Why an automated parcel sortation system is important in a post COVID-19 world

Almost three years on since the outbreak of COVID-19, we delve into the importance of automated parcel sortation systems and how they can optimise company performance as we head into uncertain times. Automated conveyor systems have allowed logistics companies and distribution centres to cope with many challenges in the post-pandemic world.

From workplace absences to hygiene considerations and an unprecedented demand for parcels, conveyor system designs that automate parcel sortation allow these companies to adapt to changing business practices while continuing to function efficiently. More recently, automated systems are helping businesses to survive as we enter a cost of living crises.

In a post-pandemic world, there are a number of factors which might contribute to the need for an automated conveyor system, including:

  • Fluctuations in parcel demand
  • Higher customer expectations
  • The need to protect staff members
  • A rise in operational costs


What is an automated conveyor system?

While conveyor belts have been used across a variety of different industries for decades, an automated conveyor system allows businesses to automate the transport of goods from point A to point B without relying on human labour. There are a number of benefits to automated conveyor systems, including the reduced risk of injury to staff as well as increased productivity and well-being in the workplace, but the impact of COVID-19 emphasised how the packing industry could benefit from adopting an automated parcel sortation system.


How has COVID-19 affected parcel sortation?

1. Demand for parcels is changing

One of the most notable effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the boost that it provided to the e-commerce industry, contrasted directly with a major dip in the brick-and-mortar retail sector. Along with this came a boom in the demand for parcels.

As Mike Elton reports in International Fleet World, the 73% increase in e-commerce sales between 2019 and 2021 put “tremendous pressure on supply chains”, including retailers and distribution centres who were struck by “swelling parcel volume and increasing consumer demands”.

By relieving the pressure on staff in distribution centres and other packing industries, automating mundane tasks like the transportation of goods with an automated conveyor system could revolutionise the industry again, allowing companies to adapt to the demand for parcel delivery.

As we say goodbye to the immediate after effects of COVID-19, we’re seeing further changes to the demand on e-commerce as consumers cut back on spending. Automated conveyor systems allow distribution centres to easily adapt to these fluctuations without the need for workforce changes – providing better stability for employees and employers alike.


2. Consumers have higher expectations

Along with the rising demand for parcels came a higher expectation for fast delivery and quality customer service from consumers receiving parcels. The desire for same-day delivery puts an enormous amount of pressure on employees to hit deadlines and targets.

An automated parcel sortation system helps by alleviating the risk of human error while picking-and-packing. This could include broken, mishandled or lost parcels; inefficient sortation systems that don’t get the most out of your workforce; duplicate deliveries, or late deliveries that disrupt other aspects of your supply chain. Removing the risk of mistake through an automated conveyor system has the butterfly effect of building more trust between the end-user and the distribution centre, as customers recognise that their packages are handled more carefully.

In 2019, Elmleigh designed, assembled and installed a parcel sortation system for a large multi-national online retailer. This conveyor system design took pressure off the workforce and allowed them to deliver parcels quicker, more efficiently, and with confidence that the automated conveyor system was able to sort parcels with a reduced risk of damage or human error.


3. Future-proof against workplace injury or infection

Although the reduced risk of injury to staff members has already been mentioned, an automated conveyor system also provides hygienic benefits in a post-COVID landscape. Workplace absences due to COVID had a major impact on the efficiency of the logistics industry in 2020, especially since distribution centres and other packing businesses were essential in keeping the world connected.

With a conveyor system design that reduces the amount of hard labour on the warehouse floor, staff members are further protected from handling packages or coming into contact with infected colleagues. Although the imminent danger of COVID-19 has been reduced in the past three years, automated conveyor systems for parcel sortation future-proof vital staff from potential future outbreaks while also mitigating their risk of physical injury.


4. Operational costs are rising dramatically

A number of factors, including COVID-19 and the breakdown of the global supply chain, are causing a dramatic rise in the operational costs of businesses across all industries – an especially worrying prospect for the packing industry as consumers cut back on spending and profits drop.

To facilitate the survival of the logistics industry, an automated conveyor system would increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of any parcel sortation system as conveyors are designed to ultimately provide a return-on-investment by automating tedious jobs for a relatively minor maintenance upkeep. It’s not only in direct costs or wages that a distribution company can save money; the general productivity of staff members rises as businesses introduce automated conveyor systems.


Elmleigh and automated conveyor systems

With over 35 years of experience in installing conveyor system designs, Elmleigh understand not only the negative impact of COVID-19 on the packing and distribution sector, but also the potential for growth though automated conveyor systems for parcel sortation. Working closely with every client to identify how automation can help to mitigate these obstacles, Elmleigh offers a full site audit and can propose solutions to suit the specific needs of your business. You can find out more about our conveyor system designs here, or contact us on 01455 847045.

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