For the world of logistics, and in particular for e-commerce warehouses and postal hubs, the Black Friday period – which coincides with the beginning of the peak season – represents a challenge in the fields of packaging, labelling, sorting and shipping. Sitma, an Italian company specialising in designing, building and selling complete solutions for logistics automation, looks at the Black Friday stats and the challenges that sit behind them.
Originally an American concept, Black Friday has now become a key event in the year and takes place mainly online. The same goes for Cyber Monday, which is often stretched out to become Cyber Week. It involves the sale of products in disparate categories including, in particular, smartphones, smartwatches, video games and other technological devices.
According to the latest estimates, in 2020 Black Friday generated revenues of over US$9bn in the United States alone, compared to US$7.4bn the previous year. Cyber Monday did even better, totalling US$10.8bn in 2020 compared to US$9.4bn the previous year.
In Europe, the country that spends the most during Black Friday is Great Britain, which in 2019 invested over £8.5bn in the sale of products, followed by Germany £6.3bn in 2019) and France (over £5bn in 2019). Italy, instead, comes fourth, with just over £2bn pounds spent in 2020, compared with £2.8bn the previous year. It should be noted that 2020, marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, saw a slight decrease in the value of goods sold, although the volumes remained high.
Sales volumes: one of the main issues is the sheer number of orders that the supply chain has to handle in a short period of time. In England, for example, sales during the month of October 2020 represented 28.1% of all sales throughout last year. In the same country, according to the Fashion Network portal, a 140% increase in orders is expected during the month of November in online sales alone.
This peak causes pressure on the entire distribution chain, which even during Black Friday and Cyber Monday is expected to meet the same standards of quality. Also according to Fashion Network, 37% of British consumers say they would not buy again from a seller if delivery of their order is delayed. To meet the workload, the entire supply chain must operate in a synchronised and efficient manner.
Packaging: Preparation for shipping, i.e. packaging, requires not only high-performance machines but great flexibility. The latest trends require the product to be packaged reducing volumes as much as possible, in order to optimise transportation and save material. Sitma can offer the benefit of a 40-year track record in this field, with solutions for packing that are compact but also use sustainable materials such as bio-film and paper.
Labelling: the application of labels is also crucial. In fact, the assigning and printing of unique codes require perfect integration between the software and hardware, which must work in synchrony managing an enormous amount of data. Labelling and control technology has, for that matter, evolved considerably in recent years. The printing units have gradually become smaller, while the vision and control systems have become increasingly efficient and able to analyse the packages with greater accuracy.
Sorting and shipping: precision and delicate handling of the package are required during these phases; everything must be carried out in a fluid and autonomous manner. Increasing the automation of logistics hubs is essential not only to manage the peaks of Black Friday, but also to increase the daily efficiency of the plant.
In this case, too, Sitma is able to offer a wide range of solutions, with sorting systems such as Easy Sort or Speedy Sort, bestsellers on the market, and the more recent Symphony. The latter is a modular system that combines efficiency and flexibility, and is designed specifically to meet the needs of the logistics sector, which become particularly critical on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.