To meet customer expectations today, same-day order processing is a must. However, for small-to-medium-size businesses with fewer fulfillment capabilities, that kind of speed can be a challenge. Warehouse fulfillment software engineered to meet the requirements of smaller, specialized online retailers is critical.
It used to be the case, in the early days of online order fulfillment, that same-day processing was not possible unless one had massive economies of scale. A mere two decades ago, giant warehouses were needed, and they were operated by giant companies that could afford enterprise-level software solutions. It was typical for companies to say things like “please allow 7 to 10 days processing before shipping” or even “please allow 6 to 8 weeks for shipping.”
This began to change as large companies found ways to manage their supply chain and logistics more efficiently. Some of these companies, such as Amazon, were byproducts of the digital revolution; some, like Lands’ End for example, were not. Either way, these companies began to change customer expectations with regard to order fulfillment. Two-day delivery anywhere in the U.S. was suddenly expected, and, today, it remains a huge competitive advantage.
Does Size Matter?
Even as these titans of eCommerce improved internal efficiency, the fact remains that it was their sheer size that allowed them to offer fast fulfillment—literally, they had more hands on deck. Small-to-medium-size operations offering their own eCommerce storefronts often do not have this luxury. Does this mean that the small- or medium-sized retailer is doomed to slow fulfillment?
Not at all. Speedy fulfillment depends as much on workflow as it does labor—perhaps even more so. All smaller companies need, then, is the kind of technology solution that lets them do what larger operations do, but for much less capital outlay.
This is where you as an operator—on the floor, hands-on, and in tune with specific needs of your small- or medium-sized operation—should be on the lookout for a powerful, affordable warehouse management software (WMS) solution.
What to Look For in a Software Solution
That said, not all warehouse management software prioritizes capabilities in the same way. To achieve same-day processing, the right software will need to prioritize integration, automation, and optimization.
Same-day processing absolutely requires orders to be routed to your fulfillment centers as soon as the customer hits the “place order” button. This means integration between the warehouse management software and online shopping carts (and other ordering channels). The emerging Cloud-Based WMS solutions are letting warehouse operators integrate with all online channels simultaneously (and easily) in order to automatically fulfill multiple orders over a significantly reduced timeframe.
According to a State of Small Business Report for 2016, a full 46% of small-to-medium businesses still don’t track inventory at all, or else use a manual method. No wonder fewer than 30% of all warehouses are considered “efficient” these days.
Automating procedures such as inventory tracking, updating quantities, triggering reorders, and so on all help ensure that there are no “bottlenecks” to bring your process to a halt. They also cut down on human error. Automation means no wrong orders processed and no wrong products pulled, preventing errors that can halt same-day processing.
Picking, packing, and shipping are three areas where opportunities for efficiency abound. For example, forward staging, wave-picking methodologies, and automated carrier shopping can shave considerable amounts of time off your order fulfillment. Good warehouse management software should make these best practices possible.
With these, efficiency on the warehouse floor is increased, not to mention customers’ expectations being met on a more consistent basis. This in turn means a less stressful warehouse, higher customer satisfaction, and fewer calls to customer service to inquire about delayed orders.
These are the reasons why a new era of WMS has been created with these priorities in mind. With Infoplus and others, a small-to-medium-size company can compete with the giants, like Amazon. It’s not unlike the way David was able to compete with Goliath. And the outcome of that story is well known.