There is nothing quite like the ease of ordering things online. The holidays are around the corner, and millions of Americans will turn to their phones, computers and tablets to get the gifts they need. Unfortunately, millions more will still go to brick-and-mortar stores to find those special items, and the push toward online and omnichannel ordering will continue grow, which is why it is increasingly important to invest in eCommerce Warehousing.
In your organization, the ability to adapt to the changes in demand of your direct consumers and business-to-business (B2B) partners will strain even last year’s technologies. However, if you can leverage these “best practices,” you can create an ecommerce warehousing solution ideal for both holiday and year-round scalability and growth.
1. Embrace “Chaotic” eCommerce Warehousing.
Chaotic storage and ecommerce warehousing is a means of storing products that was developed by Amazon. Chaotic storage does not follow any logical process, explains Larry Alton of Entrepreneur.com. Instead, it focuses on using any available shelf space for incoming storage, and the location of the items are logged into the warehouse management system (WMS). While it seems illogical, it does reduce time spent in trying to find new, ideal places for products.
2. Consider On-Demand Warehousing.
More on-demand services are being offered online than ever before. From Airbnb to Uber, including Netflix and a host of other services, outsourcing for exactly what you need has become a core function of modernity, explains Amitabh Sinha of Supply Chain 24/7. The same concept is also being applied to outsourcing complete or partial warehousing needs on an as-needed basis.
3. Target Two-Day Shipping.
Major online and big-box retailers, including Amazon, Target and Walmart, are targeting two-day delivery times, if not same day shipping or pickup. Therefore, all smaller e-commerce warehouse solutions need to strive toward this same goal. Otherwise, consumers will go to your competitors.
4. Combine Traditional and E-Commerce Warehouse Locations.
E-commerce warehouses do not necessarily require a different location or warehouse. In fact, up to 70 percent of companies are combining traditional retail, B2B and e-commerce warehousing operations under one roof, explains Chris Cunnane of Logistics Viewpoints. However, different sections of the facility may be used for specific e-commerce or traditional fulfillment purposes.
5. Build Touch-Plan Strategies For Different Order Types.
Smaller orders should have fewer touch points. However, large orders of the same item should also have minimal touch points. These facts imply a touch-point strategy should be in place for different types of orders placed, including e-commerce orders.
For example, single-item orders should only have one touch point, but multi-item orders for a store should have at least two touch points. An indicator or alert label should be used to help pickers, packers and loaders identify these shipments easily.
6. Integrate WMS With Other All Order Fulfillment Systems.
The warehouse is only part of the product cycle. All existing warehouse, procurement and logistics systems should operate within the same omniscient system. This transportation management system (TMS) is key to reducing delays and keeping the entire supply chain flowing properly.
7. Use Technology to Boost Training and Mobility.
Training and mobility have become synonymous with “new hire.” New employees need to be able to complete training almost from anywhere and in real time. Cloud-based computing and personalized training modules can help new hires learn as they begin working, reducing overhead costs and delays during peak seasons, asserts Eric Lamphier of Multi-Channel Merchant.
8. Use Batch Pick to Carts.
Warehouses had grown accustomed to picking orders individually, but the demand created by e-commerce requires faster picking of many different orders. Consequently, warehouses must create a strategy for picking different types of orders faster, such as zone pick-and-pass or multi-order pick to tote. Ultimately, this helps get more accomplished sooner. Of course, mobile technology, such as radio frequency scanners, can help ensure all picks are accurate by verifying the items’ specifications against orders automatically.
9. Implement Adaptable Pack Zones or Stations.
Rigidity in warehousing is incompatible with e-commerce. All plans and strategies need to adapt to real-time data regarding demand fluctuations, forecasts and changes in how consumers are ordering. Rather than devoting additional resources to the construction of new warehouses for peak seasons, existing areas can be converted to pack zones or stations, allowing pickers to complete the order packing process faster, promoting faster delivery and fewer touch points.
Why Best Practices Are Essential.
E-commerce is only going to grow larger in the coming years. Traditional means of warehouse management are obsolescent, and omnichannel orders mean your organization needs to be ready with the right product on-hand, at the right time and ship it almost simultaneously with the customer’s “checkout.” Ultimately, these nine best practices are essential to fulfilling your orders and being successful in the next wave of omnichannel, e-commerce options for customers and brick-and-mortar stores alike.