Bring on the Robots: Helping Retailers Deliver Service Excellence

While the retail sector has long been a digital transformation leader, COVID-era stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements forced retailers to become even more innovative in how they deliver goods to consumers. Services like home delivery, online ordering and curbside pickup surged in popularity, even among categories that had never offered them before, such as grocery.

Now, with the pandemic largely behind us, demand for these services continues to grow. For the retailer, these shopper preferences present a challenge. In a difficult economic environment, specialized fulfillment services add cost and complexity. They also require an expanded workforce, which can be hard to maintain in a tight labor market. Relying on providers like Doordash and Instacart only dilutes sales and reduces retailer margins.

To succeed in this environment, retailers are looking for solutions to help ease these pressures – to continue delivering the services customers expect while controlling costs and ensuring a seamless shopping experience.

Introducing Dell Validated Design for the Retail Edge featuring Robots-as-a-Service

In our quest to help customers overcome their most difficult business challenges, Dell is partnering with inVia Robotics to introduce the Dell Validated Design for Retail Edge. This solution uses Dell edge technology and a comprehensive inventory automation system to help retailers reduce the cost and complexity of order fulfillment to provide efficient curbside pickup and same-day delivery services.

Through this partnership, inVia provides hardware, software and other capabilities that allow retailers to scale up warehouse automation as needed. InVia provides robotic fulfillment units at no upfront cost to retailers, charging only for work the robots do and the productivity they deliver. The solution is unique in that it retrofits easily into existing warehouse and retail spaces, allowing customers to quickly achieve gains without significantly overhauling their physical footprints or operations processes.

Dell validates the inVia software and robotics with VMware Edge Compute Stack, AzureStack HCI and bare metal, which allows customers to deploy a simplified edge retail robotics solution without sacrificing choice. Dell XR4000, the high-performance, multi-node server purpose-built to address the demands of the retail edge, powers the entire solution.

A row of red and black inVia Robotics robots are lined up in a warehouse, with hydraulic lifts extended at various heights.

Robots to the Rescue

With the help of inVia, the Dell Validated Design for Retail Edge solution converts existing warehouse and retail spaces into micro-fulfillment centers that transform the order fulfillment process. At its core, an advanced warehouse execution system (WES) powers an automated warehouse located in the back, staffed with human and robotic order pickers, and a computer vision software system maps warehouse floorplans and inventory placement to determine the most efficient pathways for humans and robots to carry out fulfillment tasks.

Robots take charge of all back-end tasks, constantly monitoring inventory levels and detecting when items need to be restocked. As orders come in, the robots autonomously retrieve requested items and deliver them to the pick wall, ensuring stock is available for fulfillment. This continuous monitoring and restocking process ensures the fulfillment center operates smoothly, minimizing delays and optimizing efficiency.

Some of the tasks the robotics solution can support include:

    • Product putbacks and returns
    • Product sorting and consolidation
    • Product replenishment and restocking
    • Product inventory count tracking
    • Lot control/serialization (for recall or error, products can be tracked back through the system)
    • Complete management reporting

It’s important to note the Dell-inVia solution does not need to include autonomous robotics. The solution is available using the inVia Modular Warehouse Execution System powered by Dell. Businesses can experience significant improvements with software alone, helping employees better coordinate and streamline the order fulfillment process. However, for those looking to maximize a valuable human workforce, the robotics component provides significant behind-the-scenes value.

A Solution for the Future of Retail

Retailers using inVia-based systems report up to a tenfold improvement in orders picked per hour. When you consider that order picking accounts for more than 50% of warehouse operating costs, this represents significant savings – savings that retailers can pass on to shoppers in the form of faster, more accurate service and more consistent pricing.

The pressures facing retailers to deliver more efficient and personalized services – while controlling costs – continue to rise. The old ways of doing things no longer align with business practices or customer expectations. To provide a more advanced experience, technology solutions at the edge, including robotic support and AI-driven applications, are the new retail paradigm. As a retail technology leader for many decades, Dell is proud to be powering these new breakthroughs for retailers and consumers worldwide.

Visit our edge retail solutions page to learn more.

Photos courtesy of inVia Robotics.