E-commerce will continue to grow significantly through 2020 and beyond. As evidenced by the most recent peak shipping season, the need for effective, high-quality logistics and warehouse management has never been higher. The demands for faster, more affordable processes are growing in stride. As reported by Jeff Berman of Supply Chain 24/7, “[up to] 70% of B2C companies and 60% of B2C companies are focused on the full implementation of their respective ecommerce supply chain strategies, with 70% of total respondents viewing ecommerce at ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important,’ as it relates to volume and revenue.” To stay competitive and relevant in the world of e-commerce, supply chain leaders need to understand the value of a few core systems that promote retail fulfillment and provide strategies for success for those within the e-commerce supply chain.
The warehouse management system (WMS) is the most recognizable and diverse of the e-commerce supply chains’ system lineup. The warehouse management system serves as the system of record for all in-warehouse and distribution center activities. The WMS connects to supplier systems and reseller POS platforms. It can include labor management functions and could even offer opportunities for improvement through automated order processing and routing.
The use of a warehouse control system goes a long way in building efficiency in the supply chain. As defined by TechTarget:
“A warehouse control system (WCS) is a software application for orchestrating activity flow within a warehouse or distribution center. The WCS coordinates material handling sub-systems such as conveyor belts, carousels, scales and sorters. At each decision point, the WCS determines the most efficient product flow and transmits directives to the equipment controllers to achieve the desired result. Facilities with automated material-handling hardware often have a warehouse control system (WCS) that integrates with a warehouse management system (WMS) to provide management with a comprehensive view of the warehouse.”
As a result, companies continue to benefit more from the integration between these systems, enabling the use of automated robotics throughout the enterprise.
A warehouse execution system (WES) is a newer solution, allowing companies to tap the value of a WMS without making the full leap into a WMS. WES functions include supply chain controls to improve performance, including light task management, wave management, limited inventory management, and some picking.
The yard management system (YMS) is a useful tool for managing trailers, drivers, and stored inventory in the yard. Supply chain leaders can amplify the value of the YMS by adding gate management to ensure drivers do not arrive early and to validate all inbound deliveries. This reduces the risk of fraud and theft by enhancing visibility to the freight in the yard, which in turn provides additional integrity into the supply chain.
The dock scheduling system (DSS) is responsible for both managing inbound and outbound logistics at the facility. This includes the dock schedule for trucks arriving, the movement of trucks from the yard to the dock, staff for manning the dock, and more. Without an effective dock scheduling system, the flow of goods will bottleneck and result in major inefficiencies. More importantly, the dock scheduling software goes a long way in ensuring the timely arrival of goods and keeping drivers’ claims for detention pay at bay. In other words, the dock scheduling software acts as the system of record for when goods move into or out of the physical warehouse doors.
The transportation management system (TMS) handles the logistics of moving freight from suppliers to your facility and when freight leaves your site headed for the customer’s destination. While this step may be subject to carrier availability and systems used, the application of a TMS is a critical step in automating and leveraging real-time freight rates and keeping freight spend under control. The TMS further improves supply chain visibility by keeping everyone informed of freight status, including potential delays or other areas of concern, such as damage and more.
Integrated e-commerce shopping cart systems are another critical component of modern, omnichannel supply chain management. Multiple shopping cart providers exist, and without integration, these carts are meaningless payment processors. Through integration, integrated shopping carts aid in efficient inventory management and continuous improvement of e-commerce supply chains.
More companies are turning to third-party systems to stay competitive in the age of e-commerce. For instance, working with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) may alleviate constraints with finding available capacity, sourcing products, sourcing logistics, and more. According to Berman:
“Due to rapid growth and rising customer expectations, the report observed that companies often struggle with developing a supply chain that not only meets expectations but also can scale rapidly to provide the same or a better level of service as their business grows.
And it added that this can lead them to partner with a 3PL to boost their in-house capabilities and resources and be able to scale up quickly and effectively in order to capitalize on ecommerce opportunities.”
Efficient e-commerce supply chains depend on the sharing of data and collaboration. Without collaboration, omnichannel supply chains would cease to exist, returning to their stale, siloed management styles. With a robust set of systems in place, supply chain leaders can gain end-to-end visibility, promote their brands through better customer experiences, lower inventory carrying costs, improve order fill rates, and leverage the latest technologies.
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