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What’s New In Fulfillment Services? (Part 1 of 2)

This is part one in a two-part series. Read part-two here.

As eCommerce continues its precipitous rise in popularity, showing a 14.7 percent increase in retail sales year over year during 4th Quarter 2015, it’s not a bad time to be asking about what’s new in fulfillment services.

After all, with so much growth in the industry, innovation should follow. But, because eCommerce has been a rapidly expanding sector for the last several years, 2016 seems to be a time for companies to focus on improving the way the processes already in place function. This two-part blog series highlights just a few of the things happening in the fulfillment sector in 2016.

Augmented Reality

If you ever wondered where Google glass and similar technologies would be useful, the answer, apparently, is in warehousing and distribution.

The practice of overlaying reality with digital inputs is what some tech experts are beginning to refer to as “augmented reality,” and companies like DHL are already trying to find ways to work it into the supply chain. According to a recent report, the company has identified several core areas where augmented reality can further improve the logistics industry, including warehousing, transportation and last-mile delivery.

Augmented reality optimizes the picking process by eliminating the need to pick by paper or even handheld device, instead pick lists can be pushed to a heads-up display that’s always in front of the human picker. AR headsets can provide workers with the most efficient route to their destination and automatically scan the box needing to be picked, further saving time and equipment to juggle. Automating these steps also has the potential to speed up training, further eliminating errors.

Digital Supply Chains and the Cloud

It’s one thing to digitize your supply chain – that is, to take processes and put computers under them – and yet another to build them from the ground up using data-driven software made just for modern logistics. We’re seeing glimpses of what the digital supply chain can do with smart shipping tools, but as the power behind this technology grows the potential expands exponentially. The tools we’re using today may be made completely redundant tomorrow.

As more of the supply chain is digitized, it gets easier to monitor each step at a microscopic level and creates an immense amount of data that everyone, from packers to shippers, can use to help improve workflow processes. Cloud computing is gaining traction in the logistics sector, allowing everyone in the supply chain to easily share data about daily operations and create processes that integrate seamlessly and speed up distribution times, even for international transactions.

This is a huge step beyond simple EDI – it’s tracking the movement of ships so trucks are ready to collect shipping containers the moment they arrive, it’s having sorting facilities anticipating packages that are coming, it’s letting customers who know exactly when a package is arriving reroute it if they happen to be elsewhere. The marriage of digital supply chains and cloud computing will be the step that takes all the current islands of technological development in the logistics sector and turn them into a single machine that completely changes how we ship and receive packages.

There’s a lot going on in fulfillment services these days, stay tuned for part two of this two-part series for even more amazing developments in this exciting sector.

 

June 14, 2016
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