E-commerce Success Hinges on Warehouse Automation & Adaptability
The dramatic shift toward e-commerce has prompted warehousing operations to embrace essential multi-channel fulfillment, leaving little room for error or inefficiencies. While this presents several challenges, e-commerce retail fulfillment offers new opportunities to achieve and maintain a competitive edge for many warehouses.
Below are four strategies to effectively transform your warehouse into an automated fulfillment masterpiece.
Get more flexible and cost-effective to handle widely different order sizes
E-commerce has led to a proliferation of delivery options such as straight-to-consumer or BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) using smart lockers. Many warehouses face the difficulty of working with legacy warehouse management systems (WMS) that can’t easily adapt to new demands, and it can take months to change over to one that can. Despite these challenges, investing in a newer system is most definitely worth it. It will help you decide exactly how you’re going to handle different orders, analyze the flow and costs, and identify bottlenecks in order fulfillment. In essence, a warehouse operator needs to be able to pick and pack orders for individual end-consumers, like a retailer. For some, this will require a significant shift in thinking, but the benefits will speak for themselves.
Improve available inventory visibility
With the chaotic fluctuations in supply and demand, it’s become important to be highly accurate not just about what you currently have available in the warehouse, but what’s going to be coming in. Before digitization, companies tended to have an inadequate view of their inventory, monitoring only what was within the four walls of the warehouse. Now, with far more tools available to meet demand, it’s critical to step back and take a wider look. One solution to improving visibility is to pick a WMS that provides reports and dashboards able to meet the information requirements of sales, marketing, and supply chain personnel. You may also choose to use a WMS that features real-time dashboard visualizations that can be displayed prominently inside the warehouse, such as Modula’s vertical lifts WMS.
Rethink labor resources
With an ongoing labor shortage in the U.S. and high warehouse wages affecting many countries, it’s wise to consider alternative warehousing labor arrangements. One problem is rapid worker turnover. One customer in the U.S. had 100% turnover in its warehouse labor every three months. But, as the gig economy has shown, many are open to more casual, part-time jobs. In the past, employing too many part-time workers created problems; it took a lot of time to get a worker up to speed in the warehouse ops. The beauty of smart warehouse automation technology is that it presents the work as a series of step-by-step tasks and system-driven operational workflows. When the system is user-friendly enough for adoption by a new associate in a matter of hours, companies have the ability to get temporary and new workers up and running at 90% productivity after one day.