment capacity. MFCs can support customer curb-side pick-up, too, or a hybrid of pick-up and delivery.

Swisslog’s white paper, “Winning the last mile in the supply chain race: Using micro-fulfillment to synergise online and storefront,” talks about the rise of MFCs (which are expected to grow sixfold in 2021), how COVID-19 further accelerated MFC growth, as well as challenges to the growth of MFCs.

The white paper then goes on to discuss how to synergise online and storefront using MFCs, the future of MFCs, and the importance of partnering with an experienced automation provider to achieve optimal efficiency and profitability outcomes.

“MFCs have experienced huge year-on-year growth in the past three years, and they are expected to grow further in 2021, and in the years ahead,” says Sean Ryan, head of sales and consulting, Swisslog Australia.

“The rise of MFCs can be attributed to a range of factors, including the fact that they benefit both the consumer and the retailer or grocer. Consumers are rewarded with increased choice, shorter delivery times and efficient curb-side pickup options. Grocers and retailers are able to utilise a more efficient order fulfillment method – one that reduces labor and transport costs, avoids clogging retail stores with pickers, and supports higher order demand levels,” says Ryan.

MFCs are a relatively new retailing strategy, so to maximise return on investment, it is important to partner with an experienced automation provider – ideally one that already has extensive experience with other models such as Dark Stores and Central Fulfillment Centres (CFCs).

An automation partner will not only have knowledge from other grocery projects, but they will have existing software with required functionality, and they will know the intricacies of handling delicate products or the requirements of cold storage, for example.

With more than 2,000 warehousing and logistics automation projects completed worldwide, Swisslog not only has fundamental knowledge in food and beverage, e-commerce and retail, but it has the ability to deliver logistics automation for the whole supply chain network within these industries, starting with large CFC and moving through Dark Store, down to MFC.

In addition to experience with automation equipment, it is important to choose an automation partner with experience in software, too. The software drives the solution, keeps track of data, and analyses that data to further improve processes in the future.

Swisslog’s modular WMS SynQ software provides warehouse management, material flow, automation and 3D visualisation all from a single point of control. It has been designed for dynamic, data-driven supply chains, such as those found in retail and e-grocery industries.