Delivering the Future: Automation and Technology Advancements in Logistics
A mere five years ago, many consumers could not fathom the idea of same day delivery of a product ordered online. In many cases, the customer would wait days or even weeks to have their goods delivered to their door. As technology advances, many companies are able to diminish delivery times to a mere twenty four to forty eight hour period. As technology and automation continue to improve processes, the delivery times will continue to progress towards instantaneous delivery.
The warehouse most consumers imagine and picture their products arriving from is a fairly mundane place. Few would consider the technology involved in the ultra-fast delivery of companies such as Amazon or Overstock.com. Amazon recently acquired Kiva Systems , a company that launched in 2003. Kiva Systems developed a system that allowed robots to pick, and pack items labeled with a barcode system immediately as orders come through. These items would then be delivered back to a human operator for final quality inspections and shipping. This allows a significant decrease in time and errors from the moment of order placement to shipment. Kiva Systems now operates under the name Amazon Robotics, and is continuing to innovate throughout Amazon’s delivery network.
Once an order leaves the local warehouse, the race is on to complete the last leg of the delivery to a customer’s door. Many retailers turn to third party shippers to complete this portion of the delivery process. Companies such as UPS, FedEx , and USPS have seen a substantial growth in the last decade with the surge of business brought by e-commerce. Most experts will say that the “Last Mile” may be the most substantial place where online retailers can save millions.
A recent innovation is Walmart’s recent testing of a grocery delivery service. Most online shoppers are familiar with Amazon’s grocery delivery service Amazon Fresh. Walmart hopes to compete without having to use private delivery drivers, keeping costs low. With the click of a mouse, customers can order a wide range of products from their local Walmart. Following the order fulfillment by a Walmart team member, this order will be delivered by a local Uber or Lyft driver. This will allow Walmart to keep costs lower due to the decrease in personnel required for delivery.
The race to deliver to the customers door is a synonym for the race to innovate, automate, and mechanize. Many consumers have grown accustomed to the convenience of e-commerce, and their expectation of quick delivery will not cease. In order to maintain and grow their share of the market, every company involved with e-commerce will continue to push towards the future of logistics. With every dollar spent with an online retailer, consumers are contributing to an exponential growth technology.