Last Updated: December 2023
According to a recent Forbes study, eCommerce popularity was expanding before the pandemic, but COVID-19 fastforwarded its growth by as much as 4 to 6 years. While the increase in online sales was amazing, it came with its own set of problems though. The organization of a successful online (or eCommerce) shop requires a well-functioning warehouse. With a global pandemic and shifting consumer purchasing habits, the year 2020 may prove to be even more crucial than the store.
The majority of warehouses were unprepared to handle the influx of online sales, particularly when selling directly to consumers. The problems were exacerbated by new safety rules, personnel shortages, and supply chain delays, underscoring the necessity for a complete eCommerce strategy that was tightly linked throughout the eCommerce warehouse.
Preparing Your eCommerce Warehouse Infrastructure for Online Demand
Consumers anticipate shorter delivery times and lower costs as a result of the eCommerce boom, making warehouse and distribution center operations even more challenging. Warehouses that do not plan ahead and embrace digitization and future-proof technology face the risk of becoming obsolete.
While changing their warehouses, warehouse managers should pay close attention to the huge changes that eCommerce is causing in the warehouse industry and plan ahead for fulfillment techniques.
Below are five warehouse essentials for getting your warehouse ready for the eCommerce revolution
1. Slotting optimization for organized inventory
An efficient warehouse is one that is well-organized: it makes basic procedures like picking and restocking more accurate, easy, and rapid, enabling the fulfillment of more orders in lesser time. When it comes to preparing a warehouse for eCommerce companies, warehouse managers should understand the necessity of slotting optimization.
Warehouse slotting is the step-by-step process of assessing inventory data to categorize and organize inventory within a warehouse or distribution center. The goal of slotting your warehouse is to make your operations as efficient as possible.
Slotting optimization allows warehouse workers to pick items faster, allowing for next-day or same-day delivery, which is not only a popular option today but also an increasingly necessary aspect of eCommerce. Using the best eCommerce warehouse layout also assures that you get the most out of your warehouse storage capacity.
While manual warehouse slotting optimization is possible, it necessitates the analysis of a large amount of data (at least a full year’s worth), including seasonality and projected inventory growth. Hence, investing in an automated system allows more time for your team to focus on other vital activities.
2. Cluster picking strategy
Before the development of eCommerce, warehouses and distribution centers used to process orders in bulk. However, warehouses are now dealing with smaller orders and even single items, which necessitates a more effective picking strategy.
If you want to make your warehouse ready for eCommerce, cluster-picking is a simple method to start with.
It’s a cost-effective method that focuses on item picking rather than orders. Cluster picking is a piece selection method that allows you to pick pieces for many orders at once by grouping them into pick clusters. You then have to visit the pick location just one time. This feature is typically used for picking small orders or amounts that are lesser than case quantities.
To avoid errors, a single picker collects many orders at the same time and arranges them in separate totes.
Cluster-picking reduces worker travel time, allowing for faster picking and the possibility of meeting tighter delivery schedules.
Additionally, using a Warehouse Management System (WMS), which gives the picker an efficient picking path and identifies the specific item to pick and where to store it, can optimize this process. In cases where a set of orders must be prioritized over the others, a WMS can also prioritize item picking.
3. Reverse logistics processes
Reverse logistics is a type of supply chain management in which customers’ items are returned to vendors/producers. Reverse logistics is required for activities such as returns and recycling after a customer has received a product.
In the past, reverse logistics was considered an afterthought, but the eCommerce boom has altered everything! Customer happiness and retention, as well as brand trust on platforms such as social media, have become more reliant on providing a hassle-free return experience.
Reverse logistics begins with the end-user and works its way backward through the supply chain to the distributor or from the distributor to the manufacturer. Reverse logistics also includes operations such as refurbishment, recycling, and resale wherein the end-user is responsible for the product’s eventual disposal.
Dedicating a return area or adjusting your eCommerce warehousing layout, setting and measuring KPIs, and full WMS integration are some strategies to improve this process.
4. Choose the right technology
For the warehouse business, technological innovation is one of the best methods to solve the issues of eCommerce. Many businesses, however, are still hesitant to invest in warehouse technology since it can be costly.
Your warehouse could be equipped with a tailored solution that suits your budget and provides you with a high return on investment.
It is not essential to purchase an army of robots similar to those used by Amazon and FedEx to prepare your warehouse for eCommerce. Instead, start with low-cost warehouse solutions like mobile printers that can produce labels no matter where you are in the warehouse. This type of technology can help warehouse workers save time and money by reducing their travel time. Other technologies include Automated Picking Tools, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV), etc.
Also, tablets and other portable devices are becoming increasingly popular in warehouses, allowing workers to stay connected regardless of their location within and outside the facility. Various warehouse solutions could be considered to add value to your operations, given the wide array of warehouse technology accessible today.
5. Advanced warehouse management system
With the rise of eCommerce and multi-channel fulfillment, many companies have realized that their existing system may fit their brick-and-mortar fulfillment environment, where the lowest level of picking is typically a case, but when doing many individual items picks for eCommerce, it’s a different set of WMS needs.
Using a legacy WMS in your warehouse might lead to bottlenecks and delays when fulfilling a large volume of orders. This is due to the limitations of older WMS solutions, which include the inability to use newer warehouse technologies.
As a result, upgrading to a sophisticated WMS system that can deal with new technologies like mobile devices, dimensioners, and others is strongly suggested while preparing the warehouse for eCommerce. Utilizing modern technologies will assist you in optimizing warehouse processes and addressing some of the biggest eCommerce concerns.
Also read: 8 Advanced Shipping Rules Apps for Shopify
The Bottom Line
As eCommerce grows in popularity, warehouses and distribution hubs should be prepared to meet shifting consumer demands. You can start small by integrating new technology or using more efficient picking methods.
As eCommerce expands massively over the next few years, warehouses and distribution centers must prepare to support the changing demands of consumers to ensure survival.
Are you feeling ready to make the leap to eCommerce?
We at Helplama are experts in providing eCommerce organizations with customer service outsourcing. We have ample eCommerce knowledge to provide you with credible recommendations on what type of outsourced customer care solution will be the best for you. We make sure your customers get expert advice when they are indecisive about anything.
Contact our experienced team today.