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Warehouse Management Blog

Our team of Fulfilment Consultants share warehouse management best practice and advice.

WMS - Warehouse Software – Time to invest

WRITTEN BY Oliver Rhodes /

21 April 2011

In the e-commerce section of Retail Gazette this week I read an article titled, 'E-commerce core competencies still up for debate'. No mention of the role of customer order fulfilment or the e-commerce warehouse software (WMS) that runs it. I can only assume that this is because whether or not the e-commerce warehouse is a core competency is not for debate?!

With a growing number of companies outsourcing to third party logistics companies you could be forgiven for nodding along in agreement...

However, the Lady Gaga of e-commerce, ASOS, owns and operates its own customer order fulfilment using e-commerce warehouse software. Latest word from their camp is, “I am pleased to report another successful quarter with retail sales accelerating +70 per cent, up from +59 per cent in our third quarter." (CEO, Nick Robertson). ASOS are flying and they are taking their warehouse operation with them - e-commerce business owners take note.

If like ASOS and hundreds of other rapidly growing e-commerce companies you want to hang on to your warehouse you will probably be asking the question, "When is it time to invest in e-commerce warehouse software?".

"We need to ship more orders everyday, but it is a pain to keep adding more people."

Many warehouses find getting 'good staff' tough and it can be frustrating when time invested in new staff is wasted when they leave.

Companies that put in e-commerce warehouse software with barcoding often do so to save them adding more people. Electronic order picking using a barcode scanners  increases each warehouse operators order picking capacity. This means that more orders can be picked, packed and shipped with the same or even less people.

This extra capacity is useful when dealing with the seasonal fluctuations that so many e-commerce warehouses have to cope with.

"We have put in more and more quality checks but sometimes people are still being sent the wrong thing."

As e-commerce warehouses grow, so do quality control problems. More sales orders being picked, packed and shipped by more humans leads to more costly human errors.

The first response to the wrong things being sent is to add in or increase the frequency of routine quality checks - usually done at the packing bench.

In reality, routine quality checks hide the cost of 'double-picking' orders, those that are mis-picked first time around. Routine checks are not a fool-proof way to prevent mis-shipments.

The only way to completely stop mis-shipments is to make sure the right thing is picked first time by eliminating mispicks.

Order picking using a mobile computer with barcode scanners removes the margin for human error and ensures 99.99% picking accuracy. To the human eye a black jumper in medium looks the same as a black jumper in large. To barcode scanners they are completely different. If the warehouse workers try to pick the wrong thing they are told about it, "ERROR! YOU HAVE PICKED THE WRONG THING."

Is it time to invest in e-commerce warehouse software (wms)?

If routine quality checks haven't solved your mis-shipment problem and you desperately need to ship more orders per day, finding cost justifications for investing in e-commerce warehouse software should be easy. If you want some help getting started with a barcoding project ask our experienced warehouse consultancy team to help.

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