Feature News — 24 April 2019

By Rachel Whitford, Area Manager – City of London, Express

Warehouse automation systems are a significant investment for any business but finding the right system drives efficiency, maximises output and cuts operational costs.

Express Vending recently upgraded its predominantly paper-based warehouse management system to Lightspeed Automation’s Xpress and FastTrack programmes, noticeably improving its internal operations.

Express’ Rachel Whitford discusses why warehouse automation systems are an important investment food and beverage companies should embrace to see positive changes to their operations.

Staying environmentally friendly

In 2016, UK motorists contributed 12 million tonnes of petrol and 24.6 million tonnes of diesel to the atmosphere as a direct result of road transportation.

With transport having such a damaging impact on the environment, it’s important for food and beverage businesses looking to manage their reputation to explore ways they can adopt more environmentally-friendly practices.

Warehouse automation plays a key role in reducing annual fleet mileage as a result of wasted journeys. When clients are running low on stock an alert is sent to the supplier to restock missing items, so journeys are only made as and when clients need it.

It not only results in companies using resources on the right customers but also means fewer and more meaningful journeys being made.

The UK also generated 222.9 million tonnes of waste in 2017 alone, of which over 4.7 million tonnes came from paper and cardboard waste.

Businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint can introduce an automated warehouse and inventory management system, moving operations online and drastically reducing the amount of paper waste.

Are you going to finish that?

The UK wastes 10.2 million tonnes of food every year, with a shocking 100,000 tonnes of uneaten food, that’s still fresh and within date, being thrown out or recovered.

In addition to high volumes of food waste, the UK produces 2.3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, mostly accounted for in clothing, automotive design and food packaging.

Thankfully, there seems to be a sea of change happening among consumers who are increasingly concerned about plastic usage.

Public sentiment is overwhelmingly in favour of change, but it’s businesses that need to take inspiration with changes to their operations.

Express recently visited clients and found a lack of knowledge of their products and machines resulted in inefficient spend and processes. It revealed even products with minimal demand were being re-stocked, resulting in unnecessary food waste and journeys being made.

Now, Express receives cranial purchase data in real-time based on each machine’s sales and stock levels, only alerting them to products that require replenishment based on numbers agreed with the customer. The approach not only reduces waste but saves on costs.

The VIP treatment

Consumers are starting to realise their own power. Businesses can no longer wait for customers to come to them, with customers instead waiting on companies to make the first move and compete for their cash.

Businesses are competing for customers’ attention and are finding the sure-fire way to beat the competition is through personalisation.

Customers understand they hold the cards when it comes to the war for attracting business and it means they’re able to demand products that solve their problems and meet their needs.

This is why data plays a key role in enabling businesses to personalise their services. Inventory management systems provide information on which products clients need, allowing them to personalise service offerings to suit each client’s exact needs.

Speedy service

Customers have demonstrated a willingness to stay loyal to brands and even share their experience with their network when they receive a positive experience that’s speedy, convenient, consistent and friendly.

Lightspeed Automation’s Xpress sends granular sales data to the Express warehouse team through a telemetry unit installed in each machine, which notifies the team which products are required in real time.

A new order is then logged in the system before the FastTrack tool provides a pick-to-light system that directs a member of staff to the exact location of a product.

FastTrack is able to log every product, plus its location in the warehouse to speed up logistical processes in the warehouse and ultimately get the product to the client as quickly as possible.

The results of innovating the warehouse with automation technology have been immediate, with Express’ warehouse already operating four times faster than before.

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