Last year saw a 16 percent increase in e-commerce sales to $453.5 billion according to a U.S. Census Bureau report. This was no surprise as e-commerce sales have averaged a 15.2 percent and $40.5 billion increase every year since 2010, doubling since 2012. During that same time, the size of new warehouses in the U.S. increased by more than 108,000 sq. ft. (143 percent) and 3.7 ft. in height.
How do businesses configure these warehouses? Gone are the days of a designated DC. Many companies are transitioning their DCs to a shared e-commerce space. Solutions with a small footprint are optimal for those who don’t have the finances to expand their facilities. This is crucial for businesses as customers are demanding a wide variety of products with faster delivery time. So, when it’s time to set up your facility for e-commerce, there are many things to consider.
Warehouse Control System
Products need to be shipped in a matter of hours, so you must react quickly. Setting up a Warehouse Control System (WCS) will create more functionality to help prioritize and ship orders. A WCS lets you make real-time decisions with a product. It 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.
The order has been placed by the customer. How are you going to collect the products to ship? There are many different processes to choose from depending on your business need. The pick-to-light system offers increased productivity, shorter training time and increased order accuracy. Goods-to-person system is an accurate and efficient solution that is also ergonomic for the picker and easily scalable for the business. Like the goods-to-person system, an autonomous mobile robotics system, offers an increased accuracy and efficiency. Augmented reality picking systems allow the picker to operate hands-free, provide fast fulfillment times and has low training times.
Once the order has been picked, it must be packed. Your packing solution must ultimately protect the item(s) shipped. However, there are many thoughts to consider when determining your solution.
An economical solution is a definite plus for your business, but will it protect the order during shipping? If not, 20 percent of consumers will not use the retailer again. On the flip side, 27 percent of consumers become aggravated with bulky packaging that is difficult to recycle. The trick is finding the optimal balance of economically protecting and shipping the order while also using eco-friendly materials.
Choose wisely during this process. Replacing a damaged item can cost up to 17 times the original shipping cost—not to mention the time it will take to rebound from negative social media comments and/or product reviews.
How are you going to sort the packages for shipping? You can use multiple carriers to ship your packages. This gives your customers an option of whom they would prefer to ship their package, even if going with one carrier may be more efficient and cost efficient for your business.
There are many things to consider when setting up your warehouse for e-commerce. This is a large investment for your business. Make sure you do your research to make the most of the space in your warehouse.
About the Author
Cliff Mullis is Director of Systems Development at Hytrol. He is responsible for business development, new market development and penetration, point-of-sale support for Hytrol integration partners and for driving end user value.