Startup looks to Improve retail logistics

You may expect a start-up that rides on the e-commerce tide to be conducted by tech-savvy, code-fluent pc wizards with vague engineering backgrounds. All you will need is a central notion and a team that will assist you to attain it. Of the 30-odd employees in this retail logistics startup, 5 to 10 operate in technology development.

Mr Dadlani’s own background is in business and finance. It was while pursuing his degree at the Singapore Management University he struck on the idea of filling a gap in the local e-commerce scene. The situation will be familiar to the majority of online shoppers: you purchase something in minutes, however getting your purchase is far less hassle-free. Mr Dadlani explained: “There’s no point fulfilling orders fast in the event that you can not receive orders quickly.” From the client’s standpoint, what matters is the entire time required for the products to achieve their hands.

Enter Blu

Founded in October 2016, it is but one of many companies in Singapore that provide self-service pick-ups, allowing online shoppers to recover their purchases from a variety of places at their own advantage. There are now 67 bluPorts – automatic parcel lockers – in places like convenience stores, gas kiosks and shopping malls.

Other retailers, blu also functions with logistics companies such as DHL, so that parcels could be picked up at bluPorts rather than being delivered to houses. What sets blu apart is that it provides services beyond last-mile logistics by moving higher up the retail value chain; those services vary from order management to warehousing, inventory management and order fulfilment companies. With this kind of complete integration, orders could be fulfilled and sent to a bluPort in a day.

Sporting goods shop Qoolmart and health supplement store GoPure are among the online retailers using blu’s end-to-end services, making same-day delivery potential. All these services are offered via a single cloud-based stock and management system, bluPortal.

Merchants use it to monitor the performance of different online sales channels, track inventory, and upgrade their product catalogue. In the front-end, blu’s system is integrated into retailers’ own e-commerce websites. Shoppers can simply choose bluPort delivery in the checkout page. Back-end integration ensures that once an order is obtained on the merchant’s own e-commerce site, it is automatically fulfilled. This is due to bluStore, the organization’s 30,000sq foot warehouse at Jurong East.

There, hidden behind tall walls from the organization’s colours of yellow and blue, the automatic inventory system works its magic, choosing items to be sent to customers’ selected bluPorts. Blu currently manages”thousands” of parcels per week, but has the capacity to do much more. Its robotic picking process is effective at fulfilling around 200 orders for one hour.

The firm uses a proven automatic storage and handling system, none it developed in-house. With such options readily available on the marketplace, carrying the step towards automation shouldn’t be daunting. In fact, automation is comparatively straightforward, stated Mr Dadlani: “It’s quite simple to automate. It’s not easy to integrate.”

The real challenge is to go beyond just adopting digital automation or technology, he added. Instead, companies should take a look at their whole business process, from front-end to back-end, and consider how integration can be accomplished along that chain. Integrating internal systems helps with efficiency, like making sure that the bookkeeping and human resources systems are connected.

As a young start-up that started with digital options in mind, blu might not seem like an obvious illustration of transformation within the logistics businesses. After all, the industry niche which blu attempts to fill is one that has opened, as a result of the rise of online retail. By supplying end-to-end answers, it has also helped traditional retailers to catch the e-commerce wave. Retailers with no expertise in selling online can tap bluPortal to research that new sales channel because the system handles everything from order management to fulfilment.

Beyond retail, blu a part of improvements in the logistics sector also. Automated self-collection points like blu’s signify a developing tendency of allowing customers to choose where and if they would like to receive their parcels. BluPort delivery can be obtained even to companies that have not become direct partners with blu. “We realised we can’t incorporate with everybody,” explained Mr Dadlani. “So the question was, how exactly do we allow consumers to shop everywhere but still utilize the bluPort?”

Last October, the business launched bluGate – its answer to that question. By supplying a special delivery address, clients can select bluPort delivery with any internet shopping check-out. This provides the convenience of self-service pickup to a wider consumer base, furthering the reach of this trend in last-mile logistics.

New Niches

Besides being a part of a rising tendency, blu expects to create new markets of its own. Located in Downtown Gallery at the Central Business District, it’s mainly a proof-of-concept for today, however, has been used by shared cooking space OUE Social Kitchen to its pick-up of food. “We are linking up with mates that want to provide it as a trial option in their check-out procedure,” explained Mr Dadlani.

Blu isn’t restricting itself to retail, ” he added. All things considered, bluPorts are helpful for”basically anything that needs successful distribution”. Clients could select up redemption things such as cookware from bluPorts. Mr Dadlani does not even like referring to bluPorts as”self-collection” points, as doing this”constrains the perspective too much”. In the end, they could function as drop-off points too. He envisions one day moving into the”customer-to-customer” segment, where one blu user could drop an item for a different one to pick up.

In the future, blu could even go full circle, from e-commerce back to bodily stores. Mr Dadlani imagines another possible usage: logistical aid for on-site inventory. “Fast fulfilment can support brick-and-mortar,” he states. A clothes retailer, for example, could choose to hold less inventory in the shop itself. When shares are running low, fast delivery can be arranged to a nearby bluPort.

The additional space gained from holding less inventory can be used to produce the physical shopping experience more exciting and more appealing to clients, Mr Dadlani suggested.

Talk of blu-sky thinking.

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