With the explosive growth of ecommerce, the role of warehousing is changing rapidly. New research from DC Velocity and ARC Advisory Group sheds light on how ecommerce fulfillment requirements are expected to impact warehouses in the next few years. Tom Patterson, Saddle Creek’s senior vice president of warehouse operations, takes a closer look at some of the best practices already employed today to address these emerging ecommerce fulfillment needs.
Adapting Today’s Warehouse Operations for Optimal Ecommerce Fulfillment
More bulk warehousing and cross-docking facilities will be needed in the next five years to accommodate increases in throughput and storage capacity needs as well as growing order complexity.
For companies seeking more bulk warehousing space, many 3PLs offer shared-space warehouse operations with the scalability to accommodate business growth and SKU proliferation without a major overhead commitment.
Cross-docking requires a smaller footprint than traditional warehousing and often utilizes less labor. With high turn rates and reduced handling, cross-docking helps to increase efficiency and get products to market faster. Because product is shipped in bulk and picked at the cross-dock, the practice offers great flexibility for changes to orders further down the supply chain. This helps to ensure a more accurate (and more responsive) process with shorter order cycles.
Fulfillment adaptability and fulfillment responsiveness are the capabilities most expected to grow in importance over the next five years.
Postponement strategies can be a creative way to adapt to customer demands and process orders faster. Waiting until the last possible moment to assemble rainbow packs or shrink wrap gift sets allows a company to handle a wide range of order profiles on short notice without maintaining excessive inventory.
Faster online order processing is crucial for fulfillment responsiveness. To help improve order turnaround and delivery times (as well as order accuracy), fulfillment automation solutions may leverage pick-to-light technology, voice picking, RF scanners and other capabilities. Knowledgeable 3PLs can apply best practices and custom engineer solutions for specific products for optimal efficiency.
Establishing a strategic distribution network that puts inventory closer to the end customer also helps to increase delivery speed while controlling transportation costs.
As warehouses fulfill more and more e-commerce orders, piece picking is expected to be the picking unit type to see the greatest increase over the next three years.
When fulfilling ecommerce orders and omnichannel orders, it is important to have the flexibility to handle a variety of order profiles under one roof and the capability to alternate between picking pallets, cases, and pieces, since order size can vary greatly.
As part of a warehouse management solution for a well-known footwear retailer, Saddle Creek recently implemented a full RF solution, which includes mobile wearable RF technology to give users hands-free capability to handle the single-shoe units that are being processed to the stores and directly to the end customer through the retailer’s ecommerce portal. Saddle Creek also handles full-pallet shipments for the retailer.
At Saddle Creek, we incorporate all of these best practices – and more – to give our ecommerce and omnichannel customers the speed, service and scalability they need to succeed moving forward.
Contact us today to learn how we can help prepare you for the warehouse of tomorrow.