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Industry Updates

Charlie and the Increasingly Automated Chocolate Distribution Center


With consumers behaving more and more like Veruca Salt (they want it now!), companies are scrambling to meet their demands while juggling pandemic-imposed work restrictions such as social distancing among warehouse workers. (We don’t recall whether that was ever an issue in Wonkaville.)

As a result, many organizations view automation as their warehousing and supply chain Golden Ticket. Indeed, the 2020 Honeywell Intelligrated Automation Investment Study found that majorities of companies involved in e-commerce; grocery, food and beverage; and logistics are open to growing their investments in automation.

“The global pandemic caused a sudden and seismic shift in the global supply chain, driving distribution centers to embrace remote operations and social distancing work processes,” said Chris Feuell, chief marketing officer at Honeywell Intelligrated. “Recent consumer studies have shown increased online purchases by 28% globally and buy online/pickup in store is expected to increase by more than 60% in 2020. Consumers want seamless integration between online and in-store shopping, buying and delivery experiences, and companies are adapting by deploying micro-fulfillment strategies, relying on automation solutions to improve speed and accuracy of order processing, fulfillment and delivery, and to optimize productivity and return on investment.”

Honeywell, working with KRC Research, found that companies are most interested in warehouse execution software, order picking technology and robotic solutions. The biggest obstacle to greater adoption? Cost.

“Companies are investing in technology to improve employee and customer safety, but these technologies, such as voice-guided solutions, and leveraging data-driven insights to make better operational decisions, are also easing the burden of tight turnaround times and leading to better customer interactions,” Feuell said. “There are several scalable solutions available where companies can see an immediate return on investment at a lower cost of entry.”

Or, as the great Wonka himself might have said about automation: “If the good lord had intended us to walk, he wouldn’t have invented roller skates.”

Honeywell’s findings were based on a survey of 434 U.S.-based senior-level professionals who directly manage warehouses, distribution centers or fulfillment centers. It was not immediately clear whether any of them were involved with the production or distribution of Wonka Bars, Fizzy Lifting Drinks or Magic Chewing Gum.


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