Seven factors to consider when designing the ideal e-commerce warehouse

#Tags:
Warehousing, e-commerce
Seasonal peaks, consumer demand and labour scarcity. These are just some of the drivers that influence modern warehouse operations. In this blog, we discuss seven key factors that you should take into account when designing your ideal e-commerce distribution centre (DC).
1. Peak management
Holidays, changing seasons and promotional weekends such as Black Friday contribute to online retail peaks, which bring a surge of additional work to DCs. As a result, you need to scale up your operations to process the large amount of orders effectively. 
In this situation, there are different options available. For example, an automated warehouse can be scaled up by adding more shuttles to the AS/RS system. Robotics can also help when handling peaks. However, many DCs are not built for peaks, so adding more employees is a viable option. In this instance, training extra staff must be done quickly and efficiently. 
2. Unpredictable consumer demands
Beyond the turmoil of Black Friday and other similar spikes in consumer demand, predicting the required volumes of stock is incredibly difficult. Take the weather, for example. During a single weekend, a sunny spell can cause an increase in demand for inflatable pools or summer clothes. 
Consumer behaviour, including the response to marketing campaigns, media stories, celebrity endorsements and product placement, also causes unpredictable changes in demand. Given this uncertainty and complexity, managing supply chains is tough. Your operations need to be flexible enough to overcome the challenges of an erratic market. By making use of Big Data, it is possible to make this situation more predictable. 
3. Changing lead time requirements
E-commerce is changing consumer expectations. They now demand speed, accuracy and flexibility throughout the entire ordering and delivery process. Same-day deliveries, or even within a few hours, are now an important driver for online businesses. 
Your warehouse needs to facilitate short lead times and help you to exceed your customers’ expectations. Delivery windows and same or next-day deliveries are important factors to take into account, and all need to be handled by the same system. 
4. Labour scarcity and costs
High labour costs – or lack of operator availability – are other challenges to consider. For these reasons, automation can be a logical option. The scarcity of employees can be eliminated by making use of robotics, for example. 
During peak times, more staff need to be operational as quickly as possible. By designing systems and software in a user-friendly way, they can start immediately and without lengthy training.    
5.  Customer returns
Retailers have to cope with all kinds of returns, for example, apparel that did not fit the customer or meet their individual expectations. Handling these returns can be a headache for a logistics manager. 
When designing your warehouse operation, you want to have as few touch points as possible when handling returns. Automated systems can help you to achieve efficient handling, storing and re-picking of returned items.
6. Future-proof
The world is changing rapidly, and it is unpredictable and volatile. What you need today, could be entirely different tomorrow. That’s why you’ll need to design your warehouse operations with the future in mind. 
They need to be flexible and scalable enough to grow alongside your business objectives. This includes software. At Vanderlande, we think hard to design future-proof warehouses. Our so-called evolutions are solutions designed specifically with scalability, flexibility and usability in mind. 
7. Reliability 
In this ever-changing market, you need a reliable partner that can help you to exceed your customers’ expectations. At Vanderlande, we understand the complexities of running a successful e-commerce warehouse operation and can help you to improve your competitive position. 
Many of the largest global e-commerce players and distribution firms have confidence in our efficient and reliable solutions. These store, sort and ship over 2.5 billion products every year. 
Through our in-house design skills and project execution capabilities, we work hard to create the ideal solution. This is also supported by our global life-cycle services, which help to ensure that your business runs smoothly and profitably.
 

About the author

Ruben Jakobs
Market Director E-commerce