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The Top 5 Challenges of Automating Micro Fulfillment Centers

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The demand for same-day deliveries is putting immense pressure on retailers. Today’s fast-paced and impatient consumers drive buying patterns that demand seamless integration between storage, sorting, packing, and delivery tasks. To shrink the cycle time between placing an order and getting it fulfilled, retailers know that they must revamp their micro fulfillment centers (MFCs). But this is easier said than done. 

Read on as we shed light on the top 5 challenges of automation micro fulfillment centers. 

Automating Micro Fulfillment Centers – The Challenges 

In a 2022 article, Forbes termed micro fulfillment centers as the next big thing in retail. Instead of maintaining and running massive remote fulfillment centers, retailers can set up smaller warehouse facilities closer to their consumers in big cities. This allows picking, packing, and shipping of orders within moments – thus meeting the quick delivery demands of today’s customers. 

However, automating these micro-fulfillment centers is a huge task. It involves striking the right balance between technology and business goals. 

While automation offers numerous benefits, there are many challenges associated with the implementation of automated solutions in micro fulfillment centers. 

Let’s look at the top 5:  

  1. Keeping up with unpredictable consumer demand: Customer shopping habits are extremely volatile and depend on various factors. From the current economic conditions to market liquidity and more. Accurately meeting the fulfillment demands of customers while minimizing the chances of stockouts doesn’t come easy. Retailers must have processes in place that enable them to react (and respond) to fluctuating consumer demand in the most effective manner. 
  2. Optimizing warehouse space: Most micro fulfillment centers are set up in densely populated areas. Since they are designed to be small and compact, optimizing space within these centers can be a real challenge. Retailers must have real-time visibility into demand and be able to move items quickly to satisfy customer needs and expectations. 
  3. Enabling integration with existing systems: Integrating micro fulfillment systems with existing warehouse and order management systems can be extremely complex. With different systems built on different technologies, compatibility issues often crop up, leading to mismatched data and poor fulfillment results. 
  4. Bridging the labor shortage gap: Modern micro fulfillment centers rely on a variety of modern technologies. Yet, there is still a large dependence on human labor for maintenance, supervision, and exceptional handling – which is often difficult to find and retain. In the absence of advanced automation, retailers often find themselves struggling to drive efficiency in their fulfillment centers, which impacts their ability to keep up with unpredictable demand. 
  5. Driving quality control and compliance: For retailers operating micro fulfillment centers, maintaining high levels of order accuracy is the need of the hour. However, implementing effective quality control measures to minimize errors in picking, packing, and sorting can be tough. The need to ensure compliance with industry regulations and standards and an array of safety requirements can be challenging, especially as regulations evolve. 

Overcoming MFC Challenges with the Right Automation Solution 

As fulfillment moves efficiency and speed closer to the last mile, store-backs and MFCs are rising in importance. According to reports, the micro fulfillment center market is rapidly growing, offering a cumulative opportunity worth $36 billion by 2030. About $5 billion in revenue is expected to be generated from micro-fulfillment automation by the end of this decade. 

If you want to shorten delivery cycles and keep up with the delivery demands of the modern customer, storage, storing, packing, and delivery can no longer be individual operational functions. They must all be integrated to enable one single, agile, fluid movement.  

Cartesian Kinetics offers a deep tech-enabled robotic fulfillment stack that is exclusively designed for dark stores and MFCs. This stack helps retailers: 

  • Cope with increasingly on-demand consumption patterns, enabling them to ‘wow’ consumers by moving goods with the same agility as moving data. 
  • Automate critical day-to-day processes, facilitating quicker deliveries while helping brands meet turnaround expectations in the last mile. 
  • Prioritize reliability across the fulfillment center while enhancing the overall consumer experience. 
  • Utilize resources and space efficiently while minimizing the need for extensive warehouse real estate.
  • Seamlessly navigate fulfillment centers and streamline sorting, picking, and retrieving products – thus reducing the time and labor required. 
  • Expand their distribution networks while enjoying the speed and space maximization necessary for business efficiency and profitability.

Redefine Micro-fulfillment with Cartesian Kinetics

Amazon has made same-day deliveries the norm today. As retailers look to accelerate their delivery cycles, micro-fulfillment helps keep up with evolving expectations. But the ideal MFC isn’t just defined by modern equipment and software. While automation opens doors to several operational efficiency benefits, brands must also build an optimal fulfillment strategy to create a competitive advantage. This includes a thorough analysis of the business and customers while also implementing modern technologies to streamline operations, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. 
Are you looking to redefine micro-fulfillment and cater to the surging delivery demands of our customers? We can help! Reach out to us today to learn more about our robotic fulfillment stack and shorten the delivery cycle.

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