Logistics providers must be equipped with the technology needed to make the retailer's work less costly. At the Retail Industry Leaders Association conference in Orlando, SupplyChainBrain spoke with Intelligrated, Agility and Polymer Logistics about how they are meeting their customers' demands.
Retail logistics providers increasingly are being challenged to look for productivity gains outside of the warehouse or distribution center. Specifically, retail customers want their logistics partners to have the right solutions to help them be more efficient in their stores by packing and loading orders so they come off the truck aisle- and shelf-ready.
"What we are seeing today that is different from the past is that retailers basically are looking to their partners to help them lower the cost of store operations," says Chris Cole, CEO of Intelligrated, a provider of automated material handling solutions with operations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The Cincinnati-based company designs, manufactures and installs complete material handling automation solutions, including conveyor, sortation and order fulfillment systems; palletizers and robotics; warehouse control software; and advanced machine controls.
Behind this shift, Cole says, is the fact that growth has slowed for many retailers, especially in terms of new store openings. "Retailers are trying to squeeze more margin out of an existing base of stores and customers."
The biggest opportunity in this area is for providers to fill and load orders in such a way that they can move directly to the retail floor with minimum handling, he says. This means that trucks need to be loaded in the reverse order of how a retailer wants to receive them, which requires sophisticated software solutions, says Cole. "Intelligrated's Solutions Development Group collaborates with our clients to develop integrated solutions that address these as well as other unique business issues that impact their supply chain operations," he says.
Agility provides retailers with floor-ready deliveries in conjunction with its direct-to-store service, says John Iacouzzi, vice president of business development. This service primarily is used to get "hot" products to stores as quickly as possible or in time for an advertised special, Iacouzzi says. Agility picks up bulk products from suppliers and then allocates and custom-packs orders for each store, with an eye toward minimizing handling on the receiving end, he says. To further reduce costs when time is tight, Agility optimizes the use of air and ground with small-package carriers so that air is only used for stores out of range of two- to three-day ground delivery.
Polymer Logistics works with customers to develop innovative packaging that enables products to move directly from the factory to the retail floor. "One-Touch/Retail-Ready packaging means that we load product on a particular platform, designed to suit the needs of the retailer, so that the only other person who touches it is the consumer," says Polymer Logistics President Jim Vangelos.
Retailers using this type of solution are able to lower costs relative to labor, damage and shrinkage, and package materials, he says. "The one-touch packaging that we work with is reusable, returnable and recyclable, as opposed to traditional packaging that often ends up in landfills.
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