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Warehouses and e-commerce distribution tablets are replacing unfriendly and non-ergonomic RF Gun handheld barcode scanners. Ultimately the tablet is a more efficient way for workers to capture the data that matters most, quickly and accurately.

Whether on the manufacturing production line or in the aisles of warehouses the very nature of scanning has changed dynamically away from traditional scanners and to tablets suitable for each environment.

Even the smallest e-commerce company must have the ability to deliver fulfillment with agility, accuracy, and efficiency. The ability to fulfill online orders requires a high degree of inventory visibility and operational efficiency. Inventory and asset management, directed picking, and proof of delivery are identical to the large distribution centers popping up throughout North America. E-commerce fulfillment solutions must allow mastery of high-velocity fulfillment processes and meet the ever-increasing customer demand for rapid product delivery.

Agile Customer Delivery Enabled via Tablet

Much has been written about the fact that customers demand faster order delivery. E-commerce retailers are feeling the pressure to meet that demand and maintain visibility from the time their shipment leaves the fulfillment center, through the last mile and into the customers’ hands.

Increase Efficiency throughout the Warehouse

From receiving to picking and staging to loading, operations with the help of tablets and new warehouse operation systems are becoming more agile, optimized, and better connected to manage inventory, people, and assets. Integration of the supply chain achieves increased efficiencies throughout the warehouse and requires implementation of dynamic fulfillment, which means realized transformational gains with best-in-class hardware, software, and solutions.

High-velocity e-commerce fulfillment centers rely on speed and efficiency to get products stocked, to be picked quickly. Efficiency throughout the supply chain is more important than ever to remain profitable and keep up with fast-paced customer demands.

E-commerce order fulfillment inaccuracies and inconsistencies are doing harm in maintaining hard-fought and hard-won customers. One mis-pick can lose a customer.  The cost of customer acquisition is the single greatest expense in e-commerce. Losing a customer has a dangerous and costly financial consequence. Customers and warehouses must set realistic expectations. This is only possible when data collected via tablets in the warehouse accurately reflect inventory, picking the right product, and shipped rapidly to the customer. Only then is there a successful e-commerce transaction.

E- Commerce Sales Means 2017 Biggest Sales Ever

The U.S. Census Bureau released its latest report, showing retail e-commerce sales reached an estimated $105.7 billion in Q1 2017, a 4.1 percent increase over the previous quarter and 14.7 percent year-over-year increase compared to Q1 2016.

The Census Bureau said the $105.7 billion estimate is adjusted for seasonal variation, but not price changes. According to the report, e-commerce sales made up 8.5 percent of the total $1.25 billion in retail sales generated in Q1 2017.

E-commerce sales are sales of goods and services where an order is placed by the buyer or price and terms of sale are negotiated over an Internet, extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail, or other online system. Payment may or may not be made online.

Estimated Quarterly U.S. Retail E-commerce Sales

The US Census Bureau plans on releasing its Q2 2017 report on August 17.

Retail e-commerce sales are estimated from the same sample used for the Monthly Retail Trade Survey (MRTS) to estimate preliminary and final U.S. retail sales. Advanced U.S. retail sales are estimated from a subsample of the MRTS sample that is not of adequate size to measure changes in retail e-commerce sales. A stratified simple random sampling method is used to select approximately 10,000 retail firms excluding food services whose sales are then weighted and benchmarked to represent the complete universe of over two million retail firms. The MRTS sample is probability based and represents all employer firms engaged in retail activities as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Coverage includes all retailers whether they are engaged in e-commerce or not.

Online travel services, financial brokers and dealers, and ticket sales agencies are not classified as retail and are not included in either the total retail or retail e-commerce sales estimates. Non-employers are represented in the estimates through benchmarking to prior annual survey estimates that include non-employer sales based on administrative records. E-commerce sales are included in the total monthly sales estimates.

The MRTS sample is updated on an ongoing basis to account for new retail employer businesses (including those selling via the Internet), business deaths, and other changes to the retail business universe. Firms are asked each month to report e-commerce sales separately. For each month of the quarter, data for nonresponding sampling units are imputed from responding sampling units falling within the same kind of business and sales size category or based on historical performance of that company. Responding firms account for approximately 72 percent of the e-commerce sales estimate and about 71 percent of the estimate of U.S. retail sales for any quarter.

With less than six months to the holiday shopping season this growth trajectory for U.S. retail e-commerce sales emphasizes the importance of technological preparedness. 

The National Retail Federation shows the reason the Winter Holidays are so important as a percentage to gross annual sales.

Leading providers of outsourced fulfillment solutions are opening new warehouse as fast as possible in 2017. Many of these new fulfillment centers are strategically located to enable next-day shipping to e-commerce customers across the United States. At capacity, these facilities it will be powered by a staff of approximately hundreds of full-time employees working alongside a state-of-the-art robotic autonomous picking solutions for maximum efficiency and accuracy.

These 3PLs (third party logistics firms) consider site selection as well as strategic carrier partnerships, so they can reach 100% of the U.S. population in no more than two to three days at extremely competitive rates, often with far less accessorial charges than other U.S.-origin zip code. Often the Midwest hub offers e-commerce retailers a quick two-day delivery transit time to New York City, and three-day transit to Los Angeles via ground shipping.   

Managing split inventory cross-country is no longer a necessity when a fulfillment network can provide two-day delivery to most e-commerce shoppers. Coupled with industry-leading same-day shipping performance, these transit times ensure customer orders arrive quickly and accurately. The time savings is found in how rapidly warehouses can process an e-commerce order. In more cases than ever before, distribution centers, warehouse fulfillment centers, and 3PLs can capture the online order and within an hour of receiving the order and make sure it is delivered with a custom – and often personalized – brand experience.

This growth is not only in the Midwest. Since the consumer, thanks in part to Amazon Prime driving even more rapid delivery expectations, companies are looking at four to eight distribution centers and consider them part of important strategic initiatives to increase the capacity of a fulfillment network. The best technology available today, and the best people, increases throughput and empowers employees to work at full capability and capacity.

Area Development asserts gone are the days when companies simply asked their 3PLs to do the “pallet in-pallet out” drill. Increasing e-commerce companies expect 3PLs to perform a host of sometimes complex, intricate, and even strategic tasks that were once performed by the companies themselves, with never a thought that such activities, being so critical to the company’s success, could ever be outsourced. Interestingly, the arrangements are working out so well that not only are companies asking their 3PLs to handle more and more of these value-added tasks, but the 3PLs themselves are coming up with innovative value-added ideas that allow companies (their customers) to focus more on their core competencies.

From a technology perspective, whether the warehouse is at the manufacturers facility or a distribution center to ensure rapid on-time delivery, the increasing popularity in value-added services from 3PLs seems to be growing because of synergy between customers and 3PLs. 3PLs are happy to take these responsibilities on because they make money on labor. Then, as they get more involved, they start to see additional opportunities for revenue and profits.

As Q3 2017 approaches, final holiday inventory preparedness for both eCommerce and 3PLs are taking place.

Shopify insists the holiday season is the most important (and profitable) time of year for online businesses.  The company provides some actionable advice to help small e-commerce firms take advantage of holiday traffic to generate more sales.

The holiday season is almost always the most profitable time of year for online businesses. Not only does the last quarter of the year see increases to the number of orders but the average order sizes also tend to be much bigger as well. In fact, some retailers make up to 40% of their yearly revenue in the last quarter alone.

Shopify acknowledges that with the day-to-day hustle of running an ecommerce business it is easy to forget approaching holidays.  The last two months of the year is packed with special holidays that e-commerce retailers should use to hit yearly targets, move new products, and clear out old inventory.

Bottom-line:  Start planning for the holiday shipping-season NOW.

The single most important change in warehouses over the past two years:  Tablets.

Some RFID guns are becoming less expensive and less bulky as vendors try and compete with the tablet mobile solutions market. Too little, too late.

Standalone or networked PCs are gone, nowhere to be found in distribution center. IT functions in warehouses have been relegated to third party vendors to save money and utilize current, fast-changing, best-practice technology.

Tablets are running warehouse operations—receiving inventory, recording shipments, tracking stock movement, and material flow.

Not only are standalone PCs gone, but tablets are quickly replacing bulky and expensive RFID guns that were a standard fixture in most warehouses over the past decade. Tablets are the backbone for most e-commerce warehouse operations.

Much cheaper than traditional RF guns, tablets are familiar to most warehouse workers.  They are lighter, more ergonomic, and easier to use for laborers without loss of functionality.

Just like RF guns, tablets are vital during the receiving process when product bar codes are scanned to match the shipment to the purchase order and confirm that the item numbers and quantities reflected on the purchase orders correspond with actual shipments.

During the put away process, tablets effectively ensure the product bar codes are scanned and show the item code, description, and storage location for each item in a software-determined sequence that will minimize travel time during the put away process. Tablets ensure products are placed on the correct shelf, slot, bin, or rack position.  Better than RF guns, tablets accurately report the quantity and location each item being stored in the warehouse.

The benefits of tablet scanning for 3PL (third party logistics) applications improve accuracy and efficiency. With real-time inventory visibility, labors costs are reduced.  Reduction in paperwork reduces the amount of information needed to be keyed manually from paper documents by warehouse labor and/or administrative support staff. Elimination of re-keying data minimizes introduction of error and attributes much of the increased productivity and reduced labor expense.

Tablet mobile devices are more durable, and even more suitable to rough warehouse environments. Longer battery life also makes tablets more effecient, making the cost-justification of tablets (90-day ROI) versus RF guns (2+ year ROI).

Tablets are the platform by which add-on apps and Operating Systems (OS) are being developed in warehouse operating systems (WOS). With 90 percent of e-commerce operations, less than $100M in gross annual revenue, smaller individual apps are good for smaller operations. That said, most of these solutions have the capacity to integrate with both WMS (Warehouse Management Systems) and WCS (Warehouse Control Systems).

WOS developers have ensured that regardless of the WCS/WMS utilized, there is compatibility with these operating systems, seamlessly integrating scanning and inventory control.

These considerations of integration means that IT personnel, who rarely have a full-time function in the smaller e-commerce business model, are less involved in maintaining WMS and inventory systems. Strategic supply chain design, organization, and planning is a more valued skillset.

The familiarity of tablet use means less training. Most people, like the shop floor, labor know how to use a tablet, so do their children. This reduced training impacts the bottom-line, driving faster work productivity and throughput and fewer picking errors. The movement away from the RF gun is seamless, rapid, and meets with little worker resistance.

Despite the effort of RF Gun manufacturers to hold-on to market share by nitpicking and fault-finding of tablet devices, the fate of the RF Gun is set.  The tablet will be the industry standard.

As Published in Wholesale Distribution International. To read the full article, click here.


Hoj Engineering and Sales Inc.

For many businesses, processing and shipping a high volume of small customer orders can prove challenging.

“The trend in the industry is toward larger volumes but in lower quantities – even to the point where you’re picking one item at a time for individual customers,” says Tim Hoj, CEO of HOJ Engineering and Sales Inc., a Salt Lake City-based material handling solutions provider. “A lot of traditional warehouse models aren’t equipped to handle that volume of orders.”

Read the full article online here.

 

As Published in Quality Digest. To read the full article online, click here.


Last Mile Delivery in the Supply Chain 

Flawless order fulfillment from a distribution center or warehouse to the customer’s door is the neglected leg of the supply chain. Ironically, without careful attention to the last mile, e-commerce customers are disappointed with the quality, accuracy, and condition of the products being delivered. Although tablets and mobile devices can provide the needed visibility, they are relatively new to the most important part of the supply chain: last-mile delivery.

Read the full article online here.

 

As Published in A&D India. To read the full article online, click here.


 Achieving perfection in logistics 

Passion, purpose and requirement are the three essential ingredients of any third party logistics, also referred to as 3PL that ensures an accurate fulfillment of maximum orders each day, their delivery-on-time and infusing transparency throughout the process.

Enlinx Logistics Services has cultivated the 3PL approach and has spent years understanding and growing the business. Sharing his insights on this, David Burns, CEO, Enlinx Logistics Services, described his company’s passion for perfect delivery and shared, “We experienced the exhilaration of rapid growth and the frustration of supply chain challenges that came along with it. We understand the importance of logistics and fulfillment in successful business operations. So, we are devoted to perfecting the 3PL business so that customers can stay focused on what they do best, which is further developing great products for their customers.”

Read the full article online here. (see page 54)

Download the PDF here.

As published in DC Velocity, June 12, 2017. To read the article on DC Velocity, click here.

 

In 2015, Pitman Creek Wholesale found itself facing the classic growth challenge. Founded in 1978 by Don and Marella Stephens, the Danville, Ky.-based fishing gear company started out as a custom lure manufacturer catering to customers in Central Kentucky. But after James S. Coffey purchased the company in 1993, it evolved into a full-line tackle distributor serving more than 2,000 retail locations in 49 states and several foreign countries.

That kind of growth is great for the bottom line, but it can create problems elsewhere in the organization. In Pitman Creek’s case, it was the company’s distribution operation that was feeling the strain. The wholesaler, which by then was stocking over 26,000 items from some 240 vendors, had outgrown the piecemeal warehousing system it had patched together over the years. “We were basically building our own warehouse management system with all the different applications [for packing, picking, and receiving],” says John D. Johnson, the company’s chief operating officer. “The problem was supporting these applications when we [needed to ramp up operations].” The applications did not have the capability to scale, he explains, which caused the apps to slow down or even crash during peak periods.

On top of that, the lack of a comprehensive inventory tracking system was hindering efforts to receive and put away inbound merchandise promptly. That, in turn, was compromising order pickers’ ability to fill orders swiftly. With inventory missing from the pick bins either because it had not been received or had not been restocked, order fill-rates and order accuracy were starting to suffer.

Those slowdowns and delays were unacceptable to Pitman Creek. What makes the company unique in its marketplace is its delivery speed. The company offers same-day shipping to its customers, something its competitors do not, Johnson says. “We do not use a batch system business model. Every live order is live. It’s sent directly to the warehouse and immediately picked, packed, and shipped,” he explains.

To turn the situation around, Pitman Creek purchased the WarehouseOS solution from Warehouse Mobile Solutions. A tablet-directed bar-code/order fulfillment solution, WarehouseOS enables Pitman Creek to manage the flow of products from the time they are received through putaway, replenishment, picking, and packing. Today, this process involves 70 operators on the floor utilizing iPads that are connected to small Bluetooth scanners. For purposes of putaway and picking, operators simply scan items and locations as directed by the tablet devices.

With the system in place, the company now has the ability to track receipts throughout the facility, whether they’re in a temporary home, a back stock area, or the pick/storage locations. The solution also enables Pitman Creek to generate constant restocking reports so it can ensure the home pick locations are always filled, increasing the efficiency and speed of pickers.

On top of that, the WarehouseOS solution has enabled Pitman Creek to run a picking and packing incentive program for personnel based on their production. Following the initial implementation phase, the company launched an incentive base structure for warehouse employees that provided for workers to be paid by the units produced through picking, packing, and putaway, taking into account the accuracy of work as a qualifier. “This has been the single most productive program we have put in place to date,” Johnson says. “Our speed to shelf has never been faster, and we are [getting] more orders out than ever before with fewer resources in place.”

As for the project’s timeline, full implementation of the solution, including the new incentive system, was around three months. Since going live with WarehouseOS in August 2015, Pitman Creek has seen an increase in output, better inventory accuracy, and more effective allocation of resources. Among other gains, picks per minute per operator went from less than six to as high as 9.9 (almost 500 picks per hour), daily fill rates (orders shipped same day) went from 84 percent to more than 92 percent, and output pieces per minute for the overall facility increased from 45 to 110 units of picks per man-hour, resulting in an average of 10,000 pieces per hour.

By Diane Rand
Article Featured in DC Velocity.

How many of your orders are mis-packed, mis-shipped, or even unavailable to ship? This can cause a loss of revenue and vital data. Warehouse operations do not control sales, but they do control distribution, which is where maximum profit can be captured (or lost).

Warehouse businesses always operate on thin margins, so fine-tuning operational efficiency may well determine profitability or loss. This can only happen when measurement metrics are in place. This post describes some of the most critical key performance indicators (KPI’s) that should you should track.

Often, warehouse e-commerce companies assume that they are at maximum storing capacity and cannot expand. Your next move does not have to actually involve moving to a new building. Complete utilization of your warehouse space needs to be properly assessed to know if you are truly out of space. The right metrics will determine the amount of available space you can still use to optimize delivery and profitability.

KPI’s For Warehouses

Over 200 KPI’s monitor the overall performance of a supply chain to get a more granular picture of the warehousing business.

Note: Using a tablet-based fulfillment solution provides the real-time data in modern warehouses to ensure that the KPI’s are satisfied. The key areas for real-time data accuracy are receiving, put away, storage, pick and pack, and shipping.

And the Metrics Are…

Inventory Accuracy
In a 100% optimized warehouse model, nothing is as important as inventory accuracy. This has direct impact on working capital and order fulfilment capacity. Warehousing operations are increasingly looking at the KPI’s that have been used by the manufacturing sector for decades.

Cycle Time
Data regarding cycle time measures the total time taken since the material came in as inventory and was picked up by the shipper for delivery, as a part of the order. The shorter the cycle time, the more money available as working capital.

Productivity KPIs among e-commerce warehouses will measure the number of orders to be picked up by the shipper, per hour (or in real-time, using cloud based apps).

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) data shares whether equipment is being fully utilized. Underutilization of the equipment represents an opportunity for production capacity and profitability; overutilization may indicate higher maintenance and replacement costs. Least lean are idle equipment which depreciates without any return on investment.

Given the labor-intensive nature of warehouses, OEE is often recoded as Overall Employee Effectiveness. Ultimately the data collection allows warehouse operations to measure and understand the efficiency of warehouse operations. The finer the KPI, the deeper the control it can provide. While granular dissection of these data are terrific, ultimately the small e-commerce warehouse must pay closest attention to top line revenue, bottom line profits, and ROI (return on Investment).

 

Read the article in Manufacturing Tomorrow on how WarehouseOS was integrated in an advanced 3PL environment.

May 16, 2017, Excerpted from Manufacturing Tomorrow

“Measuring the number of perfect picks, volume of picks, savings by replacing traditional RF guns are data points that allow 3PLs (third party logistics) to quantify both a rapid ROI (return on investment) and TCO (total cost of ownership)

David Burns, CEO of Enlinx, shared the importance of perfect delivery. The 3PLs (third party logistics) perfect shipping is vital as manufacturers expect thousands of orders fulfilled everyday are accurate, delivered on time, and all involve have transparency throughout the process.

Like many 3PLs experiencing rapid on-line growth of their customers, Enlinx enlisted WarehouseOS solution. Before WarehouseOS the company was using a method called “Pick and Pass.”

Read the full article here.