Demands of consumers are expanding, and the capabilities within an e-commerce WMS will empower supply chains with more data and ways to connect to consumers. Supply chain leaders that wish to stay competitive with Amazon and Walmart need to understand the challenges of e-commerce and the steps necessary to guarantee e-commerce WMS success, such as cloud-based WMS implementation.
Challenges of Handling E-Commerce With Traditional Systems
Using a legacy WMS exacerbates the difficulties of managing e-commerce growth in the warehouse. Traditional systems were built on the principles of business-to-business order fulfillment, and while shipping direct-to-consumer has been around for decades, it is nothing compared to the onus of managing e-commerce demand. Consider these top challenges presented in handling e-commerce with legacy systems.
- Traditional WMS solutions lack scalability, says John Dillon of Supply Chain 24/7. The inability to scale warehouse operations means supply chains are limited in their ability to augment productivity during peak shopping seasons. History reveals growth patterns accelerate after each peak season, so it is impractical to stay competitive with the major e-commerce players without a scalable solution.
- Legacy WMS applications do not integrate well with other platforms. Older platforms were also designed as standalone systems, and even if they were integrated with other supply chain systems, integration took months, if not years, to complete and implement. Unfortunately, the evolution of warehouse management requires changes to software use and application at a rate faster than manual upgrades.
- Older systems rely on linear supply chains. Linear supply chains are outdated, and today’s supply chain bends in on itself to fulfill an endless array of orders from all possible channels and locations, not to mention the complexities of managing returns.
- Systems may lack the capacity to provide insight into activities. A principal disadvantage of using legacy systems also involves a lack of insight. Insight is the ability to understand how actions in the warehouse affect profitability, and in the age of e-commerce, gaining insight commands data analytics.
Steps To Maximize Your E-Commerce WMS Success Now
A WMS by itself does not lead to improvements in the warehouse operation. Even the best systems have limitations, and they rely on data to generate insights. Unfortunately, small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) often lack the internal structure necessary to leverage a WMS to its fullest potential, says Brian Barry of Multichannel Merchant. However, companies that follow these steps can prepare their organizations to implement the full functionality of an e-commerce-driven WMS:
- Map aisles and use barcodes. Aisle mapping and labeling of bins or slots are crucial to leveraging automated technologies, especially robotics. More importantly, this information is vital to understand put-away and picking processes, which are the basis for using a WMS.
- Label products. This is not your typical barcode; labels can be generated in 2D barcodes, allowing for easier scanning, and storing more information than traditional barcodes.
- Leverage AIDC and wireless technologies. Another factor in using a modern WMS goes back to automated identification and data capture, as well as the use of wireless technology to enable flexibility and constant interaction between system components and workers.
- Use barcode-based processes. The most significant benefit of a modern WMS lies in its accuracy, and with the level of available technology, why would a warehouse continue using manual processes for data entry? The answer is simple; it may be easier than trying to implement a new system. Applying a new way of entering data will naturally yield better results, as well as lay the groundwork for a modern WMS.
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There is no one-size-fits-all approach to e-commerce WMS implementation. However, it is crucial for your warehouses and supply chain networks to have the technologies and foundation in place to facilitate the full scope of modern WMS functions.