Winning the last mile in the supply chain race

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

Automation-enabled Micro-Fulfillment Centers
Automation-enabled Micro-Fulfillment Centers are continuing to grow because they benefit both the retailer/grocer and the consumer

Global warehouse and logistics automation leader, Swisslog, is introducing a new white paper on micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs), which focuses on how to utilize automation to maximize 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 center 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 synergize 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.

Synergizing online and storefront using MFCs

The white paper then goes on to discuss how to synergize 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 Mr 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 utilize 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 Mr Ryan.

Partnering with an experienced automation provider

MFCs are a relatively new retailing strategy, so to maximize 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.

AutoStore and automated shuttle systems
AutoStore (left) and automated shuttle systems (right) are the two main automation solutions for MFCs. Swisslog has extensive global experience with both, including being the world’s top AutoStore integrator

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 visualization 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.

Download the white paper Winning the last mile in the supply chain race: Using micro-fulfillment to synergize online and storefront here.