You’re an established eCommerce retailer. You’ve got the customers and you’ve got the stock, but can your warehouse live up to the demand, especially during the peak? Last year on Black Friday, Amazon reported 5.5m orders in one day - that’s an average of just under 4,000 orders per minute. You may not be hitting those kind of sales yet but if your warehouse isn’t in order, it’s likely you never will. Poor warehousing leads to misplaced stock, overselling, and unhappy customers.
So how do you get the most efficient eCommerce warehouse possible? Implementing these 10 best practices is a good place to start.
1. Utilise gaps
Those little spaces between the system allocated locations should not be wasted. A big delivery has just come in. Your warehouse manager has 4 tired operators working to scan it all in and put everything away. Putting each item back in a system-designated location is going to take considerably longer than putting it in the nearest barcoded gap. Yes, it means that you have different stock in multiple locations, but it also means that your online systems can be updated faster meaning that the items are on sale immediately. As long as an item is scanned, your system will be able to find it again.
2. Know your in-bound stock
You need to be in control of everything coming in and out of your warehouse. That includes suppliers delivering stock. Produce a manual and lay down the rules; if they don’t abide by them, introduce a fine. You have a responsibility to deliver promptly to your customers and external companies should not hinder that.
If you want to know where all of your stock is at any given time then barcode everything. The stock, the locations - everything short of barcoding your staff. Knowing where each item is puts you a step closer to 100% order accuracy.
4. Logical layout
Keep the mazes in the lunchtime puzzle book and away from your warehouse layout. It should be so easy to navigate that a new warehouse operator could make sense of it within 5 minutes. Not only will this cut training times, it will also increase picking efficiency.
5. Pick smart
Traditional warehouses often deliver large pallets of stock to a single location. eCommerce warehouses operate on a completely different system with 80% of orders being single item. This involves a separate picking process that avoids having your operators wander back and forth across the warehouse. The best eCommerce warehouse management systems suggest the most suitable picking method for each order. For example, fanning out your pickers to pick multiple orders in nearby locations, can increase orders picked per person per hour by almost 250%.
6. Simple returns
It’s not just customers who love simple returns. If your warehouse operators need to fumble around with a returned package to find the barcode, it makes for unhappy workers and wasted time. Keeping things simple, clear, and easy to scan will save time and ensure that returns are re-allocated to the correct warehouse locations immediately.
7. Materials handling equipment
Don’t skimp and know what works. You could use a forklift to pick a few t-shirts but it would take a great deal longer and cost more money. The best warehouse equipment provides the best productivity which, in turn, provides the best order fulfilment for your customers. For instance, at the pack bench, workers pack 20% faster if they are arranged behind one another instead of side by side.
8. Know your shelves
Before you think of migrating to a larger warehouse, make sure that you are really making use of every inch of space in your current location first. Those big metal racks often eat up gaps that can be used for storing stock. Switching to tall stacks of plastic or cardboard boxes saves you an inconvenient and unnecessary warehouse move.
9. Master of all orders
Most eCommerce retailers use online marketplaces as well as their own websites to sell their stock. On sites like Amazon and eBay it’s all too easy for customers to leave a bad review if something goes wrong and, as a result, retailers tend to focus on getting their marketplace orders right over their webstore orders. By streamlining your warehouse processes you can ensure that every order, across all channels, gets delivered on time, every time. This makes for very happy customers.
10. Up-to-date inventory
Having 100% accurate stock figures is a must. Being right 98% of the time is not good enough if you want to be the first-choice retailer in your industry. If you can guarantee that all orders will arrive on time, and you eliminate overselling, sales will increase exponentially. It’s really as simple as that.