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Robots in the Engine Room: The eStore Logistics Story | #134

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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

Leigh is the Founder & Managing Director of eStore Logistics, Australia’s largest warehousing and order fulfilment provider specialised in servicing eCommerce and retail stores. eStore Logistics is a tech enabled logistics leader and fulfils over 20 million sales orders per year for its clients which include Australia’s largest pureplay online retailer, Australia’s largest online furniture retailer, more than 10 of Australia’s top 50 eCommerce businesses and many iconic retailers which have a retail store and eCommerce presence. Prior to founding eStore Logistics in 2008, Leigh completed double degrees in Business & Information Systems then worked in consulting roles at Accenture and IBM. Leigh's IT background has played an important role developing a technology focused 3PL specialized in servicing online retail.

Leigh shares how the eStore logistics model works and tells us all about his robots!

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Leigh Williams, Founder and Managing Director of eStore Logistics – a third party logistics fulfilment and warehousing solution for small, medium and large retailers. In Leigh’s own words, they are aiming to democratise access to enterprise-level logistics for all retailers.  eStore Logistics runs fulfilment and warehousing for some of Australia’s biggest eCommerce brands including Kogan, Temple & Webster and MyDeal. They are fulfilling 20 million orders per year and in the last fourteen months alone have tripled their warehousing capacity to 120,000 square metres. See what I mean – don’t compete. In today’s conversation, Leigh shares how the eStore Logistics model works across operations and technology for those eCommerce businesses that they fulfil on behalf of. Leigh also shares how eStore’s autonomous mobile robots have pushed the efficiencies they can create to the next level and allow them to offer a 4pm same day delivery service. We also discuss why dangerous goods are so hard, why robotic arms are the future and why showbags have been the surprise covid eCommerce hit. 

We’re the engine room in the background that’s performing all that grunt work to make sure those orders get to the customer as quickly as possible.”

Leigh Williams

Questions answered in this episode include
  • Where do you see data and intelligence have the most impact on the fulfilment process? 
  • What is the future of robotics in eCommerce logistics?
  • What are some of the best ways you’ve seen retailers differentiate themselves using the fulfilment experience? 

Robots!

“So, you’ve got robots. They look like giant vacuum cleaners, robo vacuum cleaners. They’re moving around and we call them AMRs, they’re autonomous mobile robots. They move around mobile storage units which are,  just think of  little pallet racking systems that are about three or so meters high, and it’s optimizing the storage of all those locations of those storage units based on the stock that’s sitting within those storage units and how fast that stock turns through our warehouses. And so, once consumers then go online, they place an order, that order gets transmitted into our systems. That then triggers the robot to go up and then pick up one of those storage units to deliver to them to a pick station, where one of our people are being directed on which product to pick out and to then merge them into orders which are going out the door.

But as the system is receiving more and more of this data, essentially, it’s just working out what the most efficient way is to pick, what the efficient way is to store the stock, but what’s also really cool is that these robots are working on wifi throughout the warehouse. They’re battery-powered. So, they go and put themselves to sleep and charge whenever they need to have a rest and charge up. Essentially, they’re communicating with one another to ensure that they’ve always got the most efficient pick path to deliver stock to the right location.

Now, what this is enabling us to do is to essentially push back the cutoff time for same-day fulfillment as late as possible. And so, so far we’re doing 4:00 PM for a same-day fulfillment and same-day delivery.  In a manual environment where you’ve got people walking around the warehouse, obviously, that reduces the speed that you can fulfill items and also creates a bit of a less safe environment for people to work in. So, there’s many benefits from these systems.”

Differentiation

“What’s interesting is we’ve got to align ourselves with each of these retail’s brand promise and value proposition, and they’re different, right? Each retailer has their own targets in terms of their consumers needs. That comes down to cost, brand values, service, and quality. So, what worked for one retailer doesn’t work for another. So, let’s use Patagonia for example. They’ve invested heavily in eco-friendly packaging.  That’s actually a huge trend that we’re seeing at the moment and something that we’d had to get on top of a few years ago. But then you’ve got other retailers where they’re a price leader, right, and cost is the most important for them, and they look at where any place that cost can be stripped out of their supply chain. They’re balancing it with service, but service sometimes comes second to costs.

But I think one of the key ones really has been the use, in terms of differentiation looking across our client base, it’s the use of same-day services for last mile delivery instead of the standard delivery. It’s a lot of gifting actually. So, toys, retailers that sell toys, interestingly,  ones retailer that sell costumes, retailers that sell spare parts, whether it’s bikes or various things like that. These are retailers that are category champions within what they’re doing, and their consumers demand this fast delivery, and they’re not willing to wait for it. So, we’re seeing those types of retail differentiate in that area.

Another one really is operating on weekends as well, fulfillment. A lot of fulfillment operations don’t go ahead on weekends. They’re not run on weekends. It’s purely due to cost. One of our clients, Temple & Webster, we run every Sunday for because they are wanting to get ahead of the curve with orders or they’re wanting to inject freight into the network as quickly as possible, and they’re just known for high service. So, I guess there’s just a few things some of the retailers we’re working with are doing.”

Attracting People

“There’s a few different reasons people come into our business. It’s to get access to the latest technology. So, there’s not many warehousing operations that are running robots in Australia number one, and working within e-comm warehouses is also kind of the future. A lot of people can see that this is where things are going. More people are buying online. They love the convenience. Often they might be losing shifts in other areas they’re working with. They’re working in other retail which is sort of heading backwards, and they can see this is the future. 

But in terms of tech people coming in, finance people coming in, it’s just the excitement of a fast-growing business, right?  We’ve been growing very fast over the last few years. We’ve been growing our team. We’ve been growing our technology, and we’re working on some really cool stuff which is going to differentiate us even further from other logistic providers here in Australia and add value to retailers.”

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