Over the last decade, there has been a growing tendency to label disruptive events as the “new normal.” What was once a business term describing a previous abnormality that has become commonplace, is now linked to disparate elements such as extreme weather conditions, the connected society, digital media, a continued shortage of avocados and, increasingly, the ongoing evolution of technology.
The temptation would be to cast this term aside as an overused buzzword, but there is a consensus that the “new normal” will become, well, normal. In fact, the phrase is so ingrained in our collective minds, that it is no longer something that is advocated by a minority of people in any specific industry. Nowhere is this more evident than in the retail and supply chain distribution sectors, especially when it comes to the integration of automation and robotic solutions.
Delegates at the Shoptalk convention in Las Vegas, for example, were constantly reminded that the digitalization of society—that includes the “new normal” of ecommerce—was a defining characteristic of how retail has been transformed by innovation at every level. According to industry publication The Robin Report, the future of retail is already being molded by technology that relies less on physical workers and more on the automated processes that are quicker, more accurate, and provide a demonstrated ROI.
In a recap of last year’s event for The Robin Report, Shoptalk’s Anil Aggarwal and Zia Daniell Wigder said that innovation in retail was no longer reactive, rather the industry had to accept that being proactive was the best way to succeed. In addition, Aggarwal and Wigder noted, companies would need to ensure that backend technologies were not only constantly improved but also that they were having the requisite effect on the overall customer experience.
“The New Normal is an extended period during which innovation is no longer an “if” or “why” but “who, what, when and how,” in order to meet and exceed the needs of customers as they discover, shop and buy physical goods differently in a digital era,” Aggarwal and Wigder said. “Retailers will be in a state of constant improvement as they look to ensure everything from the supply chain to the online and in-store experience is optimized.”
Automated warehouses, for instance, would reduce fulfilment times and change the consumer definition of immediacy. New pickup and delivery options within the supply chain would, in turn, simplify the process and alleviate the pain points felt by both retailers and customers alike.
With that in mind, Aggarwal and Wigder said, shoppers will quickly come to appreciate that many of the experiences that are part of the “new normal” in retail will be powered by advances in cutting edge backend technologies that are not limited to current industry behemoths. And that, they said, is likely to need companies that already have the solutions ready to roll out.
Distribution and logistics have always been one element of retail that is ripe for disruption, especially in terms of how goods are picked, packed, sorted and shipped. Retail itself has undergone a transformation in recent years, even more so when you think about how, where and why we shop.
As a result, the increased competition between brands to personalize the retail experience as much as possible has forced companies to be more responsive. In many cases, this has resulted in making investments in backend technologies that focus on ensuring that customer expectations are met, while making certain that the technology itself fits in with an existing working environment.
In terms of the supply chain, therefore, a proactive attitude to delivering what customers or end users—which includes retailers, naturally—want through innovative solutions should be at the top of the list.
According to SupplyChainBrain, the majority of customers want to point, click and ship. This is not breaking news. The so-called “Amazon Effect” has raised the bar for retailers and is, in turn, putting pressure on the supply chain. Retailers are, the news source said, looking for solutions that will reduce employee turnover, fulfill orders more quickly and streamline the process accordingly. The obvious answer to these potential roadblocks is automation, namely robotics that provide the distribution center with an efficient workforce.
A recent report by IDC said that worldwide spending on robotics systems will be $103.4 billion in 2019, which represents a compound annual growth rate of 18.9 percent. According to IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Robotics and Spending Guide, retail spending on robotic solutions is going to outpace many other industries, with the expectation being that industrial robotics in distribution and logistics will be an investment priority for the next three years at least.
“The worldwide market for commercial service robotics will continue to grow at a rate of 20% per year for the coming five years,” said IDC’s research director for Commercial Service Robotics John Santagate, in a press release. “This growth is due to continued innovation in ease of use as well as the drive for flexible automation across industries. We expect to see growth driven by increased adoption of autonomous mobile robots and collaborative robots being deployed as a means to deliver improvements in capacity, productivity, and efficiency.”
At Berkshire Grey, we believe that intelligent robotic systems are the missing link in the supply chain. Distribution and logistics has always been labor intensive, and investment in automated solutions that do the heavy lifting can provide companies with a workforce that is fast, accurate, scalable, and flexible. To find out how our holistic approach to intelligent robots in the retail distribution space can cement your operations in the “new normal,” contact us today.
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