Top 7 tips for adapting to the biggest trends in warehouse management

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Dive Brief:

  • With 11.3% of Black Friday’s $12.8 billion in sales last holiday season coming from e-commerce, there is ample motivation to update distribution centers and warehouses.
  • While some warehouse managers have successfully upgraded their facilities to improve direct-to-consumer fulfillment efficiency, Modern Materials Handling reports many others still lack visibility or use paper counts. 
  • The magazine notes seven methods can improve operations, including: cluster-picking; level-loading orders year-round; recognizing seasonal demand; taking advantage of Warehouse Management System (WMS) capabilities; enabling multi-facility communication; considering pop-up fulfillment centers and designing for omnichannel needs. 

Dive Insight:

Ultimately, the purpose of a warehouse is to help integrate the supply chain and the above tips outline three recent trends in warehouse management that is changing how inventory is handled.

First, the volume and diversity of inventory handled within a warehouse is shifting from large-pallet orders to smaller orders with various SKUs at once. As a result, the means of picking and loading have to expand and improve in order to meet the diversity of requests — and the diverse seasons during which they occur.

Similarly, as today’s warehouses are chock-full of merchandise and constantly managing new orders, relying on available data and technology can help a facility improve service. A WMS system that tracks inbound and outbound merchandise can save time by noting product availability or unavailability. Better yet, a warehouse that can communicate with its counterpart could act on that unavailability, and request a merchandise transfer. 

To that end, the rise of e-commerce and demand-driven manufacturing is not just changing the type of merchandise inside warehouses, but where the warehouses are located altogether. Amazon, for example, had warehouses within 20 miles of distance to 31% of the U.S. population in 2015, and has continued to build its fulfillment centers earnestly. Designing warehouses, or a warehouse network, to meet decreased fulfillment timelines and diverse channels of service (both direct-to-consumer and business-to-business) will help meet modern needs.

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