In its second year, Manifest 2023 is well on its way to cementing its place as one of the essential events in the logistics industry. The show floor was filled with the latest innovations in robotics, autonomous vehicles, and software, as well as by the key players in moving goods across air, ocean and roadways. While the exhibits were compelling, the panel conversations were multifaceted, dynamic and well attended.
One of the conversations that took place, Automated Micro Fulfillment & Autonomous Routing, explored the work that happens inside the four walls of Distribution Centers (DCs) and Micro-Fulfillment Centers (MFCs) and the world on the road/last-mile. Facilitated by Annant Patel, Director, Koch Disruptive Technologies, participants included Mark Messina, CEO of Addverb Technologies , Corey Apirian, CEO and Founder of Davinci Micro Fulfillment, and Chazz Sims, Wise Systems’ CEO and Cofounder.
In the course of the conversation, the assembled participants addressed the impact of Covid and the ‘Amazon effect’ on the physical environment of the supply chain; hyperlocalization in last-mile delivery; densification inside of DCs and MFCs; the role of customer expectations in each participant’s domain; and how the industry can drive further efficiencies and sustainability improvements. In a scant 40 minutes, they covered a tremendous amount of ground.
While each panelist represented a different type of company in the space, there were common themes among their comments: automation, intelligence, efficiency, utilization, creativity, customer service, radical flexibility, labor reduction, sustainability, and the critical role that data and AI plays in each of their worlds.
Whether on the road or inside of a MFC, data is the thread that all participants pulled. In last-mile delivery, data accumulated over time helps answer questions around drivers’ sequences, which drivers should take which packages, which day is best for delivery, and more. Inside of DCs and MFCs, having access to complete data sets helps with forward-deployed inventory, which drives profitability and strong customer experiences.
The key issue for everyone on the panel was ensuring strong customer experiences and managing customer expectations. For last-mile delivery, this involves on-time delivery, visibility and communication. Last-mile delivery also offers an opportunity to ‘negotiate’ with customers about when they receive their deliveries and at what price. For MFC operators, customer expectations are addressed with product availability inside of the customer’s desired time window, which has driven a complete reshaping of the supporting infrastructure underlying the almost instant delivery time windows that are offered.
No longer are suburban DCs supported by static delivery routes and large vehicles the norm. Instead, the industry has rapidly adapted, moving from macro to nano. Smaller, neighborhood fulfillment centers have proliferated, supported by smaller vehicles with delivery routes that are designed around that day’s deliveries and occasional re-loads, if necessary. These shifts enable 30-minute delivery windows for some consumer retailers. Behind the scenes, data-driven intelligence dictates inventory selections and layouts within DCs and MFCs to ensure that inventory gets into the right vehicle and to the recipient as efficiently as possible.
Utilization was a common focus, as well. Utilization translates to densification inside of DCs and MFCs, and ensuring that product is accessible, whether to humans or robots. Automating everything allows for greater density and faster picking, and increases the efficiency of both humans and robots. For last-mile, resilient delivery is driven by both optimization and automation. Leveraging data from drivers and completed deliveries helps automate and optimize future deliveries. It also makes it possible to accommodate rapid shifts in demand, driven by seasonal shifts and peaks, or by unforeseen events (Covid.) Automation helps both dispatchers in planning and drivers in execution.
While the conversation among the panelists could easily have continued for another hour, that wasn’t in the cards. Instead, the leaders wrapped with a focus on the future efficiencies possible and a nod to a more sustainable future, built upon deeper integrations among the technologies that enable this vibrant industry.
Visit wisesystems.com/whywisesystems to discover how you can integrate last-mile delivery automation into your technology stack, and imagine an exciting new future.