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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