As businesses offer omnichannel services, such as buy-online-pickup-in-store, more logistical processes need to be conducted within or close to a retail environment. For retailers who adopt a store fulfillment concept, order picking for online orders is conducted inside a store environment and is in addition to the logistic processes required to support in-store customer requests. A store fulfillment approach has the advantage of enabling inventory, labor, infrastructure, and automation to be pooled for online orders, in-store customers, and return processing. Yet, the design and operation of logistical tasks completed in a retail environment is more challenging and requires considering the salient features that vary from a distribution environment. This work provides an overview of omnichannel logistical processes and connects their unique features to open challenges in automating these processes. A benchmarking and classification study describes the state of the practice in 2022 in automated picking solutions. We find that the current market for automated picking solutions that could support a microfulfillment strategy is more mature than solutions that could support a store fulfillment strategy. We identify a set of design and technical requirements for an automated picking solution deployed in a retail environment to support store fulfillment. Moveable robotic piece-level picking solutions need to become more flexible so that they can accommodate different item types, store shelf designs, facility layouts, logistical tasks, and human interactions, as well as more agile so they can robustly operate in uncertain and new environments.
Progress in Material Handling Research
Pazour, Jennifer; Padhy, Manmit; Fischer, Georg; Bhowmick, Joyjit; Köhler, Sebastian; Arndt, Gideon; and Furmans, Kai, "Prospective on Automation for Omnichannel Services and the Need for New Robotic Solutions for Store Fulfillment Operations" (2023). 16th Proceedings (Dresden, Germany- 2023). 5.