According to Bill Gates, any automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. On the contrary, automation applied to an inefficient process will magnify the inefficiency.
Warehouse management systems (WMS) are notorious for revealing inefficiencies in eCommerce businesses. They look at your warehouse operations with the unflinching eyes of technology and data and show you exactly where you need to improve.
But the best WMS platforms don’t just stop at exposing your blind spots. They equip you with tools and data to fix the problems.
The pen and paper or Excel spreadsheet method can indeed keep you afloat for a while. But those methods aren’t sustainable, especially if you’ve got an eye to growing your eCommerce venture.
Implementing a warehouse management system isn’t just “icing on the cake” of your business. Your warehousing practices correlate to your ability to fulfill orders efficiently, which directly impacts the customer experience.
This is no throwaway topic. Improving warehouse efficiency should be at the top of all businesses’ to-do lists.
You may be hesitant to invest in a WMS, but what you don’t realize is that those obsolete practices are costing you far more money over time.
Rather than being freed up to focus on high-level business decisions, the tedium of manually managing logistics keeps warehouse supervisors and business owners perpetually in the weeds.
These ancient practices waste a lot of time. Not to mention they increase the likelihood of human error and bad customer experiences.
If you’re sick of not being in control of your warehousing and inventory procedures and ready to make a change, consider the following ways a WMS improves your warehouse efficiency (and your bottom line as a result).
Accurate Item Locations
One of the most consistent pain points we hear from eCommerce business owners is, “I just don’t know what’s in my warehouse.”
This ignorance can mean one of two things:
- You have no idea if you have a particular product in your warehouse
- You know you have a particular product in your warehouse, but you don’t know its physical location
But in reality, what good is it to know you have something in your warehouse if you can’t find it?
Most WMS, including SkuVault, give you precise physical locations for each of your products. That way, pickers can know precisely where to find specific products.
The result is faster, more consistent processing times, and better customer experiences.
Precise Pick Lists and Pick Routes
Once you’re confident of all your item locations, you can move on to this next step: more accurate pick lists.
As a quick refresher, “picking” refers to the fulfillment process in which an item is located, pulled from the shelf, and prepared for shipment.
A quality WMS allows you to generate pick lists contingent upon item location. SkuVault will even create a pick route, highlighting the most efficient path through the warehouse to pick all required items without retracing steps.
Better Quality Control
Warehouse environments get complex and chaotic, especially during seasonal surges and sales. Your pickers must be master multitaskers, balancing processing speed with accuracy.
A good WMS platform will have vigorous quality control checks in place. For example, if you have one particular picker who is continuously pulling incorrect orders, you can go straight to the source to correct the behavior.
The very essence of quality control is a fundamental focus on customer satisfaction. When you don’t meet or exceed a customer’s expectations, it can negatively affect your seller ratings and cause a breakdown in customer loyalty.
Thanks to the almost inhuman speed and customer service of sites like Amazon, customers expect a top-tier experience from any online marketplace.
A WMS can not only show you where your quality control needs help but give you the knowledge and tools to fix it.
Visibility Into Expiring Product
Expirable or perishable products add a whole new layer of complexity to your warehousing operations. Not only are you on a clock to get items processed when customers order them, but you’re on a clock to ensure you’re not left with spoiled or dead inventory on your shelves.
The philosophy of First-In-First-Out (FIFO) is a simple one to understand. Businesses (especially food manufacturing) have used it for generations. Monitoring and tracking FIFO by hand? Not so simple.
Warehouse management systems like SkuVault automatically track the age of your stock from the moment it’s processed into your warehouse to the moment it leaves.
Using this data, you can optimize your processes to ensure your customers are getting the freshest stock possible. All this without wasting hours pouring over expiration dates.
In addition to positive customer experiences, this feature can help cut costs by reducing shrinkage and dead stock.
More Accurate Forecasts
As a general rule, any time you can make the future a little less uncertain, you set yourself up for business success. This is especially true in the world of eCommerce, where warehousing supervisors must plan for the seismic impact of seasonal trends (especially during the holidays).
Many warehouse management systems will aggregate purchasing trends, offering data on what kind of demand to expect when.
This knowledge is the starting point for taking action. From here, you can decide to reorder your warehouse layout to maximize in-demand products, order more of a particular product, or reallocate funds to something else you’re offering.
Accurate forecasts can also help you estimate profits, allowing you to plan with greater precision and confidence.
SkuVault empowers business owners with a birds’-eye sales forecast report of all products. Not only this, but users can drill-down on a product-by-product basis to see demand for each SKU.
Systemized Processes and Training
Without establish warehouse processes, your employees (which may just be you) will develop their own. They probably won’t be efficient, and they definitely won’t be aligned with one another.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” could never be more true than in the world of warehousing and inventory management.
Without a codified, unified standard operating procedure, you’re inviting in unnecessary human error: things like picking the wrong item, improper or unsafe handling of items, and shipping to the wrong location.
The lack of a system will, at the very least, introduce loads of inefficiencies in the daily workflows of warehouse employees.
Implementing a WMS like SkuVault has the baked-in benefit of getting everyone on the same page (literally, the same web page) in their product processing workflow.
Just be sure to devote adequate time to training and onboarding employees into the system until they feel comfortable.
Better Mitigation of Stock-outs and Overstocking
Stock-outs are of the Achilles’ Heels of eCommerce businesses. Warehousing supervisors and business owners must avoid them at all costs.
There’s no worse customer experience than desiring to purchase a product and clicking the buy button with hopeful anticipation. Then, moments later, realizing that the item was actually mislabeled on the website and is, in reality, no longer in stock.
On the other extreme, one of the most pressing pain points of wholesalers is overstocks. Overstocks occur when businesses order too much product, and it doesn’t sell.
You might think, “what’s the big deal? Just let it sit on the shelf for a while.” The problem is that wholesalers must walk a tightrope of not having too much capital tied up in inventory.
When a large portion of business money is tied up in product that’s not selling (or may never sell), it spells doom for wholesalers.
This pain compounds if the product is expirable or perishable and must be discarded after a certain amount of time, costing a net loss.
Similarly, there’s no worse pain for business owners than to know people want to purchase your product when you have nothing to give. It hurts the business, hurts consumer perception, and is entirely preventable with a WMS.
Warehouse management systems like SkuVault allow you to set safety stock levels, otherwise known as “par levels.” These product thresholds keep you right in the sweet spot of having enough product to satisfy demand but not too much to have excess capital tied up on your shelves.
When a particular product dips below a par level, SkuVault will alert you to reorder more and even generate an intelligent purchase order based on demand data.
These notifications mean you (or your employees) don’t have to keep complex stock-out equations in your mind when monitoring product sales. Let your WMS do the heavy lifting.
This point is critical for maintaining customer loyalty and making prudent ordering decisions that we think alone warrants implementing a warehouse management system. Learn more about how SkuVault helps you forecast intelligently and avoid stock-outs here.
Warehouse Layout Optimization
Now we’re getting into some advanced stuff. After a season of growing into your new WMS, you’ll reach the point where you’re no longer dealing with stock-outs. You’ll have your fingers square on the pulse of your product demand while you watch your profits go up and to the right.
But your job isn’t over. Now is the time to optimize for even more growth. Optimizing your warehouse layout is an easy first step.
In the world of eCommerce warehousing, it’s a game of seconds, not minutes. Just think of how quickly Amazon gets a package processed and shipped.
Now, we don’t all have the resources to compete with Bezos’ Behemoth. Nevertheless, Amazon has trained consumers to expect rapid processing and shipping times, and it’s up to the warehouse staff to meet those standards.
Let’s say you know a particular product sells well during the holiday season. Store that product within arms’ reach of the processing and packaging stations. This means less traversing across the warehouse to pack and ship product. Even in small warehouses, those seconds make a difference.
SkuVault, for example, allows business owners to see aggregated analytics of marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, and Shopify.
Drilling deeper, users can identify what types of products customers purchase together. Let’s say you notice a familiar bundling pattern, yet the two products in demand are on opposite ends of the warehouse.
Well, that’s an easy fix. Just move the products closer, or even consider storing them next to one another on the same shelving structures.
These are the small, precise tweaks that seem insignificant on the surface but shave seconds, minutes, and cumulatively, hours off your processing and shipping times.
It’s all about surprising and delighting the customers, and one of the best ways to do that is through accurate, responsive, speedy product shipments. And that’s only possible with the help of a robust warehouse management system.
Easy Access to Actionable Business Data
Reporting on various aspects of your business is one of the most empowering and educational capabilities of modern technology.
SkuVault, for example, offers a full arsenal of helpful reports. You can drill down into forecasting data (as mentioned above), particular product selling patterns, the most popular marketplaces, and seasonal demand trends.
This takes the gut feelings and guesswork out of product sales and consumer patterns and empowers you to make data-driven decisions. The ultimate result is a leaner warehousing operation and a beefier bottom line.
Warehouse management systems like SkuVault free up business owners to get out of the minutiae of running a warehouse and come up for air.
A sophisticated WMS helps you get out in front of problems like overstocks, stock-outs, and inaccurate forecasting. It does all the automated heavy lifting of setting par levels and maintaining inventory of the products people want.
Thus, business owners are free to make high-level decisions and steer their ventures into greater growth and profitability.
To learn more about how SkuVault can optimize your warehouse management practices and your profits, reach out to our team today for a live demo.