Executive Briefings

Challenges and Solutions of Retail Warehousing and Distribution

The success of online retailers has been linked to the demise of many high street shops in the UK, most recently HMV and Jessops. The remaining retailers have clear strategies which incorporate on-line shopping with home delivery and are often further supported by other initiatives, such as click and collect, where goods are ordered online but delivered to a third-party address, such as a local garage or convenience store, to avoid the disappointment of missed home deliveries.

A relatively new trend is the effect social media has on online purchases. If, for example, photographs of a celebrity's latest outfit is "trending" on Twitter, demand for that (or a similar) outfit can be expected to swiftly increase online and in-store sales. Today's warehouse management systems have to be flexible enough to react quickly to this unpredictable source of demand as well as face the challenge of facilitating demand forecasting, stock holding and distribution for both store deliveries and online orders.

Further to this, there is an ever growing requirement for WMS to support a number of different distribution strategies within a single facility, which requires features such as cross-docking, consolidation and bulk packing, small parcel packing, expediting of urgent orders and promotion management. In addition, as more value-adding services are pushed up the supply chain or outsourced, WMS have to be flexible enough to manage the process flows, tracking the movement of the goods and capturing key information while maintaining complete visibility throughout.

All of this means that WMS software solutions must be capable of managing the different workflows within the warehouse, directing resources based on priorities, facilitating sophisticated packing operations and supporting a comprehensive returns process to name but a few. Taking this one step further, integrating the WMS with the extended supply chain is essential to support a streamlined, time-critical operation.

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A relatively new trend is the effect social media has on online purchases. If, for example, photographs of a celebrity's latest outfit is "trending" on Twitter, demand for that (or a similar) outfit can be expected to swiftly increase online and in-store sales. Today's warehouse management systems have to be flexible enough to react quickly to this unpredictable source of demand as well as face the challenge of facilitating demand forecasting, stock holding and distribution for both store deliveries and online orders.

Further to this, there is an ever growing requirement for WMS to support a number of different distribution strategies within a single facility, which requires features such as cross-docking, consolidation and bulk packing, small parcel packing, expediting of urgent orders and promotion management. In addition, as more value-adding services are pushed up the supply chain or outsourced, WMS have to be flexible enough to manage the process flows, tracking the movement of the goods and capturing key information while maintaining complete visibility throughout.

All of this means that WMS software solutions must be capable of managing the different workflows within the warehouse, directing resources based on priorities, facilitating sophisticated packing operations and supporting a comprehensive returns process to name but a few. Taking this one step further, integrating the WMS with the extended supply chain is essential to support a streamlined, time-critical operation.

Read Full Article