The pre-Christmas period is considered to be peak time for all retailers – both online and multi-channel. Research by Accenture shows that almost a third of UK shoppers plan to increase their holiday spend this year, leaving retailers busier than ever before.
For some, Christmas shopping starts as early as September, for others (the more disorganised of us perhaps) the shopping begins on Christmas Eve. But for those in the know, US retail milestones such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are a key event – with over 80 percent of customers planning to do their seasonal shop on these days.
The boom of e- and (more recently) m-commerce gives that added sense of flexibility to consumers. They can shop from the comfort of their own home or when they are out and about. But no matter where they order from, customers still expect a smooth and easy experience with the purchases being delivered quickly and efficiently.
Increasing demand during peak times should in no way affect customer experience, which is why carefully planned logistics and supply chain processes are crucial in this busy period.
Temporary workers vs. Increased demand
When consumers take advantage of these ‘deal days’ retailers and their supply chain need to ensure they have the right planning processes in place to cater for the surge in activity.
Every order placed could be picked up by a temporary worker brought on to alleviate some of the strain. In the fast-paced environment these new staff need to get in, get trained, and get picking. The type of technology used cannot be overly complicated, as it has to help workers navigate clearly and efficiently but also have the ability to adapt to unexpected changes in frequency seamlessly.
With voice solutions, workers can be trained and work autonomously quickly and become experts on every process required within the warehouse. Interestingly, voice-directed technology has proven to be increasingly effective and flexible across both the warehouse and supply chain.
Cooperation not automation
The growing popularity of online shopping, Black Friday, Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday will continue to put pressure on supply chain and retailers. The key to success is planning for increased demand and finding the middle ground that makes the best of both human and machine capabilities.
Voice directed work aims to bridge this human-technology divide. Using headsets, the worker reads out details of each individual step of the task they are working on, checking off instructions as they go.
This type of working keeps staff agile and motivated, working to automated instructions yet able to adapt to new tasks quickly. Honeywell’s Vocollect voice solutions have been shown to increase efficiency levels by 20 percent in many warehouses, with a proven accuracy rate of 99.98 percent.
Although technology has made vast improvements in the efficiency of the logistics and supply chain industry, it cannot cater for increased demand patterns alone. Ultimately, peak orders are going to be processed and delivered by people – and it is they who will make the difference.
By Darrel Williams, Regional Director, Northern Europe and South Africa, Honeywell Vocollect Solutions