Editor's Comment

Editorial: Why the need for efficiency is leading the drive for automation

Automation seems to be the name of the game at the moment as this week we have seen more announcements about revamps to warehouse and distribution centre network structures from more high street names moving to greater automation.

Following on from Shop Direct’s announcement that it was to close three warehouses and open a new automated warehouse Marks & Spencer this week announced the planned closure of its Hardwick distribution centre. That news follows the announcement of the closure of the retailer’s Neasden DC earlier this year.

In its latest results Debenhams announced that is has begun the automation of its distribution centres following the successful rollout of direct to floor distribution. The retailer has also been closing warehouses with 10 regional sites closing last year.

Staff at Sainsbury’s meanwhile have taken to their bikes with the company using a fleet of electric cargo bikes in what it claims is the UK’s first grocery delivery service using the vehicles. The company is trialling the bikes in South London to see their value in more congested city areas.

At Amazon there have been two interesting announcements this week. The company has, for the first time, put a number to its network of Amazon Prime customers by revealing that it now has more than 100 million paid subscribers of the service. The figure was released by Amazon’s chief executive in his annual letter to shareholders.

In the US meanwhile Amazon Prime customers in 37 cities, and with compatible cars, are now able to get their deliveries direct to their car after the launch of in-car delivery through the company’s Amazon Key technology.

In the world of last mile we have XPO Logistics announcing that from May customers will be able to use voice tracking through their Google Home and Amazon Echo devices to find out the status of their deliveries.

And finally talking about tracking is Chris Haighton, head of outbound logistics at Shop Direct Group who used the recent EDX event to stress the importance of tracking to maintaining customer relationships.

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