As retailers continually respond to increased customer expectations, Amazon has leapfrogged the competition by offering free same day delivery on orders placed by noon in selected zip codes. It has set another bar for competitors to meet.
And according to MHI, it will only get more demanding. Noting that “The Growth in E-commerce” will be one of the ten key mega-trends over the next 10 years, they cited Forrester Research’s estimate that online retail will post a 9% compound annual growth rate until 2017. The MHI report says that between the increased use of mobile devices and the retailers’ investments in omni-channel capabilities “demand and supply are working together to increase the size of the market.”
By 2025, the report suggests, all shipments should be trackable in real time from the instant the order is placed to the instant of delivery, both in transit and in facilities, at the level of individual items and independent of the carrier or transportation mode. Typical order-to-ship processing times in e-commerce distribution should be sufficient to support same-day delivery of in-stock items.
Meeting such stringent requirements will undoubtedly require the adoption of new technologies and large capital investments. However, it’s probable that the greater challenge will be the required change in mindset. In places, we’re beginning to see this happening.
Large central warehouses, set up to deliver pallet loads, are already becoming dinosaurs. Distributed networks located close to major markets are becoming the norm. And because we are probably in the early stages of this revolution, businesses will exhibit strong preferences for lower fixed cost (and potentially higher variable cost) solutions that can be adapted quickly and inexpensively based on the direction and pace of future change. Smart players will be waiting to see how their own initial bets (and those of their competitors) fare over the next 18 months.
…the evolution of fulfillment patterns in the 21st Century is
probably the single biggest reason that Pack Mule has
become the fastest growing provider of material
handling solutions for horizontal material flow.
This is where we come in: providing our power-user customers with specifically-configured, custom solutions to support the lean manufacturing and logistics architectures they are implementing to meet the challenges. In fact, the evolution of fulfillment patterns in the 21st Century is probably the single biggest reason that Pack Mule has become the fastest growing provider of material handling solutions for horizontal material flow.
For those with large teams of piece pickers racing around large distribution centers to pick orders for immediate shipment (like Advance Auto, Eva Tees, Maurice’s Sporting Goods, and many others), we have developed the most productive and adaptive stock chaser platform in the world. See our amazing SC Series of vehicles offering over 1,600 different configurations.
For those with fleets of order-picking robots (like Nike), we make the manned electric vehicles that chase down the robots for repairs.
For major delivery companies (like Fedex Ground, UPS and OnTrac), we make the tuggers that pull towable carts filled with non-conforming packages that do not work well on conveyors. See our PCT Series of nimble but high powered tuggers. We also make the towable trailers that the tuggers tow.
Working with our customers who are engaged in lean manufacturing and distribution, we’ve learned some valuable lessons. Some of these are:
1. It’s a matter of integration of systems. Efficiency depends not only on integrating stock chasers and tuggers with technology; it also involves integrating types of machines and equipment. For instance, the fact that we’re no longer dealing with pallet loads means that fork lifts are no longer the most effective means for the horizontal movement of goods. Similarly, one-size-fit-all solutions of stock chasers, tuggers, and trailers don’t provide the greatest efficiency. Wringing the last few minutes from the picking/packing/shipping process requires making all the parts fit the specific situation.
2. The role of the equipment manufacturer has shifted from simply being a supplier of dependable and capable machines to being a supplier of better ideas (whose machines happen to be the tools for executing the ideas.) The objective is not just to build a better machine, but to provide a better solution.
Our business life is much more satisfying now when we see that a Pack Mule customized to bring greater efficiency to a specific job is working for our customer, doing its part in an integrated process that’s helping that company serve its customers better.
If you’re interested in how we’ve worked to integrate our products to improve our customers’ systems, visit our customer showcase portal.
In the weeks that follow, we will also be addressing the ways in which Pack Mule is staking out its role in regards to the rest of MHI’s Meg-Trends, including the Internet of Things and Robotics. Stay tuned….