A well-orchestrated, automated warehouse requires a smart fulfillment software platform that can tie together all the data-management systems that go into warehouse operations, says Akash Gupta, chief technology officer and co-founder of one-stop warehouse automation provider Grey Orange.
Gupta explains how important it is to take into account all the “nodes” involved in fulfillment — meaning any physical location where inventory resides, whether it’s on the picking floor, in so-called “dark” distribution centers with no humans, or retail stores. Critical to success is the ability to gather data in real time to coordinate people, robots, conveyors and all the other elements, across all nodes.
“All of these aspects are about how do you make sure you can reach customers faster without burning a lot of money in transportation,” says Gupta. He goes on to argue that micro-fulfillment centers and dark stores are basically repurposing the real estate that retailers already have, which are relatively close to the customer. That creates the opportunity to store popular inventory close to market, so that retailers can offer much better service-level agreements, while keeping those facilities small and reducing costs of expensive real estate in dense urban areas.
Gupta goes on to say that, in the current environment of omnichannel, it’s critical to be able to orchestrate all channels, including warehouses, micro-fulfillment centers and retail stores, as part of the same system. That can involve repurposing some stores so that part of the space is still walk-in retail, while part is now fulfilling online orders.
Gupta explains how existing point solutions need to be combined and coordinated into a single software layer.
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