Retailers of all sizes spend months preparing for the holiday shopping season. This time promises to test their supply chains, as they work to capture some of the $143.7 billion online shoppers will spend, according to Adobe. Despite the shorter window between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, online spending is expected to increase by 14-percent over last year.
This growth is remarkable, but it puts retailers under more pressure than ever to prove their e-commerce chops. Customers already expect fast, hassle free, on-time delivery. Hitting that bar for every order as volume spikes in November and December requires another level of logistics expertise.
That’s where having a supply chain partner like XPO Logistics is essential. Our job is to help our customers deliver for their customers during the peak season. We were built from the ground up to harness the digital technologies reshaping commerce and take the complexity out of the supply chain. We help customers build solutions from scratch with a complex, end-to-end supply chain ecosystem, or quickly set up a key distribution center complete with XPO team members and cobots to ensure success during peak season.
This year, we’re setting our customers up for success through the half billion dollars we’re investing in technology to bring people, machine learning and advanced automation together in a winning formula. We’re hiring thousands of seasonal team members in the U.S., rolling out the smartest collaborative robots, and revving up the use of machine learning in applications, such as inventory forecasting, to ensure that the right products are stocked in the right distribution centers in the right quantity so they arrive on customers’ doorsteps when they expect them.
Inside our distribution centers, our integration of intelligent robotics is one of the biggest and most eye-catching advantages we’re investing in for customers. This holiday season, XPO team members and cobots will work side-by-side while millions of shoppers make purchases on their computers or smartphones with the expectation that they will get the correct item promptly.
Our employees and our smart cobots are the ideal partners for each other; they each get to focus on their strengths. For example, cobots can lift several thousands of pounds over and over again and take laps around a massive distribution center all day without getting tired. Our employees, in the meantime, are constantly looking for ways to improve processes and solve problems quickly.
This combination of people and cobots is preferable compared with an all-human or all-robot workforce. Our robots help our employees better manage spikes in volume, improving order accuracy and efficiency. They bring items to employees at order preparation stations, helping speed up sorting, picking and packing, while supporting and protecting employees from repetitive, labor-intensive and time-consuming tasks. Using machine learning to track and manage orders, cobots can double productivity rates, improve accuracy by as much as 40% and reduce the amount of time employees spend walking.
Behind the scenes, we’re applying dynamic data science and machine learning to labor and inventory management tools to improve workforce and inventory planning. Our inventory forecasting applies machine learning to broad data sets to drive actionable insights – something many small companies don’t have the ability or interest to do.
And because we work with such a wide variety of retailers, we can use the data insights we’re learning in aggregate to better help our partners analyze buying trends and the volume of products that they’ll need the next day or the next week. These insights serve our retailers with information that they really can't get on their own.
With XPO as a partner, our customers can rely on our supply chain solutions to deliver on their consumers’ expectations, even during the holidays. So, when you’re shopping this holiday season and score a deal on something you want or a gift for someone else, you can thank XPO employees and our collaborative robot partners, but they’re probably too busy – after all, it’s peak season.