Lidl is introducing parcel machines in stores in Finland, allowing customers to accept deliveries from major carriers.
The machines will operate in Lidl stores at Rautatienkatu, Tampere and Espoonlahti, Espoo.
DHL, Postnord, DB Schenker and Matkahuolto will all deliver to the lockers, which are provided by Finnish company Smartmile.
Lidl plans to introduce the lockers at other stores including Tukkutori, Helsinki during the early summer. It already has Smartpost machines available in 41 stores across Finland.
The grocer said in a statement that customers will be able to “handle both grocery shopping and postal packages at the same time.”
Lidl operational director Nicholas Pennanen said: “We have good experience with parcel machines in our stores and our customers have been satisfied with the increased service offering. Of course, we want to make our customers’ lives easier and listen to their wishes.”
Ocado plans to make staff redundant following the fire at its Andover distribution centre in February.
The grocer has failed to find a suitable alternative site in the Andover area and faces a two-year period to rebuild the old facility.
The consultation will affect around 400 employees out of 850 people employed at the site, with the redundancies affecting pick and pack staff rather than drivers.
A company spokesperson said: “In light of the fact that the rebuild of Andover CFC will take at least 2 years to complete, it is with immense regret that we have commenced a formal consultation process.
“We would like to thank all of our colleagues for their hard work and we will provide them with all the support we can during this process. We are committed to rebuilding and restoring our operations in Andover and sincerely hope that we are able to welcome any affected colleagues back to Ocado in the future.”
The consultation was launched the day that Ocado renegotiated its agreement with Morrisons, meaning that Morrisons.com suspended its use of Ocado’s Erith fulfilment centre. Currently it accounts for over 10,000 orders from the site and has the right to use 30% of the centre’s future order capacity. Morrisons will resume using the warehouse in February 2021.
The fire, which started on the day that Ocado announced its full-year financial results, wiped out one of four centres. Andover had been providing around 10% of Ocado’s total capacity.
The term warehouse automation can denote anything from the installation of conveyor belts to the fully automated picking and packing processes of Ocado. Process automation may provide a middle ground for retailers that want to reap the productivity gains without huge investments.
An Aberdeen Standard Investments survey of supply chain executives at the end of 2018 in 29 European countries found that 25% had invested in warehouse automation and 43% planning to do so in the future. 10% had already invested in robotics specifically with 56% planning to in the future. Warehouse robotics technology is advancing rapidly, with Cambridge Consultants last week (16 May) announcing a robot with the dexterity to match a human worker.
This fully automated solution has the benefit of reducing labour costs, which are one of the most compelling business cases for automation – operations and fulfilment provider F.Curtis Barry & Company says labour can take 60% or more of total warehouse costs.
The capex requirements of automating to the degree of an Ocado are out of reach of many retailers, however. According to Ocado’s full-year results, published in February, the firm’s capital expenditure for 2018 was £214 million, up from £160 million in 2017, which contributed to its loss before tax widening.
There are also questions about how broadly this sort of automation can be applied. Mike Callendar, executive chairman at REPL Group, which works with major third-party logistics providers and major retailers, notes that automated picking works well with light items but not with washing machines or sofas.
“Something that needs a high level of care, you can’t automate.”
There are other reasons why not all retailers are following Ocado’s example. Richard Davies, MD of Hattons Model Railways, lists a number of factors in the decision to stick with a “highly efficient, non-automated” warehouse.
“Most technology solutions we’ve evaluated, require a lot more space, than a ‘people-orientated’ solution. We have evaluated adding more conveyor belts and automated sorting solutions, but we don’t have space.”
Due to relatively low volumes, automation means only a marginal ROI, he adds. He says that people are more flexible than an automated solution and the cost of training and ownership is prohibitive.
However, the company might look at introducing more automation if existing WMS supplier Peoplevox or another company with a sound understanding of Hattons’ software were to offer it, says Davies.
Towards process automation
Luckily, garnering the benefits of automation doesn’t have to mean full robotisation. New solutions are allowing a shift from capex-heavy long-term warehouse leases to repeated, iterative improvements.
Callendar claims using automation to optimise processes in a traditional warehouse setup can lead to a five to ten percent productivity increase.
REPL works with retailers including M&S, which made use of its technology to organise its workforce scheduling.
“Look at your warehouse efficiency and where it’s not as productive as it should be, then improve your warehouse in those specific areas.”
Alongside availability itself, another area that Callendar highlights is differing employee competencies for different tasks. REPL’s software can analyse how good different employees are at packing different items. Its algorithms cluster different types of items according to the skills required and then assign them to the best person.
Retrieving these insights involves pooling information – products, employees, order numbers – in a “data lake” and leaving the algorithms to work out where the efficiencies are.
Another possibility is storing items together not according to category but according to order patterns. For example, Callendar says, placing a battery next to an electronic device that requires it.
Wayne Snyder, VP of retail strategy EMEA for JDA, whose WMS is used by B&Q, says: “We’re finding most people are looking at automation but not at full automation except for online orders.”
Some areas Snyder highlights are looking for efficiencies in the way employees undertake certain tasks. This might include load optimisation to make the best use of transport assets when transferring orders to the fleet.
Most retailers, Snyder argues, will retain for the time being a mixture of robotic and manual labour, especially as they adapt to being able to service either stores or online customers from the same warehouse. These require different models, with stores being better served with bulk shipping on pallets and online orders requiring more precising picking.
As well as thinking of where automation can replace employees, retailers should look at where it can complement them. Zalando is one example of a retailer taking this mixed approach. The German fashion giant recently opened a new distribution centre in the Nordics featuring 50 GreyOrange ‘butlers’, autonomous mobile robots which can hand packages to the 500 employees at the site.
Jan Bartels, VP customer fulfilment and logistics at Zalando, said at the time: “Zalando believes in pairing cutting-edge automation solutions and passionate employees. We use automation technologies to ease the workload of our employees, by taking on monotonous and non-ergonomic tasks.”
With the proliferation of more “as-a-service” type automation solutions and as algorithms seek out the weak points in the warehouse, process automation allows retailers to find a middle ground between no automation and introducing incremental efficiencies to existing processes.
Royal Mail is rolling out its new parcel postbox across the UK after a successful trial last year.
The new design allows small businesses to send pre-paid parcels as well as letters, as well as allowing customers to return certain items at any time of the week.
UK postal giant will convert 1400 existing meter boxes that have sufficient dimensions in locations such as Birmingham, Leeds, Aberdeen and Cardiff.
The service is available for parcels which have been pre-paid through Royal Mail’s online labelling system Click & Drop. The service allows users to send a parcel without having to register and integrates with marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon and Shopify.
Mark Street, head of campaigns at Royal Mail, said “The wide scale introduction of parcel postboxes is one of the many ways we at Royal Mail are looking to make the lives of our customers easier.
“The parcel postboxes trial last year was a success, and we hope that the wider roll-out gives added flexibility to online sellers who might be running a business in their spare time and not keeping regular office hours.”x
Waitrose has chosen an automation start-up founded by former Google executives as it seeks to treble the size of its online business in three years.
The grocer will work with Today Development Partners (TDP) to build three new highly automated distribution centres. TDP was founded by Jonathan Faiman, a co-founder of Ocado, and Mo Gawdat, the former chief business officer at Google’s research arm.
Waitrose has also created a new digital director role, filled by retail director Ben Stimson, who will lead Waitrose’s online growth and manage the TDP relationship.
The supermarket fulfils online orders through a combination of orders picked from store with orders from its centre in Coulsdon. Its online business grew 14.2% in the year to January.
Rob Collins, MD of Waitrose & Partners, commented: ‘Waitrose.com is a popular and efficient home delivery service that is already growing strongly ahead of the market. The plans announced today represent a clear commitment to achieve rapid step-change in Waitrose.com’s capacity and capability as we build a modern, well-invested digital business that is fit for the future.
‘The development of our new Customer Fulfilment Centres will triple our delivery capacity, bringing our well-loved service and delicious food to more customers across the UK and setting Waitrose.com on the path to becoming a £1 billion turnover business.’
Jonathan Faiman, CEO of Today Development Partners said: “I am more excited about this new venture than anything I’ve done in my career. I am delighted and privileged to be back within the John Lewis Partnership family and we will deliver for Waitrose.com customers the world’s best digital home delivery service.”
Mo Gawdat, chief business officer of TDP, said: “What we’re aiming to build is the kind of platform that touches everyone’s life. With the advancement in technology and with Waitrose.com as our partner we aim to make the experience of using this technology a great experience for the customer.”
Retailers are abandoning generous returns policies in response to serial returns, according to new research.
The report by BarclayCard found that 20% of retailers have made their returns policies more stringent over the last two years.
Forty-one percent said they had changed their policy because too many customers were over-ordering items. 31% claimed that shoppers were using items and then returning them.
This was mirrored by consumer responses; 29% admitted they ordered items they intended to return, rising to 48% of 25 to 34-year-olds, the cohort often known as millennials.
Consumers are feeling the impact of the more stringent policies, with 14% of consumers saying they have been penalised for returns behaviour including the likes of warning emails to account deactivations.
These changes come as 26% of retailers said they have seen volumes of returns increase in the last two years.
Anita Liu Harvey, director of strategy, Barclaycard, said: “The volume of goods being returned continues to rise and consumers have come to expect free returns as standard – otherwise they will shop elsewhere.
“As a result, we are seeing retailers implementing stricter returns policies to try to clamp down on serial returners and reduce the impact that returns are having on their business.
“These more stringent policies have begun to affect consumers, with some retailers starting to send warning emails to customers about accounts being deactivated, should unusual or suspicious behaviour continue. On the flip side, it does seem shoppers are becoming more mindful about the purchases they make and the impact their returns could have on the environment.”
eDelivery will be a media partner for the Deliver 2019 conference in June, bringing together ecommerce and logistics experts.
The event, which also features InternetRetailing as a partner, the event will take place on 5 and 6 June at the Estoril Congress Center in Lisbon, Portugal.
Speakers from Ocado, Cdisount and Casino will share their expertise, with a particular focus on how artificial intelligence can reshape the logistics and retail sectors.
Also on the agenda is Accenture’s global post and parcel MD, Alibaba’s group head of logistics. From the disruptor point of view, Uber Freight’s head of expansion in Europe will share the companies learnings.
Deliver expects over 1000 delegates, around 60% being retailers.
“I’m thrilled to welcome for the first time more than 1,000 decision makers from 40 countries in what became already the largest and best attended gathering of the retail operations community in Europe. This 4th edition will provide inspiration and will showcase Log Tech & Retail Tech innovation at its best,” said Stephane Tomczak, founder of DELIVER.
DHL has launched its first urban drone delivery service in China.
Working with autonomous aerial vehicle company EHang, the company deployed a fully automated drone for an 8km route in Guangzhou.
An employee scans a barcode on the parcel and then places it in one of DHL’s intelligent cabinets. The EHang Falcon eight-propeller drone then takes the parcel on a customised route to the company’s service centre and automatically lands on another cabinet.
DHL said the service reduces one-way delivery time from 40 minutes to eight minutes and can save up to 80% per delivery.
The company plans to add new routes in the future but did not specify whether or when this service would be available to other customers.
Wu Dongming, CEO at DHL Express China, said the project had “set a new innovation milestone” and that the solution “combines the strength of the world’s largest international express company together with one of the leading UAV companies in the world.”
“This is an exciting time for the logistics sector, with continued growth of the Chinese economy and cross-border trade, particularly in South China and the Greater Bay Area, which is home to an increasing number of SMEs and startups.
“This means there is a tremendous volume of logistics needs, which in turn creates new opportunities for implementing innovative solutions that can continuously drive growth with greater efficiency, sustainability and less cost.”
Hu Huazhi, CEO of EHang, said, “Together with DHL we are very glad to bring the first smart drone delivery service route to China in Guangzhou; this marks a new beginning in building air logistics for smart cities.
“Riding on today’s launch, we expect smart drone delivery as an innovative logistics solution to be expanded and realised in more areas, and we look forward to working with DHL in building the eco-system for a multi-dimensional urban air transport system.”
Asda is planning to trial same-day delivery and offer more click and collect points as it refocuses on “hassle-free shopping” following its Sainsbury’s merger being blocked.
CEO Roger Burnley (pictured) said that the company would not be changing direction but would continue to focus on price and customer experience. This will include investing £80 million throughout the rest of 2019.
In a statement the company said it would be installing new click and collect points in Asda stores due to popularity with customers. This would include offering next-day click and collect for the company’s online George.com clothing range.
Asda also said it would trial same-day delivery on groceries.
“We have a mountain to climb – continuing momentum, into growth, and ultimately, sustainability – but we can make a difference. We can be brilliant for our customers today. And we can be brilliant for our customers in the future,” Burnley added.
Warehouse management systems (WMS) are a tool to get more efficiency out of your logistics processes. eDelivery looks at Shopify WMS apps.
Stock Sync is a tool for updating and managing inventory. It is especially designed for offline retailers who are looking to expand into ecommerce.
The app allows users to manage multiple supplier or dropshipping feeds in one interface. Users can set the plug-in up to automatically update inventory on a regular basis.
The plug-in integrates with cloud storage options such as Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox as well as standard email.
Stock Sync offers a 14-day free trial. There is also a free-to-install version which requires users to purchase credits to use products. The subscription packages range from $5 per month to $49 per month.
Shopify marketplace rating: 4.7 stars based on 425 reviews
Stocky allows users to not only track their stock levels but also forecast demand in the future.
Stock levels sync in real time when changes are made. Retailers can use the dashboard to see which products are in low stock and where they are losing sales from insufficient supply. They can also access information such as purchase orders and stocktakes.
There are other built-in features such as displaying product images on purchase orders and the ability to look at the total cost of all stock on hand.
With a 30-day free trial, Stocky charges between $29 per month and $99 per month for its paid plans. It targets growing businesses, particularly those with over 50 orders per month.
Shopify marketplace rating: 4.9 stars based on 119 reviews
This plug-in is designed to simplify the process of selling across multiple marketplaces. It can connect inventory, shipping and suppliers, consolidating sales order information into one location.
The system is able to uniquely track products regardless of different stock keeping units that may be assigned across different marketplaces.
It offers the option to create custom kits and bundle products.
A particularly interesting feature will update other marketplaces when a product is sold through one channel, ensuring that users never oversell products. There is also the ability to customise alerts for low inventory.
The plug-in also includes features for order management and the ability to automate sending and receipt of sales orders and shipping information. It can also help with the restocking process by sending purchase orders and then updating product quantities when new inventory is received.
After a 15-day free trial the product costs between $60 per month for less than 100 sales orders and $190 per month for 3000 sales orders.
Shopify marketplace rating: 3.2 stars based on 27 reviews
ShipHero is designed to be an all-in-one solution for WMS. It is cloud-based, meaning it can be accessed through a web browser or iOS mobile device.
The plug-in integrates with third parties including Amazon, USPS, BigCommerce, Cratejoy, eBay and Channel Advisor.
Inventory is synchronised across connected sales channels, with automation rules built in to reduce manual tasks. It includes the ability to process batch orders and can provide quotes for shipping rate to allow users to choose the cheapest option.
There is also the ability to support returns, while the reporting function allows users to understand metrics such as spend, sales history, inventory changes and team performance.
Shiphero offers a range of packages, ranging from a start-up offering at $499 per month up to a third party logistics offering at $999 per month.
Shopify marketplace rating: 4.7 stars based on 100 reviews
ChannelApe offers an all-in-one fulfilment platform which allows users to connect enterprise resource planning, WMS and third party logistics channels in a single interface.
Users can accept orders from multiple channels and then process these as a single stream of data. The plug-in is able to manage multiple warehouses or fulfilment providers worldwide.
It also has built-in rate shopping capabilities with carriers including FedEx, UPS, DHL and USPS. It integrates with Amazon, eBay and other platforms.
The solution has a seven-day free trial, with paid packages starting at $350 per month for up to 1000 orders to $2000 per month for up to 7500 orders.
Shopify marketplace rating: 4.8 stars based on 33 reviews