Heraclitus of Ephesus said it best: “The only thing that is constant is change.” This seems to ring especially true in the world of business and supply chain management. Our consumer-driven economy continually forces warehouse managers to rethink how they manage inventory and shipping. E-commerce is the driving force behind this constant need to rethink, as it has turned the typical brick-and-mortar system on its head. Every company—from Amazon to Walmart to a smaller internet retailer—is racing to find better ways to get product to end users faster, a different method of thinking from the days when they only had to keep a store’s inventory replenished.
Warehouse inventory strategies, then, must change and must continue to change as retail and commerce continue to evolve. The good news is that partnering with technology and third-party logistics (3PL) providers puts you in an excellent position to keep your fulfillment processes nimble and ready to meet consumer expectations.
Three Strategies for Success
There are many warehouse inventory strategies that will help your business move at the speed of consumers. Here are some of our favorites:
- Optimize Your Real Estate: Warehouses are a particular real estate full of pallets and zones that are intended to minimize inconsistencies with picking and packing but sometimes inventory is stored without consideration of how its position impacts future processes. The traditional zone structures create groups of positions that ideally have the same real estate value, but that’s not always the case. Putting things away in the right place now has less to do with the zone and more to do with how fast the item moves. Faster-moving SKUs should be positioned in more accessible slots, while slow-moving items can reside toward the back of the warehouse where they’re not in the way. You can easily determine an item’s move time (expected time to pick = on-hand inventory divided by forecast) using your warehouse management system, then arrange their location based on the calculated move time.
- Outsource to Meet Demand: Wholesale distributors have become more and more popular over the years, providing retailers with ways to liquidate inventory and sell discounted goods. As consumers move to shopping liquidation retailers both in stores and online, warehouses must rethink strategies, as well, to keep costs down and respond to customer demand. Complex pick-and-pack operations must be combined with expedited shipping, especially for “deal of the day” type offers. Using an outside logistics company can provide you with expertise, attention, and even seasonal labor to attend to many of these new demands.
- Automate and Simplify: Overarching demand for greater distribution efficiencies, improved inventory turns, and faster ROI have created the need for more automated solutions to expedite entire processes. Automation is not meant to replace human workers, either. Rather, it should be designed to improve labor and empower warehouse workers. Examples of automation solutions include everything from robotic truck loaders to automated storage and retrieval systems that use space efficiently and reduce the amount of time it takes to get products to the next location in the shipping process.
Keep the Information Moving
All these warehouse inventory strategies have one thing in common: technology. Keeping your systems linked—from your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to your warehouse management system (WMS)—ensures that information moves just as smoothly as the products do.
PositiveVision has been serving Chicago area businesses with the software and technology they need to keep their information and their businesses running like clockwork, whether it’s order processing, picking and packing, inventory management, or shipping. Find out how our solutions can streamline your warehouse inventory strategies and keep your business moving at the speed of consumer expectation.