How the right warehouse automation system can improve operations

Warehouse automation systems are a significant investment for food and beverage companies but investment in the right system will futureproof a business, driving efficiency, maximising output and cutting operational costs.

Before making the change to Lightspeed Automation’s Xpress and FastTrack systems, Express used a predominantly paper-based warehouse system that limited their speed to consumer and led to waste.

Here, Express’ Rachel Whitford discusses the impact a digital and streamlined warehouse automation system has had on operations and how other food and beverage business can follow suit.

Environmental impact

Road transport is one of the biggest contributors to global pollution, with UK motorists alone contributing 12 million tonnes of petrol and 24.6 million tonnes of diesel to the atmosphere in 2016.

Food and beverage businesses are under increasing pressure to find alternative, eco-friendly ways to improve internal processes to reduce their carbon footprint. And those that are successful will reap the rewards in reputation management and long term cost savings.

Warehouse automation systems help businesses reduce their yearly fleet mileage, with tighter operations reducing the number of wasted journeys. Suppliers receive a restock request in real-time, only once the client has reached an agreed lower stock limit, so they’ll only be fulfilling stocking duties when needed.

The UK generated 222.9 million tonnes of waste in 2017 alone, of which over 4.7 million tonnes came directly from paper and cardboard.

Business looking to reduce their carbon footprint can minimise paper waste by introducing an automated warehouse and inventory management system, moving daily operations online.

Minimising waste

Over 2.3 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated yearly by UK residents, of which most is accounted for in clothing, automotive design and food packaging.

Luckily, the public is becoming increasingly concerned with how plastic is used and disposed and efforts are being made to affect change. Now the emphasis is on businesses to follow suit.

Before Express introduced its new warehouse automation system, it visited clients weekly with a selection of stock without a clear and prioritised list of required items. The result was inefficient spend, food waste and unnecessary journeys being made.

Now, Express receives cranial sales data with real-time stock levels and requirements, only alerting them to products that require replenishing based on pre-agreed levels set by the customer, reducing waste and spend.

The customer’s always right

Consumers are starting to realise their influence over businesses. They’re aware of the war to win custom and are beginning to flex their muscles when it comes to their demands.

Businesses are being forced to compete in new ways and are increasingly finding personalisation is key.
Data is the entry point to personalisation, with businesses valuing information on buying habits and consumer behaviour.

Inventory management systems are an example of how to effectively harness the potential of data. Express are now alerted when a client is running low in stock and their ‘pick-to-light’ system highlights exactly where the required products are in the warehouse to help speed up internal processes and get each client restocked as soon as possible.

Speed is of the essence

Customers value loyalty and tend to stick with brands if they receive a positive experience. Many will also share recommendations with their network when they get a speedy, convenient, consistent and friendly experience.

Express have recently streamlined their efforts thanks to Lightspeed Automation’s Xpress tool, which sends granular sales data to the Express warehouse team through a telemetry unit installed in each individual machine, notifying them of real-time product requirements.

New orders are then logged into the system before the FastTrack app generates a pick-to-light route, directing a member of staff to the exact location of a product with floor lights.

FastTrack speeds up the logistical processes in the warehouse by logging product data like location and stock levels, helping the team get products out the door and to the client as quickly as possible.

The new warehouse automation system has made an immediate impact on Express, with their operations already running four times faster than before.

By Rachel Whitford, area manager – City of London, of UK supplier of premium vending machines, Express

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