According to a recent eMarketer report, worldwide retail eCommerce sales were set to reach $1.915 trillion in 2016, up 23.7 percent from 2015. By 2020, eMarketer estimates that eCommerce sales will increase to $4.058 trillion.
To accommodate this massive uptick in online sales, retailers must conduct significant facility upgrades for eCommerce growth. The eCommerce fulfilment centre of the future needs to be designed to handle an increase in direct-to-consumer shipping. Additionally, operations must be streamlined in order to deliver items to increasingly impatient customers in a fraction of the time it would have taken in the past. Here are the facility upgrades for eCommerce growth you need to implement as part of your strategy to ensure speed and efficiency.
1. Warehouse Management Systems
Warehouse supply chain management systems track the entire fulfilment process from receiving to shipping. As orders are received and fulfiled, the host system must be updated in real time to ensure that the process stays on track and that adequate inventory and delivery capabilities are available so all batches can be processed accurately and quickly. A comprehensive warehouse management system needs to track all orders, set waves and batches for picking orders, and track that inventory all the way through to the transportation management solution.
2. Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light Systems
Also known as pick-and-pass, these systems are essential for facilities that process high order volumes and ensure order accuracy. These systems guide employees to the right products using pre-scanned SKUs and also help them pack shipping containers accurately and efficiently. Operators are assigned to specific "zones" and equipped with cordless radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanning devices. As containers with specific products arrive on a conveyor, operators scan the label on each container and then proceed to pack individual orders into pre-labeled and pre-scanned shipping containers on a shelf in a specified zone—all guided by a simple light display. When individual shipping containers are filled with the required item(s), a light indicates that the order is filled; the operator pushes a button indicating that the process has been completed and then places the box back on a conveyor to the shipping department.
3. Mobile and Location-Based Technologies
Mobile technology has a number of important applications in an effective eCommerce fulfilment centre. For instance, operators can use mobile devices equipped with location-based technology to easily navigate a large warehouse. These mobile devices can also be equipped with "voice-pick" controls to tell operators where to find and place products via a voice command. These voice-pick-enabled devices have the added advantage of freeing up operators' hands so they can move items through the distribution chain faster and more efficiently.
4. Automated Packaging Systems
Fulfilment centers should be equipped with automation that enables faster packing and shipping. Based on the size and weight of the package, it is guided to the appropriate machine and then to operators that insert marketing collateral material and dunnage bags to stabilise and protect the contents during transportation. From there, the package is conveyed to a sealing machine and then to automated sorters that route it to the appropriate shipping dock.
As online shopping becomes more popular, facility upgrades for eCommerce growth will only become even more essential for retailers and third-party logistics providers. eMarketer projects that 14.6 percent of total retail spending will be online by 2020, making upgrades not only essential, but absolutely necessary to stay relevant in the marketplace.