Although eCommerce continuously grows at an astonishing rate, the number of warehouses has not yet grown enough to accommodate the surge in order fulfilment and processing. To tend to this, shippers today need to work more efficiently and productively so to have competitive advantage and give consumers solutions that work. The good news is that shippers and warehouse managers can follow the best practices about to be outlined in order to improve production that can then meet the surging demand.
Manage returns quickly and effectively
Returns are important to shippers because they allow consumers a peace of mind while shopping online. Carl Marin of Advantage Business Media explained that Amazon and Wal-Mart present their customers with the best return options, making possible returns easier and basically free to consumers. Unfortunately, more often than not, customers will not complete an online purchase if there aren’t any return policies in place or if they are too expensive. Competitors with a solid returns’ guarantee are instead going to receive all consumers who have neglected purchasing your products. This all simply means that shippers need to be prepared to attain costs of free return shipping, assistance when printing shipping labels and processing returns as they are received.
Proactively pull orders as they come in
Ecommerce warehouses are at a position where they are processing more orders than ever before. In other words, a single eCommerce warehouse may now be responsible for processing fresh fruits and vegetables, groceries, clothing, beauty supplies and basically any other type of product. Shippers need to proactively pull orders as they come in and understand that the way to ensure success is by prioritizing order picking to meet the demands of the consumers.
Manage all order types under one roof
At first, order channels were divided among different distribution centres. Orders for retail spaces came in from one centre while orders processed online would be handled by another centre. The separation was even more glaring as small package shippers operated almost independently of large-scale shippers making use of less-than-truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FT). However, emerging cheaper products, low shipping costs and faster delivery are making it difficult for shippers to operate without depending on one another.
In this field, having a dedicated transportation management system (TMS) that includes a WMS has become important for moving forward. Roberto Michel of Logistics Management reports that having a TMS combines the advantages of working independently with the advantages of working together. He mentions that shippers can integrate orders from different channels and of different modes into one environment, therefore reducing unnecessary delays and costs in the process.
Use metrics to track progress and order fulfilment processes
The high volumes of incoming orders via eCommerce only reflect one part of the multichannel supply chain. An eCommerce order is the final order by a retailer when a customer places one in the physical store. The role of eCommerce extends beyond purely eCommerce order and transportation needs. However, shippers should use metrics to track the percentage of orders fulfilled within time requirements, numbers of orders shipped within a specific given time frame, accuracy in orders picked, packaged and shipped, and labour productivity. All of these metrics each directly relate to customer promises such as free two-day shipping.
Having metrics to track progress and productivity is not enough. Your staff members need to be encouraged to work more efficiently. That does not work through threatening their employment and financial security because that will only return a sense of hostility and insecurity. There instead needs to be an incentive-based program that will encourage all employees to work together and increase progress & productivity. Such encourages collaboration, which can also be taken advantage of to increase collaboration across other parts of the supply chain.
Staff members who have the lowest error scores for a month’s worth of eCommerce orders for example, can be awarded additional PTO orders. This will propel your employees to go the extra mile in making changes in order to access cheaper, faster and more efficient shipping options like outsourcing auditing of small packages to a third-party logistics provider.
Optimize transportation requirements during picking
When not considering the labour costs that result from having employees physically pick products, the cost of transporting a shipment to the customer also features as one of the highest costs in the supply chain. Art Eldred and Tony Hollis of Supply Chain 24/7 mention that while many small orders may come in, the warehouse should actively work to reduce transportation costs by picking and packaging products for intermodal transportation. This will assist shippers reduce transit times and fuel costs – promoting faster, on-time delivery.