The Friday Report Blog: November 25th, 2022

Quick wrap up of a few hot topic newsworthy stories in the supply chain logistics industry

Amazon Introduces New Robotic Automated Sortation System

Amazon is currently testing a new robotics system that is designed to detect, select, and handle millions of different types of products to make its fulfillment process more efficient. Named Sparrow, the system uses artificial intelligence to move items before packaging.

Last year, Amazon warehouse workers picked and packed over 13 million packages per day. The company hopes that the technology will reduce repetitive tasks that employees perform in day-to-day operations. This is the first time that a robotic system with this capability has been utilized in Amazon warehouses. Sparrow is currently in the research and development stage.

As of June 2022, Amazon operated nearly twenty different types of robotic systems and over 500,000 robotic drive units in their warehouses. Sparrow will work in collaboration with Amazon’s other robotic systems, such as Robin and Cardinal. Once items are handled by Sparrow, Robin and Cardinal will redirect packages to their proper locations for delivery.

Several other companies are investing in automated sortation systems. FedEx Express utilizes robotic arms at its World Hub in Memphis, Tennessee and DHL uses robotic systems at their Atlanta, Georgia distribution center.

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Lowe’s Moves to More Efficient Delivery Model

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s has changed its supply chain model to better manage logistics challenges associated with increased e-commerce demand. Lowe’s executives believe the move to a more efficient delivery model will position it for growth within the big and bulky product sector.

In Lowe’s current delivery model, the company’s brick-and-mortar stores function as intermediate stops for products after leaving their distribution warehouses. Products are then delivered to customers with store-based delivery trucks.

With Lowe’s new delivery model, big and bulky products will be moved from a bulk distribution center to a cross-dock facility to be prepared for delivery to customers. The company hopes that this will reduce handling of merchandise as well as increase storage space at its stores.

Lowe’s has converted eight regions that cover over 50% of their U.S. stores to their new delivery model. The largest markets that the new delivery model is currently used are Southern California, Southern Illinois, and Atlanta, Georgia. Lowe’s expects a nationwide rollout by the end of 2022. 

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Companies Increase Usage of Reusable Packaging

Ever since e-commerce sales skyrocketed, consumers have been concerned with the amount of waste that is generated from e-commerce packaging. Companies are now shifting to a reusable packaging strategy to reduce waste from plastic and cardboard packaging.

Reusable packaging is currently in the infant stages of implementation for most companies, however start-ups such as Returnity and Olive are utilizing circular packaging reuse systems. Returnity has currently partnered with fashion rental brands Rent the Runway and thredUP to ship bags of clothing to consumers with packaging that allows consumers to send garments back. Olive offers customers a reusable shipping option when they purchase from their e-commerce platform.

E-commerce retail company Trashless, delivers food, bath, and beauty products in reusable, insulate bags to customers in the Austin, Texas area. These bags are reclaimed when customers place subsequent orders. Each Trashless insulated bag can be reused up to 300 times. 

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