The growth of e-commerce has altered consumer shopping habits, opening up a whole new world of online shopping. People are buying almost everything they need online – from their weekly grocery shop to fashion to furniture – and it’s vital that the warehousing industry adapts and keeps pace with this continuing trend.
Any successful business selling physical products will have an efficient warehouse at the very heart of its supply chain. For many decades, the humble warehouse has been an essential part of running a business for suppliers, retailers and manufacturers alike. Pre-internet, storage and distribution processes were broadly similar, regardless of the nature of the industry, however, it goes without saying that as technology has evolved, warehouses have had to follow suit.
Today, there’s absolutely no doubt at all that older warehousing models need to be dragged into the 21st century. In order to boost productivity, efficiency, and accuracy, warehouses are increasingly using cutting-edge technology and equipment. Research shows that shoppers who purchase goods online are more likely to return the goods than those who buy in a bricks and mortar shop. It seems likely that this particular trend ties into the e-commerce buyers increased expectations – including low delivery charges, quick and simple returns, and speedy delivery.
For the warehousing sector, this translates to a pressure to minimise their costs, deliver quickly and be well prepared for a pretty high rate of returns. Optimising an efficient and always flexible warehousing set-up is critical to running an on-point e-commerce business because this will allow you to efficiently fulfil everything from large bulk orders to individual shipments. More traditional warehouse models are based around pallets, which have become largely obsolete in many e-commerce warehouses. To solve this, many e-commerce warehouse owners are turning to EP order pickers, recognising that the right equipment that will make any warehouse run like a well-oiled machine.
E-commerce is changing the warehousing landscape
Happily, though technology continues to advance and evolve across the board, warehouses will always be required to store physical items. That’s not to say that new technology is passing this part of the supply chain by – in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Those business owners who are happy to keep up with new developments are using the various advances to run a tight operation that runs at maximum efficiency. The rapid rise of e-commerce has essentially led to a technological revolution on a massive scale – and many businesses – with a little help from EP Equipment – have been tweaking and future-proofing their business models to ensure that they remain competitive and relevant.
What exactly is e-commerce?
In the very simplest terms, e-commerce can be short for either electronic or internet commerce – that is, the purchasing and selling of services or physical products online. The term e-commerce is more often associated with online sales of physical goods, though it can also refer to a commercial transaction of any nature – so long as it is of the internet variety. It is no exaggeration to state that e-commerce has fundamentally altered the way consumers shop.
More and more of us are shopping online – whether that’s on a PC, a laptop, a tablet or a mobile phone. It’s never been easier to identify, research and purchase an item – so it should come as no surprise that internet sales have exploded. And, of course, the more people that shop online, the more pressure there is on businesses to provide goods at competitive prices – fast.
In addition, many warehouses are now home to a greater range of products – making the fulfilment of orders ever more complicated. At this point, you may be asking – how can I make sure that my warehouse is functioning at maximum efficiency? In order for any business to prosper in our technological age, it will need to operate a facility that is able to accommodate an ever-increasing pace of orders. In order to keep up with the pace of change, businesses are hungry for innovative storage and shipping solutions – including those that bring picking protocols firmly into the 21st century such as EP’s excellent range of order pickers.
First things first. New skills call for expert training – and most efficient operations boast employees that are offered constant on-the-job training to keep them up to speed with new technology and best practices. High-spec training has become synonymous with ‘new employee’ – and new hires need to be able to access the requisite information remotely if necessary, and also in real time. Cloud-based training programmes are designed to help new staff learn on the job – which both reduces delays and overheads.
Adapting to new shipping patterns
Advances in e-commerce have led to a different online shopping model. As the high street becomes less popular, consumers are increasingly buying single items to be delivered directly to their doorstep – which makes for an erratic shipping pattern in stark contrast to simpler times gone by. Today’s savvy shoppers demand quick, low-cost delivery – because that is what they have become accustomed to expect. Many of the leading online retailers offer two-day (or less) delivery – meaning that that is the gold standard to which all warehousing operations need to strive towards. This expectation highlights the inescapable fact that warehouses need to speedily adapt to changing shopping patterns in order to keep up with the pace of e-commerce evolution. A trend toward free delivery is more and more evident, as customers have become resistant to paying extra for a standard delivery service, with a majority of customers tending to favour free (standard) delivery. A state-of-the-art warehouse that is able to respond to ever-increasing consumer demands is, therefore, the absolute foundation of any successful business.
Software is key
Software is also a consideration, and there are now a dizzying variety of packages to fit almost any parameters. More and more warehouse workers are using tablets as a conduit between the real and digital worlds – meaning that any pertinent data is instantly accessible and real-time inventory is accurate. Some software packages are so advanced that they are able to project sales and analyse data intuitively. Good software also impacts in a very positive way on the supply chain as a whole – because it gives warehouses the ability to keep suppliers totally up to date regarding order status – and vice versa. Instant communication of this type plays a significant role in smooth operation with minimal errors and less need for human intervention.
Tracking is another area essential to efficiency in a warehouse setting, and some exciting advances have been made in this area allowing the modern warehouse to easily track a product on its journey from stock to shipment whether that’s by scanning or a different method. In the modern warehouse, the exact location of a product can be pinpointed instantly, which lessens loss and more generally keeps warehouse operations moving along almost effortlessly.
Perfecting your order picking process will reap many benefits – improving accuracy, increasing customer satisfaction, and overall – giving your bottom line a boost. Until recently, most warehouses were set up to pick one order at a time, now, the increased demand driven by e-commerce has created a need for quicker picking of multiple orders. This means that warehouses need to implement a bespoke plan that will make it possible to pick orders faster. It is, of course, absolutely critical to properly utilise absolutely every inch of storage space in a warehouse – meaning that there is more need than ever to invest in the right equipment to make this happen.
Order pickers, such as those sold by EP, are generally used to move products at a range of heights. They are an absolute necessity in the modern warehouse due to their very high efficiency. Every EP picker is designed with the user experience in mind, and are built to last.
EP’s JXO order picker is best suited for occasional picking in a shop floor environment, as well as maintenance and inventory works.
Meanwhile, the JXO’s older brother, the JX1, is the perfect tool for professional single item order picking. Most warehouse equipment is either too weak or too expensive for your average e-commerce warehouse owner – the JX1 fills this gap perfectly.
The large driver platform allows for maximum effieicenty and flexibility. This means warehouse operators can move heavy loads in small spaces, all without the need for pallets.
A low-level order picker comes into its own when picking items at ground level at speed. EP offers several fork configurations meaning that each can be effortlessly adjusted to suit any task. In addition, where warehouses were once judged via square footage, modern developments have meant that height is now also a key consideration.
Warehouses and storerooms have been given a new lease of life, and the ability to use their full height in complete safety is a real game changer. EP’s range of versatile vertical order pickers has been designed to streamline the picking process, improve flexibility and ultimately boost productivity. In the not so distant past, higher shelf work would be accomplished with ladders (dangerous) or reach trucks (requiring cumbersome pallets). Thankfully, EP Equipment boasts some truly innovative solutions for the ever-increasing demand for high-quality vertical order pickers (plus work assist vehicles) that are designed be used at heights of up to 6.5 metres.
The future of warehousing is bright
Experts have predicted that by 2021, e-commerce will have increased to the tune of a massive 40 percent. This means that those involved in future-proofing warehousing models need to understand the impact of top of ever-changing shopping patterns and ever higher consumer expectations. It’s crystal clear that the opportunities offered by the progress of e-commerce has resulted in company logistics – and specifically warehousing – to become the strategic hub of any modern e-commerce business. That’s why being able to place all your picking requirements in the expert hands of the experts at EP Equipment makes operating in this highly competitive sphere much less daunting.