While no one needs to be reminded how much has been changing across our industry in 2020, it’s useful to keep looking into HOW things are evolving and learning about what everyone is doing differently as either a reaction to events, or to get ahead of them more pro-actively.
At Newcastle Systems, the large variety of industries over which we receive orders gives us an interesting vantage point from which we can see how things have evolved quite a bit this year. Today we thought it would be useful to share some of what we have been seeing and what we might expect because of it going into 2021. To be brief – you’ve been incredibly innovative and creative this year.
To do that, let’s take a quick look at some of our orders this year from unexpected places and their not-so-common uses. If there is one thing about 2020 that has become “predictable”, it’s that the unpredictable is now normal. Many our standard processes and expectations for how the sales process works and the length of the cycle haven’t helped us predict what we are seeing, and it will be a while before we can say there is a pattern we’d feel comfortable relying on as “the new normal”. So for the rest of this year, it will still be about being quick on our feet and keeping our eyes open for more of these unexpected opportunities.
The New Ubiquity of Mobile Power
The National Home Goods Retailer – Like nearly EVERY major retail chain in the US, store-based retail is a death-defying act in almost any year, but 2020 has already seen the end of many big brands. Like some fast-moving retailers, they quickly realized that they need to get VERY competent at E-Commerce very quickly and as a result have double their sales in a previously underserved channel. Newcastle Systems’ carts have helped them transition their warehouses into being more customer-centric while adapting to a doubling of their direct-to-consumer shipments.
National Top 10 3PL – overwhelmed with packages coming IN and OUT (because many of their facilities also serve as collection and distribution points), this 3PL has not only expanded its fleet of carts to accommodate more Receiving and supporting some other processes, but also created an “overflow fleet” of carts on standby to deal with the spikes during peak days and hours of the week and peak months of the year.
National Sporting Goods Retailer – another retailer that had to move fast in 2020 with stores being closed and fewer customers where they were still open. Having a well- managed and established E-Commerce arm in place made huge difference, and they invested in ramping it up with additional carts and communicating more frequently to keep their customers engaged and saw a 190% increase in online sales.
Major DIY Retailer – One national chain, echoing a theme we wrote about last week (“Reverse Logistics for Beginners”) discovered the messy part of E-Commerce that no one likes to talk about when you decided to go all-in: Returns. While their stores remained open as an “essential business” – and like the entire DIY industry, saw HUGE sales from everyone being home – their E-Commerce business spiked as well and they determined they needed to deploy our mobile-powered carts to handle the returns in their online return centers.
Global Athletic Brand – using the 2020 mantra of “everything is different now” this manufacturer did not have a real disruption from the pandemic that forced their hand, but characteristic of their culture, determined it was an opportunity to make some changes that could benefit them now and in the long run (Do I hear “Lean”?). This year they’ve deployed mobile power not only in Shipping and Receiving but have deployed carts to Supervisors to improve Employee Engagement on the floor and others for doing cycle counts.
Gourmet Foods Distribution – We all have had personal experience seeing the incredible strain on the supply system in the food industry this year. One of the bigger problems that has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the surge of distribution is accuracy – getting the right products on the right truck (i.e. Organic vs. Non-Organic). Part of the effort to improve accuracy includes moving away from paper pick lists and manifests, and a workstation on wheels with mobile power provides a path to going paperless.
National Online Home Furnishings Retailer – many of the online-only businesses entered this pandemic feeling pretty well-prepared for the change in consumer behavior, and many have benefitted tremendously from millions of new customers who are now accustomed to shopping online. This retailer looked outside of the shop floor and brought management in by putting their workstations on mobile-powered carts and making it easy for their supervisors to stay on the floor pro-actively problem-solving with their teams rather than sitting in an office where they would normally hope they hear about them from staff dropping their work to make the walk across the facility.
Cookies for Everyone – another unusual use case we did not see coming was a major baked goods manufacturer who learned they can improve the flexibility of their production line by making their labeling process mobile to support both in-process labeling AND finished goods labeling. Fewer printers can be in multiple places when and where they are needed.
What It Might Mean For Your Facility
The overwhelming theme we’ve seen from our perch this year centers around E-Commerce. But that covers a lot of territory and related processes, many of which aren’t always so different than many of the standard processes, but whose precision becomes more important due to the nature of serving individual customers and their tastes.
To clarify what kind of applications have been more prominent:
Returns Processing – to process incoming returns where they are
Supervisor Workstations – to improve staff engagement and speed problem-solving
Shop Floor Optimization – optimizing fewer printers in more places
And of course, the foundational application in Receiving has seen steady growth with these new clients as well.
Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know
How about your facility? Tell us about a new or unique application you may have found useful in your “new normal” or a specific challenge you’ve been grappling with that we might be able to help with.
Tell us something we don’t know – we’ve already learned so much this year from our customers and resellers, but are always ready to hear more.