Automation to Drive Innovation and Operational Cost Savings

When we talk about automation, we think it may be about a trip to another planet like Mars, as a company born in the digital environment does. Some companies dare to launch themselves into the world of automation because they are driven by innovation and assume the risk. Out of fear or because of resource or time constraints, other organizations prefer to continue working with a basic level of technology.

Investing in new technologies makes companies more competitive because they can improve human capabilities and drive modernization.

Management must take on transformation challenges using devices, machinery, or electrical equipment and information systems. Therefore, the first thing to foster is a culture open to innovation and efficiency, which seeks to develop workers with new skills and be agile to advance professionally.

It is essential to generate new ideas, motivate, make activities different, empower them for the future with a mindset to solve problems, and, above all, to be more tolerant of the mistakes involved in transformation projects in an agile and dynamic environment.

Related Article: The Digital Gap Uncovered by the Pandemic

According to the “Zebra’s Vision Study 2019,” 60% of companies have among their top challenges staffing, worker efficiency and productivity, data quality of warehouse management systems, and inventory management. Twenty-seven percent plan to implement complete, partial automation and increased capacity by 2024. This reality is driven by today’s consumer demand and 24/7 product delivery, which has disrupted the supply chain across all industries.

For automation, there are three types of innovations to consider:

  • Transformational, i.e., automation that is complete “end to end” without worker intervention, such as robotization.
  • Incremental uses mainly semi-automatic processes, making repetitive functions automatic by reducing human intervention to a minimum with devices and technology.
  • Adjacent innovations come through other industries or markets, our suppliers, or new regulations that drive them. 

On this path, it is critical to define an innovation strategy towards a digital transformation that will allow the company to set efficiency goals with management indicators, seek excellence, greater visibility of real-time information for product traceability, and increase connectivity. 

A leader or manager of innovation and productivity is needed to execute the strategy and evaluate its appropriate technologies and management processes to achieve automation. Inspire a shared purpose and vision for change, foster an environment of ownership, respect, and support, communicate the plan, motivate and energize. 

In this article, we will propose two of the automation that could have the most significant impact on the cost structure of supermarket operations:

  1. Self-Checkout Kiosks: the use of self-service, mobile and contactless technologies has become a competitive advantage in stores. Especially with the pandemic, social distancing and the need to get in and out of the store quickly accelerated the trend because it avoids human interaction. Among the benefits for a store manager is that it allows serving multiple customers simultaneously, reducing checkout line times, increasing convenience selling, and improving the experience at that touchpoint with the support of a hostess to make the checkout process easier and faster. In short, it increases checkout productivity and customer satisfaction.
  2. Warehouse: independent supermarkets do not always have an automated distribution center because of the high cost it represents, but that does not mean that its operation must be manual. There are semi-automated solutions with devices for user mobility, which integrate with data to increase information visibility and decision-making in real-time. It allows speeding up workflows and minimizing errors with greater accuracy and precision, maximizing the use of space. There are also other solutions for automatic or consolidated picking with “Flash Light,” or transport of totes through a downward spiral roller conveyor in the case of distribution centers.

For the 2022 strategic plan, including process automation, our team of experienced consultants will be happy to guide you in evaluating the best solutions to start the path of transformation and innovation in your store. Contact us, [email protected]