When it comes to generating successful business outcomes, firms should focus on enhancing client experiences.
Prior to 2020, storage was frequently viewed as an expense, and just-in-time delivery was intended to remove this cost as much as feasible. Today, it is known that warehousing is more than just an insurance policy against demand shock. It is also a way to get the product closer to the end user to meet their expectation of fast delivery, especially for essential items they can’t buy in person.
The distribution of more goods closer to customers is made feasible by space-saving warehouse design innovations, the ongoing deployment of automation, and the intelligent utilization of data.
As businesses respond to the surge in online buying, many retailers want their suppliers to maintain a larger inventory. The 2020 demand fluctuations will necessitate 5–10 percent extra inventories across all regions, according to industry experts.
What precisely has changed over the previous decade?
Supply-chain systems are exerting significant effort to efficiently store and find items for rapid and accurate shipment. In an era of same-day delivery, customer expectations are skyrocketing, and traditional warehouse and supply chain systems are incapable of meeting them.
Customers in the twenty-first century need speedy delivery and expect firms to provide without delay. By 2023, it is anticipated that 67 percent of logistics businesses would offer same-day delivery services. By 2028, 55 percent anticipate delivery within a two-hour window.
67% of logistics business anticipates offering same-day delivery service by 2023
Nearly 41% of online consumers said they would pay more for same-day delivery, and 25% said they would pay more to receive their items within one to two hours of placing their purchase.
Although these delivery expectations pertain mostly to B2C companies, they will ultimately trickle down to B2B companies and their warehouses as well.
Logistics firms need to keep up.
Several warehouses are utilizing “intelligent fulfilment” to address the difficulties posed by rising client expectations. This refers to the use of technology to make warehouse processes more “intelligent” and capable of anticipating, assessing, and adjusting inventory levels in response to fluctuating demand.
The most prevalent conception of a warehouse’s function is to store, pack, and ship goods. However, more is involved than meets the eye. Customers’ in-store and online shopping experiences are significantly enhanced by today’s leading warehouses.
The average accuracy level of retail inventory is just 63%. Improving inventory visibility is and should be a key priority in the warehouse and retail industries, because having an accurate image of your inventory is essential for running operations efficiently.
As more and more warehouses distribute individual goods (as opposed to bulk) directly to customers, this will become increasingly significant. The likelihood of mistakes and delays is significant for such orders.
Not only is visibility of inventory essential for a smooth and effective warehouse operation, but visibility of inventory status at the moment of purchase is also critical to customers. Correct and timely availability of product information boosts the purchasing experience.
Proper Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are a basic necessity to achieve this visibility and help you with product location maintenance and using the right customer data to optimize packaging, shipping, and delivery. The significance of utilizing accurate data cannot be overstated, as only it will enable faster product shipment from the warehouse and prevent mistakes. Obviously, making fewer mistakes will lead to fewer returns, which will improve your reverse logistics and make your customers happier.
However, employing these systems independently is insufficient. Your WMS should be linked with e-commerce and point-of-sale systems and processes in order to keep accurate and up-to-date inventory data from any location at all times. These elements guarantee optimum order fulfilment and an impeccable client experience across all channels.
Having a WMS alone is not enough anymore
Another reason why a WMS alone is insufficient is because items are continually being moved: at inbound, put-away, picking, etc. As warehousing is still predominantly a human endeavour, it is reasonable that errors occur. Hence the average inventory accuracy of 63 percent.
For this reason, leading warehouses consistently check their stock levels and correct their WMS data during cycle count and stocktake processes. As these are time-consuming and expensive activities, modern technologies like Powerhouse AI automate counting and checking of goods by just capturing images, therefore greatly enhancing productivity and precision.
Approximately 30% of online purchases are returned. And 92% of shoppers say they will return to purchase again if the product return process is simple. 58% of purchasers desire a hassle-free, “no questions asked” return policy.
Positive customer experiences will always be generated by warehouses that have error-free procedures in place to handle returns, handle reverse logistics, and issue refunds, giving them the advantage over the competition.
Smart warehouses equipped with an integrated product information management system can even facilitate cross-channel and cross-country returns for both buyers and sellers. Customers can buy/return from any channel with ease, while merchants can manage returns and refunds with more agility and precision.
It is no secret that Amazon has dominated the fulfilment sector for the past two decades. Amazon provides the pricing, conveniences, and precision that customers have come to expect by leveraging economies of scale. Recent advancements in automation enable smaller eCommerce merchants to attain the same throughput, accuracy, and cost reductions as large distributors, without the requirement to reach the same economies of scale.
This transformation starts with predictive analytics. All market leaders employ predictive analytics to warehouse products near to where they will be required. This enables quick delivery and economical shipping while reducing the environmental effect of delivery. Predictive algorithms can also advice on where to strategically locate your warehouse and distribution center, closest to their end-users.
By smart utilization of data, logistics companies can save costs, increase customer happiness, remain competitive in their core markets, and demonstrate to their stakeholders that they are making ecologically responsible decisions.
In the past, it was not feasible to operate a warehouse from a small site as costs were too high and automation not feasible.
By anticipating market demands, predictive analytics has the potential to limit the number of items in a warehouse. This enables for the reduction of warehouse space.
However, that was only a portion of the solution. In a small warehouse, the kilometers of conveyors and huge unit-loading AS/RSs that allowed Amazon’s economies of scale were still impractical. These environments necessitate smaller, more adaptable solutions.
However, fulfillment technologies have come a long way and do provide suitable solution for smaller warehouses. Modular, scalable goods-to-person storage and retrieval systems, such as Vertical Lift Modules, Carousel Picking Systems, and mini- and micro-load AS/RSs, are designed to fit in a small area and achieve high throughputs and accuracy.
Another solution are the adaptable Autonomous Mobile Robots. They can pull products to pick or pack stations, move equipment between personnel, ease cleaning and collect garbage, among many other tasks.
Becoming a smart warehouse is essential. It’s the only way of meeting ever increasing client demands. Becoming smart will require a mix of automation, improved processes and a relentless focus on gathering correct data and transforming this data into actionable insights. Warehouses that get this mix right will become highly effective in order fulfilment. And that is precisely what contributes to a great customer experience.