The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has taken a toll on all of us. For many eCommerce retailers, it’s meant increased demand at a time when many business owners have been forced to make significant staffing cuts. This has left some companies struggling to meet that demand with even fewer people.
The current environment has led to increased volatility and instability in consumer demand, supply chains, and the ability to fulfill orders.
Dealing with these conditions has not been easy. Some companies have been forced to move into survival mode and decide whether to save cash now or leverage reserves to prepare for the future. What’s clearer is that we’ll all be dealing with the volatility for some time to come. We’ll need to shore up supply chains and improve operations even with a smaller workforce.
When companies need to take cost-saving measures, the first place they typically look is to the workforce. Labor makes up the majority of operating costs in warehouses. Reducing staff, however necessary it may be, can increase the cost of quality. The solution is to put in place the right inventory software and processes to optimize what you’re doing and create additional efficiencies to let a smaller team be more productive.
The Cost of Quality
Fewer people doing more work – amid high demand – can easily lead to an increase in mis-picks, mis-ships, and errors. This causes a ripple effect that adds to the cost of quality.
Higher Return Rates
Incorrect shipments increase the number of returns. eCommerce sellers already deal with a higher volume of returns than retail stores. Errors just increase the amount of time and handling for returns. Return rates can cut into profits quickly if they aren’t managed.
Customers can get frustrated and they aren’t shy about telling others. In today’s social media world, dissatisfied customers tell an average of 15 people when they have a poor experience. They may not return to do business with you and cause other potential customers to stay away.
Poor Seller Ratings
Too many mistakes or poor ratings from eCommerce marketplaces and platforms will be reflected in your seller ratings. If your scores fall, sites may favor other retailers and impact your sales. If you have too many issues, it’s easy to find yourself on the outside looking in.
Doing More with Less
Despite the potential problems, the reality is that many of us are forced to do business with less staffing. We still have to get the job done – and done right. Fortunately, SkuVault is built to help business owners in this situation, with features like wave picking, pick filters, and reporting. We’ll take a deeper dive into the specifics in just a moment but first let’s start with the basics: What is an inventory management system and why is it important for your operations?
What Is an Inventory Management System?
An inventory management system, or IMS, is a tool that can track products from ordering and through the time they enter your warehouse until they are shipped to customers. It manages the entire journey of products across the business supply chain – from ordering to receiving to picking to shipping.
An IMS automates your inventory. Once inventory information is entered into your system once, the information will always be accurate as long as your staff uses the system as their central hub. You get detailed reporting, which helps with better purchasing and forecasting.
Why Is an Inventory Management System Important?
An inventory management system will provide a set of computerized and automated procedures to improve your efficiency and minimize costs. When you’re short on staff, the eCommerce inventory software can adjust workflows to create additional efficiencies.
The more efficient you can make your warehouse staff, the more money you can save. Since labor costs can account for as much as 65% of most warehouse operating budgets, even small improvements in productivity can result in big savings.
Real-World Examples of How an Inventory Management System Can Help During the Current Times
With a smaller staff, efficiency is the key to maintaining quality. You need to double down on anything that can improve productivity and help your team members work more efficiently.
Let’s take a look at a few of the ways SkuVault inventory software can help warehouse operations do a better job:
Wave Picking is a digital and paperless method of picking that allows pickers to change picking order in real-time based on quantity changes in locations.
Because Wave Picking is designed to be reactionary, pickers are less prone to manual human error as they would be with traditional physical pick lists. Wave Picking leads your pickers around the warehouse in the most efficient way possible, by targeting which items to pick next, rather than which orders. This makes Wave Picking ideal for multiple multi-item orders because pickers won’t waste time moving throughout the warehouse to fulfill orders one-by-one.
SkuVault creates optimal routes for pickers and can make real-time changes to pick routes as new orders enter the system. When demand changes daily – and sometimes hourly – wave picking can save steps and time. If issues arise during the picking process, such as an item that goes out of stock or is stored in an alternate location, pickers can immediately be rerouted by SkuVault.
Advantages of Wave Picking
Wave picking with SkuVault eCommerce inventory software provides additional benefits, including:
- Paperless picklist and less paper waste
- Complete visibility of where and what is in the system
- Barcode scanning with automated entry into the inventory system
- Reduced risk of manual errors, lost paperwork, or mismatched orders
SkuVault has a wide assortment of options. Filters can be set to optimize routing by zones. One of the many filters is location.
Because pickers are ordered to maintain social distancing, operations managers can set up zone routing so pickers only pick from certain zones and not go into certain areas of the warehouse. The system can manage routes so that pickers don’t have to cross paths with anyone. This is done in SkuVault by creating a pick filter that sets up the locations in a manner that would support zones and then filter by those locations.
Besides zone routing, another option is Zone Picking. In this scenario, workers are staged in specific sections for faster picking. Orders are passed through to adjacent zones when completed until they are ready for quality assurance and shipping. This is another effective way to spread workers out and maintain safe separation.
Data is crucial to business operations. Having correct and up-to-date information about your inventory and sales is especially important with fewer people and fluctuating demand in uncertain times.
Predictive analytics provided by SkuVault’s inventory software reports not only assists with the demand for what they need to have on hand and the ease and accuracy in their fulfillment methods right now but can continue to evolve as business situations change. We look at our customers as long-term business partners. Our solutions will meet their needs right now and continue to grow as they do.
The Replenishment Report can help refine what’s ordered based on what has sold. This kind of information can also help sellers to pivot quickly if they need to. For example, during the early days of the pandemic, items such as masks and sanitizer suddenly started selling rapidly. The replenishment report would draw from sales indicators and flag the rapid increase. This would trigger reordering to try to stay ahead of the demand.
During uncertain times, businesses need robust reporting to make data-driven decisions. As situations evolve, it can be difficult to move quickly if you don’t have the information you need at hand. SkuVault’s powerful reporting suite provides the data you need for better decision making, including reports such as:
- Just in Time (JIT)
- Turn Rate
- And more!
The SkuVault inventory management system dashboard provides a high-level snapshot of everything happening in the warehouse. You can check inventory, eCommerce sales volume, monitor FBA interactions, and more, so that you have access to your most important information quickly and in real-time. This helps take the guesswork out of operations and sales.
Managing Supply Chains
With the rise in eCommerce shopping during the current environment and the logistics issues in getting goods from overseas, there’s been a significant impact in supply chains. Mitigating risk within supply chains is now top of mind for most, if not all industries.
Lead times for goods have risen by 200% – 222% from China. For high-demand items, it can be even longer. More than 9 out of 10 businesses report disruptions to their supply chains. Forecasting in the new reality becomes more important than ever.
The potential of tariffs and a trade war with China already has some eCommerce sellers looking to diversify their supply chain. The pandemic accentuated what can happen when you rely on single sourcing and the need for dual sourcing.
Creating a strong supply chain means managing suppliers and having the ability to adapt quickly when situations change. Using an Inventory Management System, such as SkuVault inventory software, gives you an easy way to track multiple suppliers, lead times, and part numbers from any product. It gives you access to real-time information to manage your stock accurately. You can better track your suppliers and automate the reordering process when stock levels fall to pre-set limits. You can also manage the amount of safety stock you need to maintain until replacement products arrive.
When it comes to ordering, SkuVault’s eCommerce inventory software can automatically pull vendor contact information into purchase order templates for faster management of suppliers.
While most sellers report an adequate supply of goods currently, they express concerns about the availability of goods and raw materials going into the third and fourth quarters. What’s unknown is the capacity of factories to produce goods due to a diminished workforce. For many factories, it’s meant retooling or redesigning the shop floor to avoid crowding workers together. This takes time and adds to costs.
There’s also concern about the financial viability of many suppliers. A survey was done by McKinsey of retailers in the apparel industry, for example, that showed that 45% of respondents expect more than half of their suppliers to suffer significant financial hurdles within the next six months. With uncertainty over future orders, it’s one more reason why eCommerce sellers are looking to hedge their bets with additional vendors in their supply chain.
Common Questions About Inventory Management Systems and Smaller Workforces
Here are some of the common questions we are hearing when it comes to eCommerce inventory software in an era of smaller workforces:
How can I reduce the reliance on manual entry?
Using IMS inventory software can automate much of the process and avoid manual entry. This saves time and cuts down on human errors.
When goods enter the warehouse, the barcode can be scanned and recorded into the inventory. The IMS can designate the best storage location down to the warehouse, aisle, shelf, and bin. When an order is placed, a paperless picklist can be created with an optimized route. As items are picked, they are scanned again to maintain an accurate inventory count. When they reach QA, they can be scanned and sent to shipping. Every step in the process reduces the reliance on manual entry.
Can cutting down on travel time in the warehouse really save me time?
The travel time to retrieve goods can make up as much as half of the time spent in the picking process. If you can reduce the amount of time your pickers spend walking rather than picking, you can improve your productivity and save time and money.
More efficient pick routes can reduce walk time by nearly 50% over manual methods. It allows your pickers to work faster and complete more orders. That’s crucial when you’re dealing with fewer people working in the warehouse.
Can I create a more seamless workflow to require less time transferring information?
SkuVault’s team members are inventory management and warehouse experts. Our inventory software was built by eCommerce sellers for eCommerce sellers. We understand how everything must work together to create peak efficiency.
SkuVault integrates with all your favorite eCommerce solutions for a seamless end-to-end management of transactions. Your data is always visible across locations, warehouses, and selling channels. Whether you need to build an online site, integrate your Point of Sales (POS), or connect to shipping software, SkuVault has you covered.
Take a look at just some of the eCommerce solutions with which we can integrate:
- And more
- Big Commerce
- And more
- And more
- And more
Point of Sale Systems
SkuVault also integrates with:
- Accounting software, such as Quickbooks or Xero
- CRM, such as SalesForce or Oracle
- Dropshipping, such as Duoplane, LogicBroker, and SparkShipping
- ERP, such as Oracle NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics
Here’s a comprehensive list of integrations that work with SkuVault.
Imagine being able to manage all of your inventory across all of these platforms with just one IMS. With SkuVault, the Quality Sync features will make sure store listings and online listings are synced for accuracy. It includes a buffer feature to limit quantities across channels to avoid overselling. When you are selling on multiple platforms, juggling inventory counts can lead to confusion. Creating a seamless workflow can save a significant amount of time and reduce errors.
Since the pandemic began, more shoppers than ever are doing business online. Stay at home (or safer at home) orders meant fewer visits to retail stores and more eCommerce purchases. While that’s meant high volume for many sellers, it’s also happening at the same time many are trying to stay afloat with an even smaller workforce.
SkuVault provides the tools sellers need to succeed right now and increase efficiency while providing a foundation to sustain them into the future when things start to settle down.