The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group, via the Supply Chain Matters blog, announces the general availability of a new technology focused market education Research Advisory: The Future of Online Customer Fulfillment- More Flexible and Digital Based Warehouse Automation.


Background and Purpose

B2B and B2C buying behaviors are changing, and in many cases, permanent in nature. Retail, wholesale and third-party logistics industries have been reeling from too much dependence on traditional merchandising, inventory stocking, brick and mortar-focused bulk distribution strategies. Wide scope, full facility automation strategies have grown increasingly expensive and have been inflexible to more rapidly changing business and order volume trends that are likely to be constantly changing.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has already provided meaningful lessons regarding the automation of customer fulfillment in what ultimately defines differing ways for producing, distributing and fulfilling customer demand during and beyond the ongoing global pandemic and what is defined as the new normal. Areas that are likely to experience such changes includes the approaches to warehouse or customer fulfillment automation along with the advanced technologies supporting such efforts.

The needs for investing in or converting existing warehousing or combination customer and physical store fulfillment capabilities require a re-thinking of advanced technology deployment strategies. Existing high uncertainty, economic and business challenges related to severe recession provide little risk tolerance for rip and replace or wide scale warehouse or customer fulfillment center disruption.

The purpose of this Ferrari Consulting and Research Group Research Advisory is to educate C-suite, line-of-business, senior logistics or order fulfillment readers on the future of online customer fulfillment under the lens of more flexible physical and digital automation. For associated IT system support teams, this advisory serves as guidance for making existing warehouse management applications systems accommodate needs for added automation.

A further consideration are increasing needs for supporting more  flexible customer fulfillment processes and timely decision-making information related to bottlenecks to fulfillment operations.

Our context is that of physical and digital systems automation. Physical in addressing the automation and productivity needs in warehouse, customer and other physical logistics fulfillment settings but with flexibility and agility as an important guide post. The digital transformation aspects are the necessary technology and infrastructure strategy considerations to either leverage existing investments in warehouse management application systems, while insuring a path to higher levels of agility in decision-making with reduced operating costs.


Ferrari Consulting and Research Group Research Report

Report Highlights and Select Takeaways

The report highlights that today, flexibility equates to the multiple existing and future strategies required in supporting either omni-channel, customer-direct, physical retail or other order fulfillment channels including the new requirement for mini-fulfillment centers to serve localized needs. A further consideration is what we term as On Demand Automation, equating to the ability to flexibly add both physical and human labor practices predicated on dynamic market order fulfillment volumes, balanced by considerations for available financial resources and time-to-value.

Another consideration is that an increasingly predominant online B2C and B2B-driven fulfillment business environment implies constant peaks and valleys in order volume flows, especially in times such as holidays, seasonal buying, hot selling products or even times of natural disaster or medical emergency. While an event such as a pandemic is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, the lessons learned in the need for accommodating significant peaks in order picking presume the need for a different, far more flexible automation strategy approach.

In evaluating warehouse or customer fulfillment technology automation considerations in the area of Autonomous Robots, there are differences in terms of approach. Some providers focus on transport, material handling or workflow automation, some in direct autonomous picking without the need for a warehouse worker. Some technologies may require substantial changes to existing warehouse infrastructure or systems.

Among the reader takeaways presented in this Research Advisory are:

➢Supply chain digital transformation or robotics automation  can occur without the need for a rip and replace technology approach, but rather supplementing and leveraging what businesses and customer fulfillment centers already have.

➢Today’s advanced and more powerful Collaborative Mobile Robots (CMR’s) direct workers through tasks within shared workspaces, while aiding in advanced flexibility, agility and productivity of customer fulfillment process. SaaS and robotics-as-a-service technology deployment models provide more enhanced time-to-value, avoiding large CapEx investments and costs.

➢Technology adoption within supply chain management process support areas points to increased leveraging of artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, autonomous vehicle and machine learning enabled processes, particularly applied to automation of warehouse pick and pack activities, as having a high payback potential.


Obtaining Your Copy

A complimentary copy of this new research can be downloaded at this specific web link, by providing basic registration information.

This industry-focused Research Advisory is being provided as a thought leadership resource in conjunction and with the collaboration of 6 River Systems. The content included is the sole responsibility of the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC which maintains all content copyright.


Bob Ferrari

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