In this exclusive interview, we speak with Béatrice Ogée, Group Sales & Marketing Director at FM Logistic, about the factors influencing the shift towards automation, and how FM Logistic is rising to meet these challenges. Béatrice takes us behind the scenes of FM Logistic’s automation journey, discussing everything from the practical realities of e-commerce operations, to the strategies used to address labor shortages, and the importance of partnerships in managing risks associated with heavy investments in automation.
Join us as we delve into the transformative power of automation in the logistics industry, and explore how it is driving the “Supply Change” agenda towards more sustainable, efficient, and profitable practices.
What motivates FM Logistic’s clients to automate their warehouses ?
Our experience on the ground is quite similar to this survey’s findings in terms of drivers and barriers. The two watchwords that keep coming back are efficiency and reliability. In e-commerce, automation is a way of gaining reliability and speed while coping with order peaks and volatility. However, clients understand that they can’t automate in every situation. For example, operations can’t be fully automated even in e-commerce for large furniture or household appliances. But as far as possible, these clients seek to industrialize a process to go faster and more securely than a 100% staffed operation. In B2B warehouses, the key issue is to address labor shortage. This long-term issue is true to a greater or lesser extent in all countries. Our clients need to secure their processes to deliver the right products in the right quantities and at the right time – in other words, fulfil their contractual obligations to their retail clients. From that perspective, available solution prepares the future for the next 5 to 10 years. Again, like with e-commerce, the parts that cannot be automated still need people, and the challenge lies in building the interface between humans and machines.
We automate with purpose if it makes sense for the business
How do you respond to their needs?
We are not automation evangelists. We either automate with purpose, or we don’t. If it makes sense for the business, the client and the end consumer, we will advise and support our clients in building the right automated system for their needs. Our solutions are always co-constructed with the client. They take months to design and plan before they are operational. This is also our strength: as a family-owned company, we have longstanding experience and expertise in building solutions with our clients. Where our client sees the big picture, we delve into the finer detail and anticipate all the smaller obstacles on the road ahead. Depending on the situation, we can contribute to a greenfield project by finding the land with the required building height allowances (remember that many automation projects are high- rise and low carbon footprints) and good transport connections. However, all of this requires a long-term vision. Clients’ ROI demands are sometimes incompatible with the timeline associated with such a heavy investment. With the supply chain in such a state of flux, it is understandable that clients are reluctant to take the plunge for ten years. This is why our experience designing and implementing flexible, agile and scalable solutions can help them take the first step. The ideal set-up is a three-way partnership between the client, 3PL, and an automation solution supplier, with the risks distributed fairly.
Is automation the future of the supply chain?
Suitability permitting, I would say that automation is both the supply chain’s present and future. All brands must seriously examine where they can automate their logistics processes to become more efficient and less dependent on exogenous factors. In the distribution world, omnichannel is becoming the norm. This may lead to B2B and B2C processes being combined at the same site, with different lead times, peak periods, order frequencies and flows. This calls for both flexibility and agility. Addressing new supply chain challenges could involve pooling warehouses and deliveries between brands. This notion is sometimes hard to accept for some clients. However automation can help with this transition, which is more sustainable and potentially more profitable than building a bespoke project for a single client. We believe that automation must drive the “Supply Change” agenda through positive impact logistics, contributing to economic and social progress while minimizing our carbon footprint.
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Download our White Paper on Warehouse Auatomation