Ever wondered what happens when you order a product online? Ok so if you’re reading this you’re probably an online retailer and you know that orders will be put in a queue and eventually someone will go and fetch the item, put it in a box and ship it. Often, especially in larger warehouses it’s a bit more complicated than that and picking and packing lists will be printed (on paper or electronically) for your warehouse workers.
Optimising every action in the warehouse – likely to be involving hundreds of pickers, thousands of new orders and millions of products in a large operation – simply isn’t possible. Even a supercomputer isn’t fast enough, as new orders aren’t predictable and come in so fast there isn’t time to recalculate the new optimal plan.
By allowing products to make their own decisions, this unsolvable problem becomes instantly bitesized. Lets say John orders a product and selects the fastest delivery method possible. Rather than having to recalculate how best to fit that order in to the whole picking operation, the product itself just has to wave a flag that says “urgent, pick me!” then the nearest picker can simply grab it as they pass.
Clearly products don’t have arms (or at least most don’t) so in the new models being developed, every order, product, location and picker has it’s own software ‘agent’. This agent communicates it’s requirements to other agents, which then organise themselves in a group (like a crowd of people) creating a completely fluid communication which optimises as it goes. Each decision is relatively simple, but there are millions of decisions being made each second.
That’s what James and James Fulfilment and The University of Cambridge, Institute of Manufacturing have been working on – a joint research project looking into the application of product intelligence for storage, packing and despatch of online shoppers orders.
They’re holding an event on the future of retail and etail at Cambridge University on Wednesday the 9th of October at the The University of Cambridge, Institute of Manufacturing. Presentations will cover the changing demands of customers and their effects on multichannel sellers, strategies to cope with increasing demand and how product intelligence can make a difference.
Whilst you might not be able to implement all the new technology ideas that will be presented on the day, if you’ve a busy warehouse and want to learn how to optimise your operations and what will be possible in the near future you’re welcome to attend and best of all the event is free.
I’ll be there and if you want to attend simply email [email protected] to reserve your place.