The growth of e-commerce has continued to increase, and with it, so have the challenges posed by omni-channel fulfillment. In fact, the third quarter of 2016 saw online sales account for 11.3% of total retail sales; this was up from 10.9% in the second quarter. With no signs of slowing and with this sector taking a larger piece of overall sales, the time has come for your warehouse and fulfillment center to adapt as well.
As things change over time, the way we respond and act changes as well. Much of these changes are spurned on by technology. Are we are able to do things better, faster, and smarter as a result of these developments? Athletics have changed, education has changed, medicine has changed. Doctors treat patients differently now than they did 20 years ago; coaches train athletes differently; teachers teach students differently. Doesn’t it make sense for a warehouse to operate differently? Here are three warehouse ideas that can answer some of e-commerce’s challenges.
Omni-Channel Fulfillment Design
As customer behavior changes by the number of platforms on which they place orders, fulfillment design needs to change as well. It is important to have the technology, automation, and processes in place to accurately pick, pack, and ship orders that originate from a variety of touchpoints. Your warehouse may have originally been designed for full pallet or full case orders. Now, your customers may be placing smaller orders more frequently and in less than full case quantities. These changes are more labor intensive and require different material handling requirements to meet next day and same day shipping.
Leverage Your WMS
Warehouse Management System (WMS) designs today are built to address many of the biggest challenges presented by e-commerce order profiles. More systemic automation functionality are being used in response to higher volume and smaller orders. With more sophistication in automation, reporting, and visibility, an enhanced WMS will do more than just track inventory. It can dramatically improve dock to stock times, order accuracy, order cycle time and product fill rates.
Visibility Between Facilities
End-to-end inventory transparency and accuracy at the location level is a high priority for both cost savings and customer experience, two of the most important influences for online shoppers. IT-enabled systems and distributed order management (DOM) allow for orders to be fulfilled from any location, including warehouse and distribution centers and retail locations alike. The “endless aisle” is the new reality for many retailers and e-commerce platforms must be able to handle large and small orders wherever the origin of the variable demand. Having clear visibility of inventory, both in-store and in the warehouse is essential.