Modern ecommerce warehouse and fulfillment operations staff are tasked with some hefty challenges in any given year. But when the pandemic triggered an abrupt shift to online purchases last year, many were handling larger inventories and more receipts, picks, shipments, and returns than ever before.
Meet the Demands of eCommerce Growth
Like most, your backend operations probably got the job done, but often at a higher cost since “keeping up” with demand took priority over addressing process inefficiencies.
As it turns out, though, the digital retail trend is not short-term. In Q1 2020, U.S. ecommerce sales climbed 39% over the same time last year, and growth projections already are nearly two years ahead of forecasts.
With demand still high, any inefficiencies in your processes will be exaggerated (and hence, more costly), and limit your ability to scale your operations to meet ongoing ecommerce growth.
The good news: when it comes to efforts to optimize warehouse processes, small steps can make big impacts on your bottom-line costs, profit margin, even productivity – without significant investment in time, budget, or fancy software.
Ready to trim waste from your ecommerce operations? Get quick results with these five steps:
Small Step #1 – Keep It Clean
Never underestimate the power of “clean.” Dust and dirt can damage product; empty pallets take up valuable space; and scrap boxes and strewn paper become obstacles and potential safety hazards that impede machine and people access, reduce productivity, and add extra steps as workers maneuver to avoid roadblocks. Implement an ongoing “clean routine” task list for your warehouse to streamline traffic and protect product – and workers.
Small Step #2 – Cross-Docking Hack
In ecommerce, there is a lot of pressure to ship items fast. If you have back ordered or single-item orders for certain products, you can save valuable time by skipping the Putaway Process. Instead, set up a process to relabel them for shipping right as they come off the truck on the Receiving dock, and route them right back out the door of your shipping dock.
Small Step #3 – Put a Label on It
Labels have been around for decades, quietly getting inventory from point A to point B. Despite their importance, labels are perhaps one of the most underappreciated aspects of warehouse operations – and potentially one of the least efficient. Take time to audit and map your labeling process, paying particular attention to wasted motion, for example, the number of mouse clicks it takes to adjust formats, the number of trips a worker takes to/from the printer.
Try to reduce the extra steps and work toward achieving an ideal labeling process of Scan, Print, Apply. For more details, check out our blog on labeling.
Small Step #4 – Location, Location, Location
Certain items in your inventory may be more popular than others. For SKUs with higher order volumes or seasonal spikes, making them more accessible also makes processes more efficient. Location is key, so prioritize these items by placing them closer to packing for instance – and don’t forget to increase the bin size so stock doesn’t run low.
Small Step #5 – Extra Steps
It may be hard to believe, but simply reducing the physical number of steps an employee takes to fill an order can add up to significant cost- and time-savings. Converting a stationary workplace to a mobile one is the easiest, most economical way to increase the productivity of your current workers and infrastructure. Powered industrial carts, such as the line of products from Newcastle Systems, can hold and power printers, computers, and more to remove the tethers of a stationary workstation putting everything workers need to get the job done right at their fingertips. View our video case studies to learn how companies are putting mobility into action.
Turn Every Worker into a Super Worker
Unlike the pandemic, ecommerce is showing no signs of slowing. Efforts to optimize warehouse processes don’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. And doing so improves warehouse efficiency, and enables you to scale your operations successfully along with ecommerce growth.
Download our eBook, 7 Ecommerce Operations Secrets That Deliver Big ROI for more ideas on how to improve your warehouse efficiency without big investments in time and budget.