Micro-Fulfilment Delivers the Goods for Retailers

As online shoppers come to expect the promise of next-day delivery, if not same-day delivery, retailers are turning to robotic micro-fulfilment to tackle the last-mile challenges in their supply chains.

The basic idea behind micro-fulfilment is to speed up delivery by decentralizing distribution networks. Rather than just relying on massive central distribution centres, micro-fulfilment adds a network of small distribution centres in urban areas to bring stock closer to consumers, says John Harmon – Senior Analyst with retail and technology global advisory Coresight Research:

“Competition is driving ever-shorter delivery times, which requires that supply chains become faster and more agile.” 

The retail floor can also support online fulfilment, or dedicated micro-fulfilment centers can be located in the back storeroom. Alternatively, retailers can utilize entire “dark” stores which are not open to the public, or only have a collection counter – a practice that has become more common during the COVID-19 pandemic, explains Sean Maharaj – logistics and supply chain expert and Managing Director at global management consultancy AArete:

“This model should also allow for the leveraging of much newly-vacated corporate real estate like department stores and malls, which are readily available for repurposing as micro-fulfilment centers.” 

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About the Contributor

About the Contributor

Sean has over 20 years of experience in strategic profitability improvement, supply chain, outsourcing, operations management and advisory for the logistics and transportation industry. He has worked on a wide range of strategic projects, while having led successful initiatives and teams for some of the country’s premier transportation providers. Sean holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Toronto, a Bachelor of Science degree from D’Youville College and a Masters of Business Administration degree from The Edinburgh Business School, UK. Sean is a member of Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) and is a published author in CMCSP’s Supply Chain Quarterly, Transport Topics and the Association for Supply Chain Management.