Micro-Fulfillment

Your path to better fulfillment & distribution starts here.

Consumers are demanding more than ever before – not only in the quantity of demand but in the convenience of experience.  They expect faster delivery and more accurate order fulfillment.  Given the variables in last-mile delivery, the cost to meet consumer expectations is only growing, so traditional distribution strategies are no longer cutting it for the bottom line.  

Retailers need a way to shorten the supply chain and improve order reactivity to increase profitability amid growing consumer expectations.

There's now a better way to meet demand and exceed expectations.

To increase profitability amid growing consumer demands, retailers can adopt a micro-fulfillment strategy utilizing dense, scalable, and flexible storage and automated order picking solutions in dedicated spaces near the consumer.

Rendering of micro-fulfillment in the back of grocery store

Micro-Fulfillment Benefits

Moving order fulfillment closer to the consumer which decreases order cycle time.

Automation can provide more than 4x higher productivity versus manually picking each unit.

Automation removes store employees from the sales floor and brings online order picking to back-of-store.

Moving fulfillment closer to the customer decreases the distance that it takes to deliver the order. (Curbside or in-store pickup eliminates this cost by transferring delivery responsibility to the customer).

Converting underperforming stores to dark stores can allow an asset to continue to provide value.

Providing fast and convenient delivery of online orders may increase customer base. 

Moving online business to micro-fulfillment centers may allow upgrades to large distribution centers to be avoided or delayed.

One Strategy, Several Applications

The need for goods-to-person micro-fulfillment is present across many verticals.

Grocery

Grocery fulfillment can present special challenges – like perishable foods and varying temperature requirements – as compared to a typical fulfillment operation. Adding to the complexity are shifts in consumer purchasing behavior and growing expectations.

E-Commerce

Consumers want the convenience of shopping from their home, fast delivery of merchandise, and an easy way to return the product if it does not meet their expectations. This change in purchasing behavior requires a shift in the fulfillment methods to handle increased throughput and stringent delivery windows.

Retail

Shifts in consumer purchasing behavior and growing customer expectations have led to an increase in complexity of successful order fulfillment, underscoring the need for retailers to expand their omnichannel fulfillment capabilities and provide a seamless customer experience.

Hyperlocal, High-Speed Fulfillment

Combining the speed of localized, in-store pick-up with the efficiency of large, automated warehouses.

These dedicated spaces for order processing are often referred to as Micro-Fulfillment Centers (MFCs) and can take several forms.

In-Store

Fulfillment of both in-store and online orders are either wholly or partially completed in a fulfillment area in some portion of the store space. This will occur in an area accessible only to employees and is typically in the back room of the store.

Dark Store

A dark store is only accessible to employees and usually created in existing, vacant space, such as empty storefronts or businesses that have ceased operations. They can service curbside pickup, fulfill and deliver online orders, or send completed orders to a local store pickup.

Online Center

Online centers also resemble a small distribution center but are different than a dark store. They are typically built as stand-alone facilities in larger metropolitan areas with the sole purpose of only fulfilling and shipping online orders for that specific region.

Technology Considered in a Micro-Fulfillment Center

Explore the technologies used in a micro-fulfillment center.

Autonomous Mobile Robots
AMRs – like AHS’ PickBoT powered by MiR – can be retrofitted with a customized top module to assist with retrieving inventory from storage. The PickBoT will pick and bring a case/tote to a pick station and then return the case/tote to its rack position. Operators can then place products into a put wall, case pick or tote.
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Exotec Skypod System
The Exotec Skypod system is an agile and high-performing automated order preparation system designed specifically for retailers needing an efficient, scalable and responsive goods-to-person solution. Its ability to change in size and independently register storage needs and flows makes this the perfect G2P solution for your MFC.
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With over 40 years of experience, our team at AHS is uniquely equipped with the subject-matter expertise and strategic partnerships that provide a truly integrated approach to ensuring that your distribution and fulfillment operations perform at optimal capacity. Take the next step in optimizing your operation and contact our team to maximize your return on investment.