All of the problems experienced in e-commerce sales during the pandemic are continuing, says Paul Ambruso, vice president and general manager, mobile robotics, at Berkshire Grey. The challenges, however, are opportunities for technology vendors.
The rate of growth in e-commerce orders has dipped slightly, but online sales continue, and delivery is vitally important, whether directly to a customer’s home or to a store for pickup. “That means that all the problems we saw before in terms of being able to provide automation to alleviate delays and be able to support that growth are still there,” says Ambruso.
The three biggest challenges he sees are the continuing labor shortage, inadequate inventory space and variability in inventory.
“We know the growth of e-commerce and retail is faster than the growth of the availability of a labor force,” he says. “As such, we need to be able to drive towards models that use less labor through automation. There's also a skill concern around that labor. We have to not only find labor, we have to retain it, and it has to be of a high level of skill.”
As both e-commerce and retail sales continue to grow, says Ambruso, there's not enough physical space. “That means we have to have denser solutions that fit into more constrained spaces. And last but not least, we still have a really high variability in the types of inventory and the placement of inventory across stores and across other centers for distribution. We have to be able to handle variability of goods and availability of goods on a more localized basis.”
Ambruso says this is where the concept of hyper-local, hyper-fast delivery comes into play, meaning that goods have to be closer to customers. And that offers technology vendors many great opportunities.
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