Understanding What Goes Into An Efficient Fulfillment Operation

Busting at the seams, unable to keep track of inventory, and massive SKU proliferation are obvious signs that an automated warehouse solution must be implemented. That said, most e-commerce entrepreneurs have no idea how to distinguish a WMS (warehouse management systems) from a WCS (warehouse control system) from a WES (warehouse execution system). Even some large companies with experienced operations managers have a tough time with these distinctions.

The warehouse model was different when pallets of products were being shipped to retailers. Warehouses with fork trucks were operating in a B2B (business to business) modality. Raw materials came into a manufacturing plant, product was made, and then shipped out for distribution to the brick and mortar stores.

E-commerce changed that entire paradigm. Some call this the Amazonification of retail, where a small number of SKUs are shipping in a bubble pack to the consumer.  This B2C (Business to Consumer) model is quite different than B2B. Pallets are gone in many cases and it is now a matter of effectively planning an internal fulfillment center. It is critical to know where the inventory is located, in what quantity, when to reorder, how to pick and pack small orders quickly and with accuracy. Product must arrive promptly at the customer’s doorstep, and there must be a plan to manage returns.

Even the most creative entrepreneur, with the best innovation and invention, probably has little or no experience is this type of logistics planning. Before considering the location, size, and type of warehouse, there is great value in spending a little money on a logistics warehouse planning expert.  What is really needed based on both current order levels and anticipated growth are vital questions to answer before signing a leasing agreement and buying expensive WMS software.

Considerations of Order Management and Distribution Management

Multichannel Merchant magazine described some of the top considerations for  eCommerce companies to consider, including the fact that order management systems (OMS) play a key role in fulfillment as the front-end intelligence layer, matching supply and demand resourcefully. They integrate with many systems including web storefronts, warehouse management systems (WMS), enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, and store systems. With the OMS, fulfillment directives are intelligently sent based on knowledge of all inventory positions, labor availability and transportation costs.

Especially for today’s multichannel businesses, order management plays a key role in providing insight into enterprise inventory availability, including stores, increasing customer confidence, and improving conversion rates. The OMS should also provide flexible fulfillment policy automation to maximize margin. It also needs to properly route the order by tapping a fulfillment location based on enterprise strategies, customer expectations, and real-time network conditions.

Distribution Management (DM) mobile solutions play a strategic role in helping managers see the work in action, while helping employees feel supported and relevant. A connected tablet asset, with proper software, is an effective tool that allows managers to untether from a desktop computer without having to sacrifice benefits such as visibility and real-time execution. True mobility increases face time, promoting higher levels of employee engagement, increased productivity, and fewer errors.

In eCommerce, order fulfillment has less to do with batching or wave-based strategies and more do to with fluidity, dynamically assembling, and executing work in real-time.

Cloud-based and Tablet-based Fulfillment at a Low Cost of Entry

A warehouse challenge that companies are facing today includes increased need for 100 percent accuracy. With the transition to eCommerce, fulfillment needs 100 percent accuracy. Consumers educate themselves more than ever. In a world where next day (even same day) delivery is common place, if an order does not arrive on time with the correct items, consumers will likely go online to write a bad review. Accuracy is imperative.

WarehouseOS® is a low cost of entry Inventory Management App that helps companies address these common challenges. Founded by experienced material handling professionals, Warehouse Mobile Solutions has been changing the landscape of distribution centers and warehouses by implementing innovative processes through visualization on a tablet. Deployed as a native app through the Apple App store, WarehouseOS® has a simple interface that allows faster and more accurate picks. In many cases, this cloud-based tablet-based fulfillment has cut the amount of time and cost it takes to fulfill daily orders in half through its patented visual processes.