A newly configured high-tech automated warehouse by partners LVMH and Bolloré Logistics attains huge distribution gains to booming Asian markets.
All businesses seek greater efficiency to cut costs and boost productivity – especially those adapting to keep pace with strong rates of growth. In doing so, many companies rely on robotics and high-tech innovation to achieve their objectives. An excellent example is the automated distribution facility of luxury goods group LVMH and its Bolloré Logistics supply chain partner in their Asian distribution center, Singapore – a state-of-the-art unit designed to generate considerable savings while augmenting speed and flexibility.
Set for inauguration in January, 2018, the 20,000 square-meter automated warehousing area features a 12,000 tote and 32 shuttle system retrieving goods that humans must currently fetch themselves. An array of computer-driven functions will similarly replace or greatly simplify manual tasks, while also monitoring quality of order preparation and stock accuracy.
Its design and functionality provide enhanced goods-to-person solutions via automated storage and preparation of products -- including automatic carton forming, wedging and closing. Ranging from structural rationalization reducing expensive storage space to IT-driven and continually revised information flows, the newly configured warehouse represents a modernization milestone in heightened logistics efficiency.
Just as important, however, are the enhanced flexibility and reactivity capacities to respond to growing client activity, and volume fluctuations in normal and peak periods – an especially important capability in surging e-commerce activity.
"This is a very important achievement for the group, not only due to the scale involved, but also the degree of innovation to create solutions meeting the current and future needs of our client," says Jean-Yves Gras, Bolloré Logistics' Vice-president of Supply Chains and Logistics. "Innovation is the heart of everything the group does for its clients, and we're very proud of what we've done in Singapore."
Among the first challenges faced was finding an appropriate locale – which, given the cost and shortage of real estate in Singapore, was crucial in limiting expenses. Ultimately, the partners -– whose collaboration in Asia goes back 13 years -- opted to set the automated unit up inside Bolloré's 42,000 square-meter, high-tech Green Hub logistics tower in Pioneer Turn.
The project – which received support from Singapore's Economic Development board – reinforces the city-state's role as both groups' Asian regional distribution center, and augments the quality of work and jobs provided in it.
Reconfiguring the space for automation required careful planning from the very first detail. That led Bolloré Logistics to solicit architectural, engineering, high-tech and other expertise beyond the logistics field to attain maximum efficiencies. It also involved re-thinking habitual procedures.
For example, rather than using conventional picking methods from shelves, the reconfigured facility groups products in collective bins – considerably reducing storage space. Meanwhile, denser and heightened floor-to-ceiling stacks that speedy robot-shuttles navigate to collect goods reduce supply areas further.
"This automation system will allow us to improve efficiency and quality of our operations," says Nathalie Leger, Bolloré Logistics' LVMH Hub Manager in Singapore. "The throughput will increase up to 10 times, and the automatic weight check features integrated into the solution will enable us to ensure accurate order preparation and inventory management. More importantly, this system will provide us with more agility to support our customer's growth and reduce lead time."
Human intervention will remain central to value-added services performed at dedicated workstations. That will include, among other things, labeling and price and sensor tagging. The automation of most manual tasks and transformation of warehouse posts to operational positions will make jobs more interesting and dynamic for employees, even as they become less physically taxing.
The gains in time and efficiency are vital to meeting currently expanding activity of freight forwarding clients, as well as e-commerce growth that has begun to explode. Led by China, Asia-Pacific is now the world's largest e-commerce region in both sales and growth rate, and experts expect that to surge further as the trend spreads from denser cities to outlying areas of Asian economies.
"This is a considerable advance in warehousing modernization, and its benefits will be felt immediately within all our sites and for future operations," says Fabien Giordano, Managing Director of Bolloré Logistics in Singapore. "It's also a result of our successful HR policy, focused on innovation as a core value, and all the investments done in terms of training and skills improvements at every level of the company"