Robotics: A much needed panacea for the Indian logistics industry

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Ever wondered how a product ordered on a popular e-commerce site reaches you the same day? Before arrival, it exchanges several hands and passes through multiple touch points. So, if the packet is on or before time, credit goes to the supply chain management by the seller company. On the other hand, if the order is not on time or has wrong items in it, the company may have lost a customer to the competition, forever. Also, statistics show that a customer doesn't order again while waiting to receive the first order, making it vital for companies to deliver an order as fast as possible.

This scenario explains the importance of logistics for e-commerce business. However, this is not merely limited to the e-commerce industry. Several other industries as such retail, consumer & packaged goods, pharma, healthcare and automobile have also been aiming to develop competence in supply chain management. Warehouse operations are the first touch point for any logistics service provider and can make up to 25% of the entire supply chain costs for a company. Therefore, focusing on efficiency and accuracy on this part is critical for businesses.
A typical warehouse has a few broad operations, i.e., receiving the incoming goods, quality check, put-away of the goods at the right place, picking (order management), packing and then sorting for dispatch to the right location. However, the volume and diversity of items, widely spread dispatch locations, size of consignments, specific protocols (First in First Out, First Manufactured First Out, First Expiry First Out etc.) and the pressing need to optimally utilize the expensive real estate makes it extremely important to automate the warehouses and fulfillment centres. For example, if a warehouse needs to send out 50,000 packages in a day that carry 1,000 different items (or combinations of it) across 500 different regions, and these items are required to be picked up based on respective protocols. Apart from the high operational cost, the complexity of operations may bring in errors and slip ups. Hence, it is important to transform this part of the value chain through robotic solutions in order to bring efficiency and accuracy in warehouse operations and to enhance user experience across multiple industries.

In the current Indian logistics scenario, warehouses face high cost and lead time, wrong shipments lead to reverse logistics, and inaccurate documentation. Robotics solutions can eliminate these challenges and help organizations become globally competitive while winning in the home ground.

Consider a robotic sortation system that reads the barcodes on packets moving over a belt, can measure the weight, volume and dimensions of each packet in seconds, and sorts these according to dispatch destinations. The system can eliminate any errors in situation, speed up the process, and reduce the delivery cycle. Another example- In a conventional scenario, a picker spends about 60% of his work-time walking into different directions of warehouse to pick or put items to the right racks. A goods-to-person robotic solution that brings the pick/put racks to the operators can save a significant amount of time while reducing any damage, pilferage or stock misplacement.

As we see Indian industry grow manifold, supply chain will continue to be under pressure to deliver more with less. Turning to technology for increasing speed and reducing errors is the way forward, leading to a change in the way companies have been doing business.(

(The article has been authored by Mr. Yaduvendra Singh, Vice President & Global Head, Sales, Marketing & Solutions Group, GreyOrange India Pte. Ltd)
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