Warehouses play a critical role in supply chain management. They are the hub of all logistics activities. The advent of ecommerce has significantly impacted the warehouse scenario. Customers using multiple channels to purchase/shop is changing the demand profile with smaller, more frequent orders. Moreover, “sell anywhere and fulfil anywhere” mantra means customers expect faster shipping that is low cost or free. Dealing with this change require solutions that keep up with the need of the hour.
Let us take a look at traditional order fulfilment strategies, known as “wave processing,” - used by many to process large batch distribution orders. In this method, orders are picked in batches, based on assumed processing capacity. This worked satisfactorily for traditional wholesale channel order fulfilment. However, for an omnichannel operation, each order maybe unique with multiple small shipments involved. This new paradigm shift requires a different strategy - waveless order fulfilment.
Waveless picking reimagines traditional order fulfilment logic and offers a more flexible, e-commerce-centric fulfilment method. It continuously evaluates the order pool and automatically releases work based on variables such as order priorities and facility processing capacities. As soon as there is capacity in the fulfilment operation, new orders are processed. It is extremely valuable to today’s distribution centres, as the core science-driven methods support continuous analysis and real-time execution strategies.
With omnichannel focus, customers expect new alternatives in fulfilment such as buy online, pickup in-store or ship from store. Effectively this transforms a traditional retail store into a fulfilment centre. This requires optimization of store inventory and fulfilment to deliver on customer expectations. Retailers also need to confidently offer these flexible fulfilment options that meet profitability targets too.
Recent advancements in robotics and automation have transformed warehouses. Every resource – man and machine – needs to be orchestrated through efficient workflows to maximize performance. Modern warehouse execution systems need to be embedded within a WMS to efficiently and seamlessly orchestrate workflow across the full spectrum of resources. Several pioneering warehouses are now implementing voice picking and vision picking effectively to improve their picking operations.
Effective Employee engagement as well as labour efficiency is important in warehouse management. Warehouse managers need to have employee performance data, analytics at their fingertips (mostly mobiles!), easily accessible for agile decisions. Solutions that help conduct ‘what-if’ analysis to determine optimal staffing requirements are helpful.
In conclusion, the advent of positive omnichannel experience will continue to be shaped by consumer choices. Profitability of an enterprise will depend on key success factors such as well orchestrated execution, availability of real-time information/analytics, optimized inventory and ability to fulfil orders promised.
The article has been penned down by Ushasri Tirumala, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Manhattan Associates