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Muted numbers don’t mitigate warehouse pressures

07 December 2023

BLACK FRIDAY 2023 data indicates that this year’s sales did not attract quite as many UK shoppers as in previous years. 

Data from Barclays, representing about half of Britain's credit and debit card transactions, showed a 0.63% decline in transactions on Black Friday compared to the same day in 2022.

Despite a slightly more muted response from consumers, retail analysts from MRI Software stated that shopper numbers on Black Friday climbed 11.8% compared to totals from the previous week, and footfall in stores increased by nearly 8% from the prior week. These increases present challenges for the warehousing and logistics companies.

Honeywell Intelligrated president Keith Fisher, says: “While sales may be down from previous years, the holiday shopping season is still expected to keep putting pressure on warehouse and logistics operations as they handle the flow of products to both retail stores and customers' homes. MHE will be pushed to its limits this year, and warehouses continue to be faced with labour challenges both during the holiday season and year-round. Due to these pressures, warehouse operators are looking for new ways of operating efficiently. They will have to continue to automate processes to endure the strains put on warehouses during the holiday season.

“Only through automation can distribution centres (DCs) and logistics operations meet current and future order fulfilment demands. Automation suppliers, system integrators, and industry-specific software developers are helping facilities overcome challenges and achieve top performance, even during peak demand. Automating tasks that require speed, accuracy, and repetitive actions does not eliminate the roles of human workers; rather, it utilises labour to automate sortation tasks while moving scarce workers into more satisfying and higher-value jobs.

“Workflow efficiency is equally as important as equipment readiness in preparation for peak shopping seasons. Interruptions to workflows can lead to wasted time or unnecessary expenses, which can cause a ripple effect on productivity and profitability. With continuing labour supply challenges, it is even more essential for distribution and fulfilment (D&F) companies to ensure that they are performing at peak efficiency. The goal of warehouse automation systems shouldn’t necessarily be to just shift tasks from workers to automated systems as much as it is to scale capacity by augmenting human talent. This includes upskilling and refocusing employees towards higher-level, more challenging tasks while leaving time-consuming tasks to automated devices.”