By: Ryan Bennett, Vice President Sales, Fulfillment at ShipHero
In order to stay competitive in today’s supply chain environment, brands need to constantly innovate and reevaluate their fulfillment tools to decide whether they have what it takes for a successful Q4.
With the online shopping’s busiest season quickly approaching, now is the time to take a look at your brand’s fulfillment strategy and decide where there’s room for improvement. By investing in warehouse automation solutions, flexible storage strategies and data warehouse tools, competitors are working hard to ensure this peak season runs a little smoother than the rest.
Here’s a look at three essential tools to help boost your eCommerce brand in preparation for Q4.
Automation in the Warehouse
Warehouse robotics might sound like a heavy investment, but even small-scale automation tools can increase the efficiency and accuracy of your fulfillment center.
In recent years, more fulfillment centers have begun to install cost-effective warehouse robotics like sorting and bagging equipment, automated label printing and wearable technology that boosts the productivity of a warehouse.
One of the most common and accessible types of warehouse automation is known as collaborative robots. The process of identifying an order, walking to its storage location, picking it from the shelf and returning it to the packing station takes up considerable time. As the name implies, collaborative robots work alongside your existing staff to handle some of these repetitive and time consuming tasks. Since they’re customizable to fit your fulfillment center’s specific needs, these machines are designed to scale as your eCommerce brand continues to grow.
According to Automate.org, the use of collaborative robots is expected to rapidly expand as fulfillment centers seek out better ways to lower labor costs while finding a flexible automation solution. If the layout of your warehouse changes, or you need to switch locations, collaborative robots can change right along with it.
With this new warehouse technology taking over the picking, labeling and shipping aspects of fulfillment, your staff will be ready to handle the increased demand for accuracy that comes with Q4.
Smart Warehouse Storage
In order to compete in today’s online marketplace, eCommerce brands are actively seeking out ways to minimize the time it takes to fulfill orders and get products shipped faster. Part of this approach involves reevaluating the layout of your warehouse and how it can best be organized.
It might sound like a large task, but leveraging data to reorganize an existing warehouse is worth it in the long run. Adopting strategies like automated slotting and optimized storage practices shorten the amount of time it takes for your staff to locate an item and kick off the shipping process. For example, storing your best selling products closest to your packing stations can make a huge impact over time. With warehouse workers no longer traversing the facility for a single product, they can stay focused on the crucial task of ensuring accuracy and efficacy of their shipments.
As retail giants like Amazon continue to mold consumer expectations, some emerging brands have also turned to micro fulfillment centers as a way of keeping up the pace.
Traditionally, online retailers have used a single warehouse to fulfill all of their orders. Handling all of your fulfillment from a single location might be an affordable solution in the short term, but once Q4 arrives and orders begin to spike, that warehouse can quickly become overwhelmed.
Micro fulfillment centers involve renting underused warehouses and extra retail space to provide shippers with an advantage when peak season rolls around. In addition to increasing the amount of available inventory space, micro fulfillment centers shrink the distance between distribution centers and the end customer.
Modernized fulfillment service providers can also help shorten delivery times by leveraging their multiple locations and customer data. ShipHero, for example, with our 7 North American warehouses, moves your products as close as possible to your customers before they even place an order.
Once the order is made, the item’s last-mile shipping time is significantly reduced, providing a better buying experience for your customers.
Reporting & Visibility Tools
One of the most important tools you can implement for Q4 is something that ensures you’ll have an understanding of what’s going on inside your warehouse. A clear picture of your existing inventory, order capacity and demand on your staff allows you to anticipate delays before they impact the consumer, giving your brand a leg up when peak season bottlenecks become a possibility.
Data warehouse tools that facilitate reporting and visibility can come in a few different forms. If you’re handling fulfillment on your own, having a quality warehouse management software, or WMS, backing up your operations is essential. With a reliable WMS, you’ll be able to properly examine the rate of incoming orders, shop for the best carrier rates and replenish your stock for an optimal fulfillment strategy when things get busy.
If you’re outsourcing your fulfillment, on the other hand, it’s important to partner with a third party that prioritizes visibility for their customers. Fulfillment service providers like ShipHero, that provide detailed warehouse reports, tracking information for each order and flexible integrations are built to take on the shipping process during peak season while keeping you in the loop. Based on the reports you receive from your dependable fulfillment partner, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions about investment, replenishment and improvements with consistent support from fulfillment experts.
Over the past few years, the expansion of online shopping during Q4 took the supply chain environment by surprise. Overburdened warehouse staff and shipping lane bottlenecks posed new challenges for eCommerce brands looking to get ahead during the most crucial part of the year.
Implementing new features like warehouse automation, micro fulfillment centers and visibility tools can give your brand the support it needs to triumph in Q4, while providing flexible and scalable solutions for the next challenges that the supply chain has in store.
If you’re new to ShipHero Fulfillment, please schedule a meeting today with our experts to learn more about how we can help you get your orders picked, packed and delivered with our fulfillment service. No setup fees, simply pay as you go. ShipHero works to ensure that organizations invest in the solutions that match their needs, to improve productivity, revenue and success.
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Ryan Bennet Vice President Sales, Fulfillment
About the author: Ryan Bennett is the Vice President of Fulfillment Sales at ShipHero. He is responsible for the overall growth of ShipHero Fulfillment by managing the fulfillment sales team. Bennett’s strengths come from being able to relate to anyone and embracing new challenges, as well as an unrelenting sense of determination and the ability to resist rejection. As a leader at ShipHero, he believes that an outstanding leader should be the #1 cheerleader for their team and try to highlight each team members’ unique skills. Plus, he believes in leading by example and being involved on the ground floor. Ryan’s passion for business comes from solving logistical problems, learning about clients’ unique businesses and meeting new and interesting people. Other areas of interest include start-ups, equality, the environment and painting.