I have never shopped at Zara, and would not have the first clue what types of clothes they sell. I only know as much about Zara as we discussed earlier in this semester during our lecture about competitive advantages. During that lecture, we discussed Zara being a leader in new product development time within the larger competitive priority of “time.” Knowing that Zara placed an emphasis on time, I was drawn to a WSJ headline recently about Zara working to speed up its “click and collect” service at its brick and mortar stores.
According to this article, Zara has been facing mild criticism over long wait times, disorganized processes, and confused staff at its collection points for its click and collect process. This process allows customers to purchase any array of Zara products online and opt for an in-store pick up rather than choosing home delivery at an extra charge. With hundreds of stores globally, including 85 in the US, the click and collect process is very accessible and has recently accounted for 1/3 of all online sales. However, when you combine that with Zara’s unmatched growth in the retail industry, it can cause some processes and capacity to lag behind the demand. Consistently high wait times at stores operating often over capacity have led Zara to rethink its revenue-heavy order collection process.
The current process already utilizes a JIT pull system for managing its inventory in this process. The logistics and supply side of the process are effective and efficient. The issue lies in the brick and mortar stores. The WSJ article linked below describes workers currently writing down order numbers on pieces of paper, then wandering around to find said orders. It also illustrated that there was no clear direction in store as to where click and collect orders are to be collected, causing customers to linger confused and wait in the wrong lines.
To solve these issues and promote continuous improvement, Zara recently announced plans to automate the click and collect collection process. This new automated system will utilize self-scan stations and robots to quickly bring collections to the customer. When the customer scans their confirmation, a robot-based system will automatically engage in the inventory-holding area to locate and transport the appropriate box. By speeding up collection processing time, Zara can reduce its average number of customers in line and its wait times, leading to increased free capacity, better customer satisfaction, and a tremendously improved process.
Whereas some companies may seek to staff more workers to solve this issue caused by high demand, Zara has used a Kaizen approach and seeked to address the process itself. Although probably leading to a larger initial investment, this process improvement project will certainly yield higher returns in the future as customers are more satisfied with the efficient nature of Zara’s click and collect service.