The benefits of automated 3PL fulfilment for e-commerce businesses

26 September 2023 | 15 Shares

Source: Europa Worldwide Group

Every commerce venture has got to start somewhere, and that somewhere is often sitting on the floor packing boxes. It’s a scene that many small business owners are all too familiar with – the early days of manually managing inventory, meticulously packaging products, and frequent trips out to send shipments.

While these humble beginnings have their charm, the rapid growth of online retail and soaring customer expectations have ushered in a new era for growing e-commerce ventures – one where technology integration is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Research has shown that e-commerce is the sector that has most embraced automation, with 39 percent of businesses integrating a robotic solution.

Europa Worldwide Group

Source: Europa Worldwide Group

Warehouse technology has made tremendous strides over the last few years. Gone are the days of manual picking and laborious data entry, thanks to automated retrieval and digital warehouse management systems. These advancements have revolutionized the way e-commerce businesses operate, allowing them to dramatically improve their efficiency and provide better customer experiences through faster and more accurate deliveries.

However, warehouse technology also created a divide. Like several others, Amazon had the awareness and means to harness cutting-edge technologies from their inception, setting them on a path to unprecedented growth. Its use of AI-powered systems, robotics, and advanced data analytics enabled it to handle massive order volumes. Out of this came the lightning-fast shipping times and immense product range, attracting and retaining a huge customer base.

As a result, Amazon and a few other tech-savvy giants gained a significant competitive edge, leading to a cycle of growth where they could reinvest their profits into even more advanced technologies. This further solidified their dominance over smaller businesses that struggled to get the capital for these technologies, preventing them from gaining similar success. As of June 2022, Amazon accounted for 37.8 percent of e-commerce sales in the US, the highest market share of all e-commerce companies.

Europa Worldwide Group

Source: Europa Worldwide Group

However, the modular and scalable nature of a small handful of modern warehouse systems – like those offered by Europa Worldwide Group – has democratized access to third-party logistics (3PL) warehouses. Operations can be tailored to the specific needs and budget constraints of individual businesses, no matter how small, without the same level of upfront investment that was once required.

At these facilities, automated picking systems, conveyor belts, and robotic assistance can be implemented in stages, allowing businesses to gradually integrate these technologies as they grow. Warehouse Management Systems also offer flexible pricing models, reducing the need for hefty upfront investments in software and hardware.

Some 3PL warehouses also have a technology infrastructure that can be shared between multiple businesses, enabling them to spread the costs. These work together to significantly lower the cost barriers that once prevented small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses from benefitting from them.

The advantages of utilizing technologically advanced 3PL warehouses are manifold. Improved order accuracy, faster processing times, and enhanced inventory management all contribute to a better customer experience. Growing e-commerce businesses can now compete on an equal footing with larger counterparts in terms of efficient operations, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

When it comes time for a business to start investigating 3PL fulfilment, there are many things to consider. Large logistics organizations tend to have all the latest technologies available, making them able to deal with any product. However, such efficiency comes with an equivalent price tag that may not be attainable by SMEs. Indeed, smaller-scale logistics providers offer excellent customer service but may lack the advanced technological infrastructure and scalability.

Europa Warehouse, a division of Europa Worldwide Group, falls between these two categories. It offers access to flexible automated logistics at affordable prices and the highest level of customer service.

Europa Worldwide Group

Source: Europa Worldwide Group

“Every customer is different, every business is unique,” said Dionne Redpath, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. “We are open-minded to providing those extra touches that might require a little bit more investment. Customers might not get quite that treatment elsewhere, but they will absolutely, 100 percent, find it with us.”

Founded in 1966, the company is as experienced in the complexities of omnichannel distribution and wholesale logistics as it is in the unique requirements of smaller businesses. Its warehouses are designed to support start-ups as they grow and their operational requirements evolve into those of larger B2B and B2C e-commerce organizations.

Many smaller businesses believe that their range of goods is too complex to automate. However, with Europa Warehouse, that is not the case. The company’s largest warehouse in Corby is equipped with an £11m state-of-the-art automation system that scales for different business requirements. It has grown from four teams managing three production lines to 11 teams on six lines in just three years to meet growing client demands.

Europa Warehouse ensures affordable access to the benefits of automation by allowing for shared-user 3PL fulfilment, where multiple businesses can leverage advanced technology solutions in a single warehouse facility for streamlined and cost-effective order processing. This new approach enhances productivity and has also yielded an impressive 100 percent accuracy in pick rates. The automated facility can scale work from 50,000 unit picks in one day to 100,000 unit picks in the following, demonstrating its ability to adapt to fluctuating demands.

Europa Worldwide Group

Source: Europa Worldwide Group

Redpath said: “We believe that our shared user automated operation gives B2B and D2C businesses excellent accuracy and efficiencies whilst delivering against their brand identity and values. We understand the love and care that they have put into their product and customer journey, and work with them to truly deliver an exceptional service.”

“Shared user automation at Europa Warehouse is not a one-size-fits-all thing. We wrap around it all the other magic that can just give the end user the experience that they deserve.”

The company also offers pallet storage priced at just £1.49 + VAT per pallet, per week for 3,000 plus pallets, empowering customers to allocate more of their resources to growing their business. This saving on storage expenses frees up capital that can be reinvested into other areas like marketing, product development and customer service.

Amid a fiercely competitive and constantly evolving market, Europa Warehouse is committed to boosting its customers’ competitive edge, no matter the company’s size. Contact the sales team today to find out how your company could benefit from automated 3PL solutions.