The holiday peak season can be a double-edged sword for retailers, delivering a big boost to the bottom line while simultaneously placing enormous stress on the back end of the operation.
A television commercial launched in November gives a nod to the behind-the-scenes fulfillment activity. Produced by none other than e-tailing behemoth Amazon.com Inc., the ad follows an order placed by a harried commuter on her smartphone all the way through to delivery to the delighted recipient, a young girl. The lighthearted ad depicts animated versions of Amazon's cardboard boxes being whisked along conveyors through a bustling warehouse. Using the silhouetted smile logo printed on each Amazon package, the boxes appear to sing a version of "Give a Little Bit," a 1970s-era hit by the English pop group Supertramp, as they proceed through the fulfillment process.
The ad exhorts viewers to order gifts for distant relatives, with the tag line "Say hello to our singing boxes - here to help you send a smile this holiday." But anyone who's spent time in an automated DC knows that it's not the boxes that make fulfillment happen, it's the specialized warehouse machinery. Fittingly, the Amazon ad features automated handling equipment like high-speed shoe sorters, automatic label applicators, gravity chutes, mergers and combiners, and extendable loading conveyors.