Specialist 3PL fulfilment provider Europa Warehouse has reported a 45 per cent increase in total orders picked in December 2023* across its 3PL sites.
Despite this increase, its facilities in Birmingham, Corby, and Dartford – which offer over one million sq. ft combined of dedicated warehouse and logistics space – operated without the usual stress and pressure associated with “peak”.
Rise in Consumer Spending
Notwithstanding continued economic challenges, there was a rise in consumer spending across the period which, supported by figures from Retail Economics, accounted for £202bn worth of global sales online and a 3.7 per cent increase in the UK.
While sales during the 2023 peak season in the UK might be less pronounced in comparison to previous years, the increase in order volumes still puts a huge pressure on 3PL services.
Europa’s Logistics Operation
Due to Europa’s £70m investment in its logistics operations over recent years, including £11m in shared user automation this peak period was the most efficient of any recent years’ peaks.
Dionne Redpath, Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Head of Warehouse at Europa Worldwide Group said:
“Shopping habits are ever-evolving, but we have invested heavily to alleviate the strain on our e-commerce, retail and wholesale customers.
“As well as investing in new equipment and processes and having restructured in recent months we’ve augmented our approach with customer and consumer experience at heart. Our focus has been to enable customers to meet or exceed their sales targets, allowing them to maximise revenues whilst ensuring exceptionally high levels of quality and satisfaction.”
To make it easier for customers to scale up and achieve seamless fulfilment, Europa Warehouse identified the importance of implementing strategies to drive innovation in order fulfilment.
“We appreciate that our customers need to cost-effectively scale up and down at pace, while delivering an efficient service for their customers. Our overarching objective is to deliver a peak which doesn’t feel like peak at all. During seasonal peaks, e-commerce and retail brands face upsetting their own status quo: with the significant upturn in sales activity creating volatility and complexity resulting in what can be an inefficient, often-chaotic order fulfilment process. It’s the time of year businesses are more likely to experience costly mispicks, delays to dispatch and higher than normal return rates.”
Europa’s Shared-User Automated Picking System
Europa Warehouse is the 3PL division of Europa Worldwide Group, and one of only a few operators in the UK offering a shared-user automated picking system. Designed for products that are able to be stored in totes, which Europa refer to as ‘toteable’, the system is ideal for clients who operate with a large SKU range and a complex, volatile order profile, often requiring operations to dramatically scale up and down within a short period of time.
“With robust quality control processes to prevent picking errors, thus reducing cost, a shared-user system can be quickly scaled up or down to meet fluctuating demand. In turn, this allows for accurate financial modelling because of the high level of predictability. For peak planning, this is crucial to ensure a seamless supply chain from start to finish whilst not blowing budgets.”
Europa Warehouse’s Automation Investment
In 2023, Europa’s portfolio of warehouses picked 78.8 million units through its automated and manual fulfilment operations – regularly scaling up to 280,000 individual picks in a 24 hour period. Shared-user automation contributed towards this, allowing for regular scaling from 40 to 100,000 picks from one day to the next. The ability to scale in this way within automation is what makes it such a cost-effective solution. The ability to scale in a similar way in a manual environment is far more complex, requiring significantly more labour at a time of year when labour is at a premium. In the automated environment, those headaches simply don’t exist.
The combination of Europa’s most recent investment in its systems and automated fulfilment technology and processes allows e-commerce brands to optimise resources, simplify operational models and capitalise on the sales and growth opportunities afforded by the peak season. Click here to read more.
*Figures taken from volume of orders picked in December 2023 (the height of Europa’s peak), compared to October 2023 (the month preceding peak season).