What are the impacts of ecommerce on warehousing?

Ecommerce has changed a lot of every industry’s habits and had many consequences on their ways to process, pushing them to their limits and sometimes forcing them to change their working methods.

The food retail industry is now at a point where most other industries were 15 years ago. This is part of why most retail chains only see ecommerce as a threat, and why they only enter reluctantly ecommerce, as they don’t want to be left behind.

As for the start-up industry, it should exploit fully all the opportunities and advantages that ecommerce has to offer, if these companies want to avoid failure. However, the most important factor to success will be the quality of the warehousing and intralogistics process. As we know, the market is not ruled by the manufacturers anymore, and is now consumer-driven. And this has consequences on logistics, but also on intra-logistics and warehousing.

How to keep up with the business model?

The solution to keep up with the demand and with the compulsory actual business model implemented by the customer, would be to use tailor-made automation focused on the customer’s needs. If you do not use in your warehouses a system that fits your needs and the customer’s, by the time your new warehouses are ready they will already be too small, for this is a very long process facing a really fast-growing industry.

Moreover, these solutions have to grow with the business itself, so there is no time wasted in a complete redesign. This is why a sustainable intralogistics system, including replaceable components which can evolve with the fluctuating degree of automation needed, is the most promising solution.

Actually, ecommerce has drawn a clear separation between distribution logistics and manufacturing logistics. Researchers are looking at what can be made with more flexible systems, such as automated guided vehicles for instance.

Some challenges remain

Amazon is the perfect example of how manual and automated work complete each other. There is an efficient interface for full outbound automation, but a lot of tasks have to remain between human hands. And so to say, the packaging is the only obstacle to a fully-automated picking solution, since all packaging are far from being compatible with automated-handling. And even though technology – sensors, image recognition and robot mechanics – is moving forward, it remains too expensive for the moment to afford.

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