E-commerce: Research validates that the race is on

In case study after case study, interview after interview, and conversation after conversion, we’re learning that the impact of digital commerce and the subsequent challenge of omni-channel fulfillment is now cutting across every manufacturing and distribution market—and it’s putting increased pressure on all the major modes of transportation and the distribution center operations that keep well-managed supply chains fluid in this dynamic, digital world.

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I used to think I was “going out on a limb” by proclaiming the continued double-digit growth of e-commerce is forcing nearly every supply chain professional to re-adjust their day-to-day operations at some level.

Well, as I wrapped up my editing work on our sister publication’s recent “e-commerce issue” and then walked the floor at ProMat, I now believe that bold proclamation to be nothing less than fact.

In case study after case study, interview after interview, and conversation after conversion, we’re learning that the impact of digital commerce and the subsequent challenge of omni-channel fulfillment is now cutting across every manufacturing and distribution market—and it’s putting increased pressure on all the major modes of transportation and the distribution center operations that keep well-managed supply chains fluid in this dynamic, digital world.

And if these recent discussions with end users weren’t enough, we now have two research projects that help to support the truth behind the statement: one that describes spending plans for equipment and technology, and another that shares where and how users are putting that equipment and automation investment to work.

The common denominator: Investment is up, and the race is on to put automated solutions and software to work to increase order fulfillment speed and meet fickle customer service level expectations.

Starting on page 36, editor at large Roberto Michel puts context around our “Annual Warehouse and Distribution Center Equipment Survey,” a look at reader investment plans and one of the most comprehensive surveys conducted by Peerless Research Group (PRG).

“The findings couldn’t be clearer,” says Michel. “Spending is up, quite noticeably in IT, while 54% of respondents told us they expect to be spending more on materials handling systems and related technology over the next two years—and all aimed to help overcome e-commerce pressures.”

Speaking of IT, our survey found a significant increase in planning this year, with 58% of respondents telling us they’re ready to invest—a jump up from 49% last year. “That is easily the highest spending indicator for IT systems on this question over the last four years,” says PRG research director Judd Aschenbrand. “To see that kind of bump up in technology planning is an important trend line that bears watching.”

To reinforce this new level of investment, our “2017 Automation Study” unveils the factors and features that readers consider important when evaluating automation systems and also shines the light on areas that operations will be looking to improve during the next two years. Editor at large Bridget McCrea puts context around this new study starting on page 56.

“Those companies that continue to rely on more traditional methods now know that they need to upgrade and add new tools,” says McCrea. “So, indeed, the race is on, and Amazon is dragging everyone else along with it in its quest to move even the smallest orders faster and more efficiently using automation. There’s no turning back now.”


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Automation · E-commerce · · All Topics
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From the April 2017 Issue
How does a fastgrowing, e-commerce startup company build out order fulfillment capabilities? Thrive Market answered that question with its new facility in Indiana.
2017 Warehouse/DC Equipment Survey: Investment up as service pressures rise
Putaway 101: Everything in its Place
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