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Time is Running Out to Deploy Automated Pop-up Micro-fulfillment Facilities

Posted by Kara G. Ashby, President on 06.23.20

If your business is preparing for the common holiday peak, time is running out to take the proper measures. Using a few familiar concepts, we can help quickly deploy a flexible, effective solution that will assist a number of our clients as they face so many unknowns in 2020 and into 2021.

Micro- or Hyper-Local Fulfillment Centers

The need for micro-fulfillment centers is increasing, and in the current environment there is a strong push to go hyper-local, bringing goods as close as possible to the demand. These facilities also provide inherent risk mitigation. If a micro-fulfillment center shuts down, the next closest center can cover the business. A micro-fulfillment center can also serve as an alternative store type with curbside pick-up.

Pop-up DCs

A pop-up DC is set up in an empty space under a short-term lease agreement – sometimes only a few months, but generally less than two years. The goal of the pop-up DC is to push a predetermined amount of inventory through in a designated amount of time. By the end of a pre-determined period, the inventory is largely depleted.

As a concept, the pop-up has always been a winner in cost justification models for clients with high peak volumes. Unfortunately, the peak occurs at the same time for most companies and there is a shortage of short-term lease space. However, in our current situation, there are more available spaces than we typically see, making the pop-up hyper-local facility more feasible this year, whether to meet peak holiday demands or accommodate unusual spikes in demand.

And, to address today's safety and labor concerns…

Automated Mobile Robots (AMRs)

Goods-to-person technologies bring product or orders to operators in a workstation, which not only saves labor but also enables physical distancing in operations. One of the most intriguing goods-to-person technologies that is already massively deployed by Amazon is the Automated Mobile Robot (AMR).

There are a growing variety of AMR options on the market to suit different operations and handling requirements. In a pop-up facility, AMRs can be programmed to fetch and deliver product to workers in various stages of the fulfillment process. Some are equipped with cameras to roam aisles and survey inventory, initiating restock tasks when the snapshot doesn’t match its programmed inventory map. AMRs can also be equipped with manipulators to grab and move a variety of items in polybags or cartons.

Many providers offer robots as a service (RaaS), which perfectly suits the needs of a pop-up facility. AMRs are also evolving quickly in response to new needs. Some are equipped with ultraviolet lights and/or disinfecting spray to disinfect high-traffic areas. Overall, AMRs provide an infinite number of operational possibilities, great labor and capital savings—and they don’t sneeze.

This season may be the most unusual we see in our lifetimes. The pop-up facility we’re proposing is a low-risk, agile and safe solution for operating in the current situation to meet unexpected needs.

Does this solution sound like something that might work for your business? If so, please contact Sedlak.

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