Supply chains and the era of automation

Sandeep Sakharkar, Chief Information Officer  |  September 03, 2021

Use of technology and advanced automation to develop innovative solutions is already having a radical impact on the logistics industry. Fast evolving AI and machine learning, coupled with rapid progress in robotics automation and seamlessly integrated with differentiated software solutions, have created amazing possibilities in warehouse design. Sophisticated robotics, along with automated sorting or picking systems and intelligent analytics enable us to create smarter, more agile supply chains. And I believe it’s going to transform the way we work in the future.

Disrupting logistics through technology: speed, accuracy and safety

I find the increasing repertoire of robotic capabilities really exciting for our industry, and what they can do and the value they can deliver is improving all the time. Geopositioning and precise geolocation, machine vision, variety of sensors, speech recognition and more, when harnessed into intelligent warehouse design, allow us to deliver high levels of throughput that can be only gained by using automation to work alongside people.

These technologies have significant advantages for our team members, as well as for the efficiency of supply chain operations. For example, we’ve found that advanced automation, such as use of robots to perform repeatable movements over sustained periods of time, not only improves speed and accuracy in our warehouses, but it also prioritizes the safety of our employees, protecting them from issues such as repetitive strain. The use of robotics in logistics means we can make human work safer and more secure, while also providing up to 6x improved productivity at the same time. It’s a win-win use of technology.

The future of logistics is already here

All of this isn’t a flight of imagination. We’ve already created – and continue to deliver – more and more advanced automation and technology driven supply chain solutions. A great example is, our flagship digital warehouse and technology incubator for Nestlé in the UK. It brings together the latest technology under one roof to create a logistics command center driven by innovation. The “warehouse of the future”, if you will.

The 638,000 square foot distribution center’s digital ecosystem integrates predictive data capabilities, intelligent machines and state-of-the-art automation, co-developed with Swisslog Logistics. The site features smart robots which are capable of taking full pallets of product from storage and building mixed product pallets of various sizes. It has an automated infeed and outfeed averaging 61.5k cases per week and 750m of monorail tracks to move pallets around the warehouse.

In fact, it is more than a warehouse. The center also acts as a laboratory to test and trial new technologies, ways of working and operational procedures. We like to think of it as both a think tank and a launch pad for Nestlé and GXO innovations, and it is already having a far-reaching impact on the way business is done.

Delivering positive change, globally

We can see this as the shape of things to come. The supply chain industry is wide open for disruptive thinking. At GXO, we’re driving positive change, using new logistics technologies to transform our industry, making logistics safer, swifter and more sustainable.