Fnac adopts a logistical approach for the post-Taylorist era

Logistics is a decisive factor in the success or failure of major corporations – both in e-commerce and traditional retail. Christmas period magnifies the requirement for these business to stay one step ahead of their customers’ delivery needs. Meanwhile, the logistical issues related to the last mile of the delivery have never been as acute as they are now.

However, what if the problem was not ultimately due to the delivery but to the previous step in the process? What if everything happened at during the supply, packaging and sorting stages?

According to the French business newspaper, Les Echos, the Fnac-Darty Group is the only company able of arranging a delivery. It incudes to over 400 cities, towns and villages in France within a two-hour period. It even guarantees next-day delivery for orders purchased before midnight. Nevertheless, as Christmas approaches, the question of how Fnac manages to achieve its customer commitments when faced with the challenges of delivery is a valid one.

The warehouse at the core of the logistics process

In 2016, Fnac offered its customers the chance to receive deliveries on Christmas Eve for orders purchased before 3 p.m. This disruptive offer enabled Fnac to stay far ahead of its competitors in the marketplace.

Indeed, this bricks and mortar retail giant also delivers its products through e-commerce and internationally. In addition, Fnac has invested in 120,000 square metres of massive warehouses, mainly based to the south of Paris. The largest of these is based in Wissous, in Essonne. It covers an area of nearly 31,000 square metres: in other words, more than twice the area covered by the pitch at the Stade de France.

3×8h shifts and incentives: a blend of effort and comfort

Fnac relies on its stock handlers to prepare and fulfil all its products. With nearly 500 employees, working three daily eight-hour shifts, the group aims to ensure that its labour force specialises in particular tasks. Actually, employees who are assigned to warehouses are specifically trained in their work. The company also has no compunction about reinforcing its warehouse teams with seasonal labour. The goal is to achieve the increased productivity required during the festive peak. Moreover, with a target of processing 170 items per hour, pickers at the Wissous warehouse work on a 24×7 basis.

The work can rapidly become monotonous and exhausting. So Fnac came up with the idea of getting its staff to spend a quarter of an hour running in team relays as a fun, team-building activity. While the initiative may appear comical, the aim is to break the routine and prevent the musculoskeletal conditions that this type of activity can lead to. Indeed, the pace of work is very fast, as well as being calibrated to the exact second. Conveyor belts deliver three orders per second and all packages must be shipped in less than two hours.

How does Fnac set itself apart? Upcoming innovations

According to Bastien Vincent, Director of Logistics Projects for Fnac, the company’s future innovation will rely heavily on:

  • the synergy within the Fnac-Darty Group to “seek out everyone’s greatest skills and expertise, with the aim of enhancing the group’s overall performance”
  • performance and cost optimisation: all topics relating to innovation, robotics, and artificial intelligence will be incorporated into this programme.

Next innovations

The group really craves to invest in warehouse modernisation. In fact, the group is looking to invest in new operational systems for its logistics activities. WMS (Warehouse Management Systems) and WCS (Warehouse Control Systems) are highly-valued pieces of software that are dedicated to the optimisation and management of stocks. They aim to achieve a number of different goals with nearly instantaneous results:

  • achieving a better understanding of stock status
  • improved product traceability
  • and better use of warehouse space.

For logistics control systems, the process is more complex, because this involves synchronising the various mechanical elements (robots, machinery, label printers, etc.). A clear increase in production output has been recorded for those warehouses that have already implemented these systems.

Fnac is an e-commerce giant and a leader in the high-tech market. With four million product lines on its website and 160,000 daily orders, the company has all the resources in place to innovate in the logistics sector and even to become a true trailblazer. After all, why not?

To read: Geek+ or art of augmented picking!