Occupying a sprawling 32,500 square meters (350,000 square feet), one of the largest logistics facilities in the country belongs to the biggest online grocery platform in Singapore — RedMart. RedMart is the online grocery service of e-commerce giant, Lazada, which serves all of Singapore. The RedMart West Fulfilment Centre has been able to build up its logistical prowess through automation, thanks to intelligent, innovative solutions from Dematic.
“At RedMart, we offer over 100,000 assorted products to Singaporeans,” said Mr. Gerald Glauerdt, Co-Founder & Chief Logistics Officer at RedMart and Lazada. “This RedMart Fulfilment Centre is our main hub, seeing a lot of hustle and bustle as we are open 24/7, fulfilling orders for our customers as soon as they are placed.” Mr. Glauerdt also added that this advanced fulfilment center for groceries is the first one of this scale and complexity in Singapore.
RedMart’s West Fulfilment Centre is powered by market leading automation from Dematic to meet the increasing demand for online grocery shopping. The Dematic automated solution includes robotic shuttles, ergonomic high-speed pick stations, an intelligent conveying system, and a high-rate sortation system, all managed by a sophisticated software platform to make processes incredibly easy and efficient for pickers, packers, and management staff.
In its previous setup, RedMart operators would have to manually travel around multiple aisles of shelving to pick the items required for orders. In addition to spending a lot of time travelling, pickers would need additional time for receiving instructions, locating products, and loading and unloading trolleys, resulting in a highly inefficient process that was not only time-consuming but also prone to errors.
Errors made by the pickers in such a manual process are difficult to detect, hard to prevent and extremely costly to resolve. With the automated solution provided by Dematic, RedMart’s productivity and accuracy have both improved significantly.
Another key factor in developing the overall infrastructure for the RedMart West Fulfilment Centre was the building footprint. In Singapore, a big component for businesses is the cost of space. When RedMart first started talking to Dematic, they were receiving less than 2,000 orders per day and had around 5,000 products in their range. However, the RedMart West Fulfilment Centre needed to be designed to handle a significantly greater number of orders and products daily. RedMart realized they would not be able to find the space or the workforce to meet their growth target using their current practices.
With the pandemic, they saw an incredible surge in demand for online grocery shopping, and the volume that Redmart had planned for several years in the future was brought in the present. With the capacity available with the automated solution, Redmart were able to take on the increased demand and service their new customers.”
Challenges faced by Redmart — Exponential growth required scalable infrastructure
The online market for groceries grew 300% since 2017. However, with RedMart’s previous infrastructure and manual processes, it would not have been able to cost-effectively take advantage of this growth opportunity. “Our previous model was no longer working for us as we continued to grow. To meet the demand for online grocery shopping, the old method of manually hand-picking orders was too time-consuming, inefficient, and unproductive,” said Mr. Glauerdt.
The COVID-19 pandemic — Providing solutions to meet this disruption
Online grocery shopping had been experiencing strong growth in Singapore for several years but saw some explosive growth because of the pandemic.
Mr. Glauerdt mentioned that the decision to install a high level of automation at this facility was made well before the onset of COVID-19, but the importance of the automated solution to RedMart’s business has been underscored by the pandemic. According to RedMart, sales jumped by more than four times during the start of the pandemic, with unique visitors to the website growing by more than 11 times.
“A lot of elements that we designed into these solutions put RedMart in a really good position to adapt and respond to the pandemic,” said Mr. Michael Bradshaw, Senior Regional Director, Sales & Solutions Development, Dematic. “They now have operators working at socially distanced workstations, rather than crossing paths, pushing a trolley around to pick an order.”
“We knew we needed to scale up our model of operations, and we needed to find a solutions provider who was highly experienced in warehouse and logistics automation. Dematic was chosen as they were able to provide us with highly customizable solutions that would bring us the productivity increases that we were looking for,” said Glauerdt.
One of the technologies Dematic provided was the Dematic Multishuttle® system. In the system, products are placed in totes that are automatically stored in high-density racks by robotic shuttles. The Dematic Multishuttle automatically transports totes between storage locations and workstations. Its racks extend from floor to ceiling, maximizing the storage density.
“The automated solution uses robotic shuttles to store and retrieve products automatically and deliver them to Goods-to-Person (GTP) workstations where operators can work up to five times faster than they were previously,” said Mr. Bradshaw. “This part of the solution covers a huge product range in a small footprint, with an extremely effective picking method. The shuttles are also used to automatically replenish pick locations allocated for faster moving products where we use light picking technology to direct the operators, making the picking process as fast and accurate as possible.”
When there is an order to be fulfilled from the goods-to-person area, the Dematic Multishuttle system automatically retrieves totes containing the required items. Totes are conveyed to the GTP workstations in a specific sequence where operators pick and place items into order containers. Operators remain at their workstations while items are delivered, eliminating the need for them to travel around many aisles of shelving.
“This example of the GTP brings a highly productive solution in terms of processes, where an operator can now pick and pack 500 items in the same time it took to pick and pack 100 items previously,” said Glauerdt. “Dematic was able to offer a customized solution to reduce the burden on our employees while boosting productivity and efficiency, helping us to meet the growing demands of online grocery shopping.”
The Dematic system also includes order fulfilment of fresh produce in multiple temperature zones including a freezer pick area. Customer orders are transported through the various picking areas of the facility as required using an intelligent routing conveying system and consolidated at ergonomic packing stations in preparation for dispatch.
Once packed, orders are conveyed and automatically sorted to specific delivery vehicles using a Dematic high-rate sliding shoe sorter. The solution minimizes customer orders touch points, maximizing both productivity and good hygiene.
Challenges met with challenges — Maintaining customer service levels
“To make sure that the system keeps running around the clock, Dematic provides service and support that’s available 24/7,” said Mr. Bradshaw. “We have technicians located onsite to help look after the equipment and attend to any issues faced by RedMart during their operations. The early warning system that is part of our software tells us about something that might cause a problem before it actually does.”
The whole system is covered by support from the Dematic Service, staffed by a dedicated team of specialist engineers available 24 hours a day to provide help whenever needed.
RedMart west fulfilment centre system benefits
Increased productivity with intelligent order routing, paperless picking technology, automated replenishment and GTP workstations supported by the Dematic Multishuttle
Improved ergonomics and safety at operator workstations
Reduced order fulfilment times
Improved space efficiency and storage capacity with high density storage provided by the Dematic Multishuttle
Improved inventory and order accuracy to ensure orders are fulfilled correctly (reducing the cost of resolving errors and addressing returns)
Products in multiple temperature zones are handled by a single system, streamlining the order fulfilment process and speed of delivery
Flexibility to handle a growing product range and diversity of order profiles
Improved operational efficiency with real-time monitoring of inventory, orders, workload progress, and system performance