How to have valuable engagement with automation suppliers from the get-go

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The white-hot warehouse automation market may have cooled slightly, but forecasters still expect significant growth – you will need to have a clear, well executed brief to get warehouse automation suppliers to engage. Automation suppliers expect you to be prepared!

An unprecedented surge in e-commerce and e-grocery throughout the past two years, along with ongoing labour shortages, means companies have turned to warehouse automation technology to stay in the race. Demand for warehouse automation has been at an all-time high, making it harder than ever to engage with suppliers when their capacity was squeezed.

Businesswire reports there is 100 per cent growth in investment in automation from $2 billion to $4 billion between now and 2025.

According to ABI Research, worldwide mobile robot shipments in warehouses will have a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of almost 40 per cent from 2021 to 2030 and exceed 500,000 global shipments in 2030.


Warehouse automation suppliers – a white-hot market

During the last few years, we saw demand for automation soaring and return rates on RFPs (Requests for Proposals) dropping, while lead times increased – only the best-prepared project tenders got a look in.

As supply chain and logistics consultants, we’re all too aware of this challenge. We help customers such as Royal Mail, Asda and Greggs lead the way with cutting-edge technology and often help clients navigate the market and scope and prepare briefs before they approach suppliers.

Consultant Ian Bartholomew comments: “When demand was rising, lead times increased, and we noticed some companies making shotgun decisions based on solution delivery times rather than application suitability.”


Warehouse automation – the market now


Things might not be so white-hot now, but there is still an acute labour shortage. At the same time, customer behaviours that shifted during the pandemic aren’t returning to ‘normal’ – both critical drivers in continuing demand for automation.

Warehouse automation suppliers make a significant investment in resource – time and money – every time they respond to an RFP. The market might have calmed a little, but when the cost of replying to an RFP is a six-figure sum, suppliers are likely to be picky when it comes to which RFPs they choose to invest in and respond to.


How to prepare a solid tender for warehouse automation suppliers


Often, we see tenders released to the marketplace that lack sufficient detail to return robust design and costs. The most significant omissions from tender documents usually include key data and design assumptions about how the operation will perform.

This can impact timelines because system integrators and technology suppliers must commit time and resources to explore business operating principles. Poor tenders like this are treated as low priority or, even worse, can result in no bids being submitted. System integrators are often working with a full order book and, as a result, are being highly selective in where they spend their business development time.

To get noticed and improve response rates on tenders, it is imperative that tenders are full of quality information, can be responded to quickly and fit in with what is being offered within the market rather than relying on bespoke solution design.

Your organisation will have greater success if you are ready to engage the market with a clear set of business requirements.


Invest in resources and communication


Depending on the complexity of your project, a wide range of different business functions may feed into a business requirements document or tender.

As a result, internal engagement and collaboration across your organisation are key, including your IT teams, operational divisions and finance stakeholders.

If you don’t have the internal resources or experience to engage the market, recruiting or working with an independent consultancy would be beneficial. This will give you access to industry-specific knowledge to understand where your competitors stand, what wider technologies are available and an insight into the strengths or weaknesses of the suppliers in the market.

It will also allow you to create a more comprehensive business case for an end-to-end solution design that the right supplier can deliver to speed up the entire contract design and implementation process.

If you don’t do this, it will likely impact timelines and block opportunities to progress with technology solutions within your business. To ensure suppliers will invest their time and resources in replying to your RFP, here are our top three tips for enhancing engagement and maximising responses to accelerate your automation project and speed up your return on investment.


Focus on your requirements


Each company has a different driving factor towards their project. Knowledge of this can help you select the best and most appropriate suppliers to compete for the work.

Some companies will have return on investment highest on the agenda, while others may be keen to reduce capital expenditure, even if this means a slower payback.

Therefore, it is critical to give potential suppliers real-life business performance data to reflect key trading periods, off-peak activity and stock holding information. Being explicit about this could impact your project goals and the proposed solution.


Remember, time is of the essence


Suppliers are largely time-poor. It can take six months of blood, sweat and tears to win a tender. Often this equates to a six-figure sum of investment towards winning a new project. So, it’s no wonder that suppliers have become more selective and strategic when choosing which RFPs to respond to.

The most enticing RFPs will be those where the investment in time can be most easily controlled.

If you give a detailed specification with a thorough assessment of data and design requirements, this will reduce the time needed to pass questions between the client and the suppliers. The suppliers will be able to tell detailed preparation has taken place and risks have been mitigated. The project is likely to run more smoothly and meet the lead times. This makes a project far more attractive.


Understand the supplier


Not only is this a great form of flattery, but it will help you choose the suppliers who are the best fit for your project. Unsurprisingly, it will speed engagement naturally as a result. Engaging an automation expert with deep expertise and knowledge of the suppliers’ landscape will save you time and money – ensuring your project is accepted and expedited.

Gaining a complete understanding of the suppliers, their growth plans and the direction they are taking their business will benefit your project. Not only does it help to satisfy your project requirements better, but it will also ensure robust responses to your RFP and maximise your chances of a well-executed project. This means on budget, on time and meeting contractual deliverables.


Key takeaways


  • Ensure you have unbiased, experienced automation resources on your side before engaging the market
  • Identify your key drivers for the project and the key performance criteria
  • Invest time and expertise to prepare a detailed specification
  • Select suppliers that best match your needs and theirs. If you can’t justify who you’re engaging with and why then you’re not ready to engage


We’re an independent automation consultancy with extensive knowledge of the automation supplier ecosystem. We can help you get ready to engage and work efficiently with suppliers that best match your needs. This will ensure your whole business is geared for transformation and future growth.


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