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for e-commerce, but it can be very foreign to grocers,” explains Rivenbark. “Grocers have to completely adapt the way they see fulfillment for e-commerce. Picking a case and getting ready for distribution to storefronts is a lot different than a traditional retail pick—and it’s much more expensive of a process. Grocers are having trouble figuring out how to best to deal with that.” So how can today’s grocery stores maintain an affordable yet efficient omnichannel fulfillment strategy? Rivenbark suggests a little bit of automation, specifically shuttle solutions. “Grocers can use shuttles for both case-picking operations as well as picking individual units,” he explains. “It’s the most efficient way because you’re able to utilize a small area to pick a lot of SKU’s and with a lot less people than in a traditional type of picking environment.” With traditional picking, Rivenbark explains, employees walk up and down a warehouse picking each SKU from a pallet on the floor or from handstacks. Shuttle solutions deliver the product directly to the operator for a faster more efficient pick, instead of the operator having to walk up and down warehouse aisles. An omnichannel solution is also effective in picking fresh foods,

 Retailers which is another can challenge driven by achieve an consumer demand omnichannel that is unique to the approach grocery store. with automated “Large clothing shuttle chains are not faced solutions. with having to keep items cold, frozen or fresh,” adds Rivenbark. “It is a special challenge that grocers have.” Currently, to fulfill orders from multiple channels, grocers use storefront employees to shop the floor with large totes and bins. This, Rivenbark says, negatively impacts consumer experience and even customer service. “Picking for e-commerce orders from the store isn’t an optimal use of in-store labor, but right now that’s what a lot of grocers are being forced to do in order to compete,” explains Rivenbark. “This is why many grocers are now searching for an omnichannel solution with smaller format distribution centers (DC) or wholesalers to put the picking back where it belongs— in the DCs.” Some grocers, he adds, are even exploring delivery from DCs or delivering to pick-up areas where items are stored appropriately. “This entire process is then moved away from the brick-andmortar storefront aisles, so that consumers’ shopping experience remains pleasant,” he says.

Increased Capacity and Fulfillment Whatever you’re approach to fulfillment, a revamped back room is a certainty. UNEX, which focuses on the grocery market because of its high number of SKUs, is seeing big changes in the back room as more inventory is stored at the actual retail location. “You’re putting more inventory in the back obviously because it’s going out in multiple channels,” explains Neuwirth. “Some stores are fulfilling online orders from DCs, while other stores are fulfilling from the actual retail stores, so the solutions of 20 years ago—bringing product in,

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putting it on a shelf and waiting for somebody to walk down the aisle— no longer exists. They need more capacity in the back to make sure they have inventory out on the shelves in order to fulfill what’s going through their door, but also through the dotcom channel as well.” Rivenbark adds that increased SKUs and inventory levels are due in part thanks to e-commerce channels such as Amazon, where shoppers can easily purchase the exact brand or item they want. “That’s causing grocers to expand their inventory and what they’re offering,” he says. “And as consumers have more and more say on the situation, you’re going to see a lot more piece picking. You’re going to see a lot of grocers offering more SKUs than they are traditionally doing, and that may even create more problems as they try to create big spaces for all these additional SKUs, and that’s something with piece-pick-type operations you’re really able to streamline.”

Picking for

e-commerce orders isn’t an optimal use of in-store labor, but that’s what a lot of grocers are forced to do in order to compete.” Matt Rivenbark, executive sales manager, SSI Schaefer Systems



7/2/18 3:25 PM

Food Logistics July 2018  

Food Logistics is the only publication exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food and beverage supply...

Food Logistics July 2018  

Food Logistics is the only publication exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food and beverage supply...