How E-Commerce is Changing Warehouse Operations
Biggest Talking Points
As times change, so do the operations of many industries. In the same way, e-commerce is changing the way warehouses operate. With the innovation of e-commerce, the demand is suddenly much higher than it used to be. To keep up with it, and meet all customer needs, one must implement the needed changes in their business. That primarily means more machinery and more people if you want your productivity to stay at an all-time high.
What is happening?
The heart of the matter is that online shopping has become extremely popular over the years. People would rather shop online, and order what they need from the comfort of their own home, than go to the stores and buy what they need. Thanks to this fact, there are more openings in the warehousing department. The industry is changing and trying to accommodate the increasing needs of customers.
After all, with an estimated 2.3 trillion of e-commerce sales for 2017, and 2.8 in 2018, we can conclude that online sales are just going to keep cranking up the numbers. The industry must comply.
With the advancement of technology, automated processes and systems are more and more present in warehouses. This is because they improve efficiency and speed, thus helping workers do their tasks more quickly. To reduce operator fatigue, and improve the picking process, semi-automated pickers are making an appearance, for example.
Another innovation for product picking is the robotic arm, which makes the process easier. Forklift and pallet jack demand is also on the rise as they’re convenient for taking over some manual tasks. All of this is proof that e-commerce is pushing warehouses to be more productive, and efficient, than ever.
This was simply an unavoidable step in this day and age. Thankfully, it was also wanted. When you’ve got a machine focusing on the menial tasks of the craft, it leaves you the time and energy to focus on things that actually matter in the warehouse.
Some may perceive this step as people stepping aside to make room for technology, but don’t be fooled. There is simply no valid reason for a person to tire themselves out with something like the picking process or some manual tasks. Instead, they can turn their attention to fulfilling more orders, and keeping up with e-commerce, thus increasing business all around. The human touch will always be necessary, just in different ways.
The Shift in Demands
Up to now, warehouses have mostly dealt with bulk orders and pallets. It used to be pretty simple, as there aren’t a lot of things to worry about when you’re fulfilling one large order. Now, though, there is an increase in individual orders. Because most orders today are online, people from all over the place have the opportunity to order what they want. It isn’t just big firms and companies anymore.
The orders are still going to be large, but now the focus will be on individuals. Because of this, more precision and space is required. Workers need to know exactly where to locate, track, and find the right goods. To make things easier, the warehouse walls are getting narrower and the shelves higher. The result of this is the increased use of smaller forklifts, which are more agile and convenient for getting around the new layout.
The Increased Need for Machinery
As the demand increases, so will the need for materials handling equipment. After all, it’s only natural. You will have a lot more orders to fill, and a lot more customers to satisfy. Having an adequate amount of machinery and equipment will help your team stay on track, and deal with the influx of business. On the other hand, expanding your warehousing goods will surely mean your expenses will increase, too.
Some warehouses simply can’t deal with the costs of the expansion, as new machinery and equipment can end up costing an absurd amount of money. A solution to this issue would be buying second hand or used equipment. The stuff you buy will still be fully functional, and high quality, but much cheaper, allowing your warehouse to keep running smoothly. Others partner up with more developed firms and simply borrow the equipment they need. Another solution may be to rent the equipment you need until you can invest in it.
Whatever option you may choose, it’s up to you to ensure your employees don’t suffer. Working in a warehouse isn’t easy, and not having proper and up to date equipment can be worse than being short-staffed. If you intend to adequately and efficiently deal with the surplus of business, it’s mandatory to be prepared.
Hiring New People
A team of five or ten people simply won’t suffice anymore. There are going to be so many tasks to run that your team will fall behind if they’re shorthanded. That’s why hiring new people is essential. Regardless of how much technology is advancing, the human touch is still necessary for warehousing operations.
That being said, you should make sure to hire skilled staff. There isn’t much use hiring someone who doesn’t know remotely what they’re doing. On a similar note, you should provide training classes for all new employees (and even some old ones).
No matter how skilled they are, every warehouse is different. They may have not worked with a certain machine before, and it can be hard to fit into an already developed team when you’re new. Training classes provide an opportunity to refine their skills, and get to know the people they’re working with, as well as the machines.
As you can see, there are many things that e-commerce has the power to change. Though business may run differently than what you’re used to, it’s going to be better and easier in the long run. Meeting the new demands will become impossible with old and outdated methods, which is why it’s in every warehouse owner’s interest to get with the times as soon as they can.