Why the Indian Logistics Industry Need Robotics?
Did you ever think how a product ordered by you on a popular e-commerce portal hits your doorstep within less than six hours? Before it reaches you, it passes through many hands and crosses several touch points. So, seller-company’s supply chain management system deserves all the applause for timely delivery of the packet. On the contrary, if your packet does not reach you on time or contains wrong products in it, a customer may have succumbed to the competition, forever. Also, customer surveys done by e-commerce companies indicate that a customer doesn’t usually place the second order until he has received the first order, making it vital for companies to deliver an order as fast as possible.
The hypothetical scene painted above makes it critical for the e-commerce companies to appreciate the importance of logistics function. However, e-commerce is not the only industry that relies heavily on logistics. Many other industries like retail, hospitality, healthcare, consumer & packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, and automobile also need robust, effective, and efficient supply chains. In fact, supply chain is now a key differentiator for these industries. Warehouse operations are the first touch point for any logistics service provider. It makes for about a quarter of the total supply chain management cost of a business. By making this part effective and efficient, a business can do well for its overall competence.
In a convention warehouse, we see a few general operations like:- receiving the incoming consignment and checking it for quality, putting these packets at appropriate shelves in the warehouse, picking the packets as per orders (order management), packaging, sorting for dispatch to the right location, and finally dispatching these packets. However, the sheer variety of items, volume of packets, widely spread dispatch locations, and specific dispatch protocols (First in First Out, First Manufactured First Out, First Expiry First Out etc.) make these operations extremely complex. Moreover, the extremely unrealistic real estate prices make it extremely important to make optimum use of the space. Therefore, automating these warehouses and fulfilment centers with robotic solutions is not a choice but a compulsion. For instance, if a warehouse is looking to dispatch about 50,000 packages in a day that carry 5,000 different variety of items (or combinations of it) across 300 different regions, and these items are needed to be picked up basis multiple dispatch protocols, the task is humanly unviable. Not only it will attract a high operational cost, but the complex nature of these operations may bring in errors and slip ups. Therefore, this part of the value chain needs to be transformed using robotic solutions so that the turnaround time as well as errors in operations can both be reduced. With these changes, the overall user experience is also expected to enhance significantly.
Currently, the typical Indian warehouses are crippled with challenges such as high operational cost and lead time, wrong shipments of items that require reverse logistics, inaccurate documentation, and pilferage. Robotics can take care of these challenges to a large extent and enable Indian businesses to rub shoulders with their global counterparts while winning on the home turf.
Think of a robotic sortation system that can scan the barcodes pasted on the packets moving over a conveyer belt, takes readings of weight, volume and dimensions for these packet in a flash, and sorts these according to pre-defined dispatch algorithms. The system can cut down the sortation and dispatch errors, increase the processing speed, and squeeze the time between order placement and delivery.
Another reason- In a non-automated warehouse environment, a worker spends about three quarter of his worktime running from one corner to the other to pick or put packets to the correct racks. If this task is handed over to a goods-to-person robotic solution that fetches these racks to the operators, it will lead to substantial time and monetary saving. Moreover, there would be much less damage, pilferage or misplacement of packets.
As India gears up for a double digit GDP growth, India should be ready for high expectations from supply chain management function. By increasing speed and cutting down errors, robotic solutions are the only way these expectations can be met.