In my previous blog, I reflected on the need for food retailers to deliver on time to stores, surpass consumer demand, and rise to the challenge of labour scarcity. This time, I’d like to discuss another issue facing food retailers: how to ensure that a material handling system can adapt and match the growth of your business.
This growth can come from a variety of sources and present its own unique challenges. Take for example a smaller food retailer wanting to scale up, increasing its product assortment, or wanting to unlock the further potential of a stockless operation (e.g. from ambient to chilled).
Beyond that, I have also seen customers partnering with other companies and venture into supplying totally different points of sale, including fuel stations or convenience stores.
Smart and agile
In all these situations, you will be confronted with an immediate spike in demand and new challenges along the supply chain. A smart and agile way to cope is to maximise your current infrastructure and avoid unnecessary costs.
Premium logistics space is hard to come by, which makes brownfield developments one of the most effective options. However, this means that system expansions must be carried out while live operations continue as normal.
And to quote a familiar cliché, ‘time is money’. It is not viable for food retailers to return to manual operations while extensions are implemented. System expansions must therefore be carried out as quickly as possible, and integrate seamlessly with existing hardware and logistics processes.
Unlocking the power of automation
Although Vanderlande’s cross-docking solution – XDOCK – is ideal for food retailers looking to take the first step into automation, it is also the perfect second step. By this, I mean that once an XDOCK system has been installed, it gives retailers the perfect platform for growth.
Here, we need to consider a new target – capacity. XDOCK consists of a core sorting system, adjacent areas for goods receiving and marshalling, and other components such as the infeed stations. Owing to XDOCK’s modular and flexible configuration, all components are independent and can be expanded to suit your changing business objectives.
Extending an existing XDOCK solution can be easily achieved by adding inputs, outputs and even new sorters. This allows for additional loops and accompanying chutes to be added, paving the way to a whole new solution and better preparing food retailers for the future.
Capacity can now be increased by alternating inputs and sorters. For example, single store chutes can be swapped out for multistore chutes. New technology can also be integrated to improve efficiencies, such as cutting-edge cameras to replace outdated scanners.
For today and tomorrow
XDOCK allows food retailers to achieve a higher throughput in their distribution centres (DCs), and creates the extra capacity required to match growth. For these reasons, it is the ideal gateway to automation, and can quickly and easily be adapted long into the future.
The added value of XDOCK is that – thanks to Vanderlande’s close ties with Toyota – hybrid solutions can be designed. These can combine automated vehicles and AS/RS technologies to further reduce tension in the supply chain, even if your operation grows.
However, it takes expertise to keep all areas within a DC balanced and avoid any potential bottlenecks as the system grows. The key to success is domain knowledge and the ability to listen to individual needs.
That’s why talking to a Vanderlande expert, who understands your business’s needs in a constantly changing market, is the first step in future-proofing your growth ambitions.