When is the right time to automate my order volumes?

Most e-commerce companies have deployed some measure of automation within customer order management. Many will even have their processes completely electronic. The ability to move products and orders electronically can close a costly gap in overall performance. 

How you fulfil and ship your orders is integral to any e-commerce business. However, no warehouse is the same - the size and style of items you handle may be huge or uniform. You may operate in a high-tech warehouse or an older style warehouse made up of small rooms. Then you have all kinds of additional complexities such as multiple sites, system integrations and the printing of packing and shipping slips.

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Should I get a Warehouse Management System (WMS)?

Not necessarily. For example, if you’re just starting out or are still relatively small the need for a high-quality Warehouse Management System (WMS) isn’t likely to be beneficial.

You should focus on building your customer experience and slowly, but surely, building those orders week upon week until you regularly have enough to warrant a WMS system. This is a better option than taking on the risk and additional expense a WMS would require, which wouldn’t be suited to companies shipping small amounts each week.

Of course, if you’re already shipping a considerable number of orders on a daily and weekly basis you will find more stress placed on the manual processes you currently have in place. It is at this point where you will want to seriously consider a WMS.

Every warehouse situation is different. You will have a certain average volume of orders, with an average number of SKUs (stock keeping units) per order. You may even have the same volumes each day or huge spikes on certain days, weeks or months.

What about when I scale?

We believe that there is a range of numbers which is a tipping point for most businesses: 200 – 500 orders per day. This number will be dependent on what type of business you are in and what kind of products you are shipping. However, based on our experience with e-commerce retail businesses, this is normally where we see a trend and would recommend the implementation of a WMS.

If you are approaching that number, or have a plan to reach that point in the next year – you will find a properly planned and implemented WMS will transform your working world.

If you are seeing scale, and can see that you may need to automate orders in the not too distant future, then you should start to consider the implementation in advance. Doing this will enable you to hit the ground running when you do hit the sweet spot for daily orders, and it’ll mean you are not caught flat footed when you do.

WMS are able to support e-commerce growth; including any seasonality spikes such as Black Friday and Christmas where you can easily see your order volume explode. In these instances, what would have been done in a week is happening over the course of one day. By implementing a WMS you can quickly train your additional seasonal staff and ensure that picking and order accuracy rates remain high.

For more information on how a WMS can help transform your e-commerce operations, download our free e-book ’11 things to consider before you implement an e-commerce Warehouse Management System’: