E-Commerce vs. In-store? A Material Handling Solution Can do Both

Distribution centers of today are facing a unique challenge: You must be able to fulfill e-commerce orders while still maintaining a retail presence. Most companies—especially those smaller in size—aren’t able to create two centers and two solutions to fulfill each side of that equation. That makes it important for a solution to do both, so your company can do both.

Solutions should be able to handle a wide range of products very quickly. Variations in size, weight, weight distribution, product type and shape are standard. It’s important to have the ability to:

  • Reduce shipping costs
  • Utilize both cartons and bags
  • Utilize space
  • Ship quickly

When searching for a material handling solution, you’ll need to find a provider and equipment that can do all four.

Reducing shipping costs

Since dimensional weight is now considered in cost, shipping all items in similarly sized boxes isn’t financially sound. Most shipping couriers base their charges on size and weight, making it necessary to utilize efficient packaging. For items shipping together, it may make the most sense to ship them in a box—but for one-off items, and especially small ones, companies should use poly bags.

The trick is to create a system that can accumulate, sort and transport all of your products, including these bags and cartons. It is imperative that the solution is able to handle the widest range possible.

Cartons and bags

As stated before, a distribution center that is shipping both directly to customers and directly to stores has to be able to do both. This means that orders may go out in mass, as with retail, or item-by-item, as with e-commerce. Picking to both cartons and bags allows a business to achieve the throughput necessary and requires great control over the product being conveyed.

The industry is evolving—many companies have created solutions that will convey poly-bags, neglecting to realize that the future requires more. A solution that can transport both bags and cartons with ease is the best bet.

Utilizing space

Making the most of the space you have will help your throughput when needing to convey, accumulate, sort and ship more product. Not only will using minimal space between products create a higher throughput—it will reduce the space needed overall. In addition, when sorting, a dual-sided solution allows for shipment from twice as many locations, so you can use less space for more destinations.

Shipping quickly

On the e-commerce side, products need to be shipped in a matter of hours, so you have to react quickly. Setting up a Warehouse Control System (WCS) will create more functionality in your system to prioritize and ship to different areas. Unlike a Warehouse Management System (WMS), a WCS lets you make real-time decisions with product to transport it quickly where it needs to go. A WCS responds immediately to instructions from multiple business systems, a wide variety of equipment and from operators. With pre-determined and automated routing, the WCS manages minute-to-minute tasks of the warehouse.

E-commerce may be the future, but retailers must be able to function in both brick-and-mortar and online areas. Ensure that your solution is adequate by choosing a system that allows you to maintain a high throughput in today’s retail landscape.

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