Omnichannel Fulfillment for Retail E-Commerce
Here’s how to double shipping capacity without doubling your staff. Start with a full stack warehouse management system (WMS) toolset.
For 4+ decades, I’ve managed logistics for high-growth enterprises. End-to-end solutions for hundreds of facilities employing thousands of workers. I’ve partnered with wildly successful retailers who’ve built strong brand presence both online and through their brick-and-mortar stores. They’ve required a warehousing strategy as agile as their business model.
Managing multi-dimensional products sold through multiple distribution channels is a solid competitive advantage. A full stack warehouse management system (WMS) toolset is a start. However, in a saturated market where suppliers try to be everything to everybody, the defining differentiator is one-touch integration across real and virtual channels.
Winning WMS systems handle layers of data; you can do sophisticated queries and fulfillment orders—with clear product differentiation.
Real-Time, All-the-Time Warehousing
The basics of an integrated omnichannel fulfillment strategy include lot traceability and live e-commerce. Inventory is moving all the time. But, clear product location visibility and fast inventory reconciliation can’t be the end all be all for quality data analysis.
You want the ability to reach beyond your warehouse to gather upstream order information and downstream transportation data. A truly integrated platform decreases dependence on safety stock and streamlines open-to-buy budget planning, all while enhancing customer experiences.
E-commerce Growth Strategies
E-commerce customer expectations can be substantial and require advanced fulfillment strategies for drop shipment, just-in-time purchasing, EDI connectivity, and, of course, multi-channel support. To be competitive, you need true native omnichannel connectivity.
Agile warehouse management is about reducing the day-to-day complexity of order fulfillment operations. An integrated platform significantly improves operational efficiency and workforce productivity. Easily adapt to shipping variations (ship ready, ship alone, etc.) and count on accurate, precise parcel measurements every time. But, perhaps, the greatest cost savings come with new processes for reducing time and touches.
Rather than increasing the number of workers on the floor to meet increased demand, your goal should be to make existing labor more efficient.
For example, cartons that don’t require repackaging (or a pack station) prior to shipping can instead be picked, labeled, and shipped under one continuous procedure; print carrier compliant labels from a mobile device when the carton is scanned. The worker simply “slaps” on the label and drops the carton at the conveyor to the truck.
Flexible Order Picking Methods
My company’s WMS (“PowerHouse”) is a systems integrator for complementary supply chain management software and for all leading e-commerce, marketplace, and carrier software. It is highly effective in handling volume fluctuations flawlessly and at a moment’s notice. The fact that the carrier system is fully integrated with the TMS adds another level of seamless execution.
Back to the earlier shipping variation example… The inherent efficiency of the “slapper” process results in more nuanced responses; only under certain circumstances is a case pick sent by itself. We configured such criteria in PowerHouse to recognize atypical conditions and to create case picking.
The biggest home run for omnichannel fulfillment is cutting down on lots and lots of touches.
For our clients, increased flexibility through integration has meant adaptation—and the ability to match their WMS to their warehouse environment over time.