How Robotics Is Transforming eCommerce Fulfillment

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The eCommerce industry has been booming; the same applies to online shopping and related innovations. Today's online shoppers are knowledgeable and demand speedy deliveries, including same-day or next-day deliveries.

Thanks to advances in AI and robotics, most eCommerce businesses can meet stringent customer demands and gain an edge over their competitors. The new breed of "smart" robots is the future of eCommerce fulfillment because they present the ability to automate warehouses and streamline the entire supply chain.

All thriving eCommerce businesses have one commonality: exceptional eCommerce fulfillment services. You may have the most enviable products globally and an epic website, but if you have poor eCommerce fulfillment, your online business will not make meaningful sales.

Dive in as we explore how robotics is transforming order fulfillment services.

Online Businesses Embracing Robotics

Global and regional eCommerce businesses have adopted emerging technologies such as robotic logistics to transform their operations.

For instance, Walmart uses different forms of robotic technology such as floor cleaning robots, storage, and retrieval robots, and shelf-scanning robots to improve its eCommerce order fulfillment processes.

Similarly, US eCommerce powerhouse Amazon has embraced AI and robotics to provide speed deliveries to its end consumers. According to the Associated Press, Amazon has deployed over 200,000 robotic vehicles in its warehouses in the US to move items in its delivery-fulfillment centers, up from 15,000 units in 2014.

In China, Alibaba has adopted autonomous logistics robots for last-mile deliveries in response to the country's explosive growth of eCommerce businesses. Alibaba delivers over 200 million packages daily, and the volumes will hit one billion in the coming years, thus the need for innovative technology to streamline eCommerce fulfillment.

The trend in embracing automation in eCommerce fulfillment is the same everywhere, including in Europe.

Types of Robots for eCommerce Fulfillment

Here are some robots that aid in faster deliveries to end consumers.

  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV): These robots are the ideal replacement for manually-driven pick carts and forklifts in warehouses. AGVs assist in transporting supplies, goods, and materials in warehouses.
  • Articulated Robotic Arms (ARA): These are robots with multi-jointed limbs that can move items in warehouses and distribution centers. They can use their arms to turn, lift, or move and are ideal for receiving, packing, or storing products in warehouses.
  • Automated Storage/Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): These computer-controlled systems help speed the placement and retrieval of products. They assist in automating inventory management.
  • Goods-to-Person (G2P): These systems are similar to AS/RS systems. G2P systems are automated storage systems that deliver packages to pick stations to allow human operators to fulfill orders.
  • Collaborative Robots: These robots assist humans in performing different tasks in the warehouses. They can help in order fulfillment by speedily delivering orders to workers in different locations in warehouses like packing and sorting stations.

The Future of eCommerce Fulfillment

By 2025, over 50,000 warehouses globally are expected to embrace commercial robotics, representing a significant increase from 4,000 warehouses in 2018. These figures are according to a market research report from ABI Research. In the United States, we expect to see about 23,000 robot-powered warehouses by 2025, a substantial increase from 2,500 in 2018.

Online businesses face the challenge of efficiently managing the ever-increasing shipments, some exceeding 300 million parcels daily. The solution to this challenge lies in replacing humans with circuits and chips. The emergence of "intelligent" robots has reduced the efforts and time needed to arrange items on shelves, pack parcels, update stock inventory, and do other related tasks.

Automation remains the effective key to attaining a competitive edge in today's and tomorrow's online businesses. In the coming decade, we hope to witness a wave of innovations in AI and robotics that will better warehouse fulfillment. eCommerce businesses that will embrace these changes will experience enhanced accuracy, productivity, and meeting personalized client demands via a perfect blend of human and robotic interventions.

At the same time, logistic robots and drones will become the norm for last-mile delivery in the coming 20 years. These innovations will reduce pressure on drivers and fleets of vans that drop off online shopping orders in our neighborhoods.

With the addition of automation and robotics, we'll witness enhanced inventory visibility and minimal out-of-stock situations. Accurate consolidation and order fulfillment services will result in fewer reverse logistics and returns. Thus automation is mandatory for eCommerce businesses that wish to overcome the evolving distribution problems and consumer demands for convenience and speed.

Outsourcing eCommerce Fulfillment to a 3PL

In eCommerce, fulfillment speed matters; a recent report showed 25% of buyers stopped orders because of slow shipping. If you run an eCommerce business, outsourcing eCommerce fulfillment to a third-party logistics company is the best approach. 3PLs have the expertise, technology, and networks to offer accurate and speedy deliveries to your end consumers.

Your task is to send your products to the 3PL fulfillment center, and they will handle the rest. These service providers offer storage, order management, and shipping services. By using 3PL shipping and order fulfillment partner, you'll save on costs, and your customers will enjoy fast and accurate deliveries.

Additionally, 3PL providers have cutting-edge technology, including robotics, and 3PL integration with your sales channels to make eCommerce fulfillment more efficient. Outsourcing your fulfillment is the ideal and affordable way to expand your eCommerce business and increase your revenue.

The Takeaway

Robotics is revolutionizing eCommerce fulfillment. If you want to remain competitive now and in the future, you must embrace robotics or work with the best fulfillment companies that have adopted this technology.

Here at Rakuten Super Logistics (RSL), we utilize a revolutionary 3PL software solution called Xparcel that helps eCommerce businesses lower shipping costs and deliver products to their customers fast. With Xparcel, you're assured of fast, reliable, and economical delivery, all while saving on costs.

Need more details on how RSL can reduce your shipping and eCommerce fulfillment costs, drive more revenue and offer fast and accurate deliveries? Request a quote below!

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