Click and Collect Ordering Drives Changes in the Warehouse
Less visible are the challenges that are faced behind the scenes in the warehouse, and how technology holds promise to help there as well.
Take same-day delivery, for example. Back down the order fulfillment process lies the placement of the order, which is happening more and more via mobile devices, on the move.
As consumers are increasingly able to place orders anywhere, at any time, they place extra strains on the warehouses in the supply chain that are tasked with fulfilling those orders.
The Challenges of the "Click & Collect" Consumer
Fulfillment lead times are getting shorter as a result of "click and collect" consumption. This is true whether the collection point is in store or some other location, but especially challenging in the latter scenario.
Richard Adams of Vocollect hints at the level of expectation in this recent article for Supply Chain Digital. He goes so far as to say:
Click and collect, combined with expectations of next-day or same-day delivery, means warehouse operations must be faultless.
Faultless means seamless, which requires an obsessive focus on process efficiency. Technology plays a bit part in this and is often the answer to the question "how can we improve order fulfillment?"
Some of the tech that we see driving change in warehouse management includes:
- Voice-activated technology for labor intensive tasks, like those covered in the article linked above,
- More complex warehouse management systems (WMS) with faster processing and reporting speeds, granular stock tracking, and real-time customer service functions,
- Mobile devices that empower warehouse staff to analyze and make decisions on the spot, rather than returning to a desk to do so,
- Data analysis software capable of reporting potential bottlenecks in the order fulfillment process and areas for improvement,
- Automated assembly and packing lines, with the potential for dedicated warehouse drones to be added to this transition in the near future.
Integrating all of these complex technology developments into one efficient warehouse system is a substantial challenge. This is especially true when the business is a start up or new e-commerce company, as customer expectations remain high and the margin for error is as thin as it has ever been.
Engaging a professional, experienced logistics team with proven warehouse management expertise is a popular way to cut the learning curve. As order lead times continue to get shorter, this will only become more important.