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How Retail Robotics Increases Associates’ Productivity in eCommerce Fulfillment Centers

Blog Post
In today’s economy, few retailers can hire and train enough associates quickly enough to meet the surge in demand during the holidays.
robot arm picking package while warehouse worker looks on

By Ilaria Raniero, Head of Solutions Engineering, Radial

From store associates and operations managers to eCommerce fulfillment center associates and delivery drivers, everyone in retail works at maximum capacity during peak season to fulfill orders quickly and delight customers. And when peak season comes, so does the stress. Given limits on productivity, the current workforce is unable to scale to meet the higher volumes without adding new hires. In today’s economy, few retailers can hire and train enough associates quickly enough to meet the surge in demand during the holidays. Fortunately, automation is helping retailers do more with the workforce they have.

In the order fulfillment process, robotics is becoming the fulfillment associate’s best friend. At Radial, we’ve partnered with leading robotics companies to integrate automation technologies into our fulfillment centers. Automation enables our fulfillment associates to be more efficient, more productive, and less stressed during peak season and beyond. We have quotes from our associates sharing how much they enjoy working with the robots and many have names.

As we continue to leverage robotics solutions, we look forward to the benefits they bring to our customers and the overall impact automation has throughout the entire eCommerce fulfillment ecosystem. So, what role does retail robotics have in order fulfillment, what are the different types of robots, and what advantages can retailers expect from automation? Let’s take a closer look.

Fast-Forward Digital Transformation

The pandemic sped up digital transformation initiatives for some companies by up to 10 years in just a few months, with automating systems taking a lead. For retailers, automation is playing a significant role in their ability to compete effectively, particularly when it comes to robotics in the supply chain and order fulfillment processes.

Robotics in fulfillment centers can mean the difference between being able to offer two-day, one-day, or even same-day delivery, and being capable of rapidly scaling to meet peak season demands. With the impact labor shortages and an uncertain economy are having across the retail industry, it can mean the difference between being able to meet customers’ eCommerce fulfillment and delivery expectations or losing them to a competitor who can.

Across industries, automation is driving faster delivery times, efficiency, accuracy, and cost savings. At its core, automation creates the ability to lift rote, manual work from our workforce and do it faster, more accurately, and at less cost to retailers. When done well, this translates to a better omnichannel customer experience, a better employee experience, and improved profitability.

What Does Robotic Automation in eCommerce Fulfillment Centers Look Like?

The following are three types of robotics applicable to fulfillment center operation:

  • Goods-to-person solutions (G2P): Picking robots that present inventory directly to the picker, eliminating the need for the picker to walk to the inventory. These solutions improve picking accuracy, throughput, and reduce the physical demands of walking long distances and pulling heavy carts.  G2P systems can be fixed or mobile in nature, with fixed systems often providing better inventory density and mobile systems more flexibility and scalability.
  • Autonomous mobile robots (AMR): Robots that utilize geolocation technologies to move autonomously around the fulfillment center.  AMRs are especially useful in picking and shuttling applications.  In picking, AMRs replace manual carts and reduce non-value-added walk time.  In shuttling, AMRs can eliminate both walking and the need for conveyors, improving productivity and lowering capital investment.
  • Robotic arms: Robots that scale inventory shelves, retrieve products, and then deliver them to humans for packing. There are also robots that pick and pack eCommerce orders at highly efficient rates.

Retail Robotics at Radial

Robotics is an important element for streamlining eCommerce fulfillment and Radial is proud to be partnered with leading robotics providers to offer the fastest, most efficient, and highly scalable solutions for our customers.  Radial is dedicated to continuing to implement cutting-edge technologies to ensure retailers can keep the promises they make to their customers and keep them coming back.

Want to see automation in action? Visit us at booth #6150 at NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show where we’ll be featuring a fully operational AI-powered order sortation robot used in many of our eCommerce fulfillment centers.