In this insightful interview with Patrick Bellart, Robotisation & automation director, and Xavier Prévost, Group business solutions, information systems and transport director, automation trends at FM Logistic are explored. Discover the impact of e-commerce growth on automation demand, the latest market initiatives, and essential considerations for firms before adopting automation solutions. Learn how FM Logistic leverages technology to create business value and optimize warehouse operations.
Explore the game-changing potential of automation in the logistics sector, propelling the “Supply Change” agenda towards sustainable, efficient, and profitable operations. Join us on this transformative journey.
What automation trends are you currently observing at FM Logistic?
Patrick Bellart: We see more in e-commerce automation development than in pallet solutions. This trend is driven by higher volumes resulting from the boom in online shopping, especially during the pandemic, which have not abated since. It has become evident that, in some cases, automation is the only way to keep fulfilment promises to customers. On the human resource side, firms need to attract workers by improving working conditions through less handling, pushing and walking. Both supply and demand issues are fuelling our clients’ demand for automation. I can speak for Europe in particular, where successful testings in one country led inevitably to requests for implementation in other countries. In the FMCG wholesale sector, we can only automate 70% of a mass retail logistics process. Robots can’t always address promotional operations with different sizes units, outers or different truck sizes. At FM Logistic, we are advocates of the right degree of automation to create business value.
What are the latest initiatives on the market ?
Xavier Prévost: We see a wide range of offerings for e-commerce solutions fuelled by start-ups and historical leaders: mechanical technology for parcels under 30kg are easier to develop, and demand is high. At FM Logistic, we are constantly monitoring all the latest technology and analysing its suitability for our clients’ different needs.
In order picking, AMRs (automated mobile robots) are a fast-developing solution to increase units per hour and take the strain off the warehouse operator.
FM Logistic has qualified three leading technologies for its customers:
- Individual robot solutions like Locus, where robots with orders to be picked are directed to pickers allocated to a specific area.
- Goods to Person or Shelves to Person system by Geek+, where racks (measuring up to 2m high) drive themselves to the picking stations.
- Autostore is an ultra-high- density automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) which delivers bins to workstations.
In packing, innovative solutions for packaging size optimisation are a must-have. They help reduce void spaces and, consequently, the corresponding amount of filling material required in packaging. Such solutions have helped improve vehicle fill ratios by 30%. Some solutions adapt the base box to the exact height of its product, reducing the void space around it. Others can even measure the products precisely, and tailor the package accurately around them before labelling and dispatching. These technologies can help reduce the preparation costs of e-commerce units order.
What questions should firms ask themselves before automating their processes?
Patrick Bellart: I would suggest three areas of investigation to potential adopters. Firstly, define the goal(s) they want to address through automation. Is it to improve capacity due to larger volumes and higher speeds of order fulfilment? Is it to save costs compared with all-manual solutions? Or to improve working conditions for warehousing employees, taking the strain and distance out of their tasks? The second criterion is their time horizon. The choice of technology will differ on whether the project needs to pay off within three, five or ten years. Scalable and replicable plug-and-play solutions are more suited to short-term goals, while larger infrastructural projects will be more cost- effective in the long run. Finally, what type of products are they dealing with, in what order frequency, and what SKUs range? In what kind of environment and resources – particularly how much space – do they have to implement the solution? For example, a low-footprint, high-rise solution like Autostore will be better suited to urban environments where room is a premium. At FM Logistic, we assist our clients in this thought process, with critical expertise in solution design, before executing and operating the warehousing systems.
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