8 Ways WMS can Optimize Omnichannel Fulfillment for Distributors

The increasing adoption of eCommerce and mCommerce provide today’s consumers with an unprecedented amount of information to make purchasing decisions, as well as new fulfillment options (like purchase online and pickup in store).

Consumers have all the information they need on smartphones and tablets to quickly compare and contrast competitive products, narrow down selection criteria, and make complex decisions, all without speaking to a sales representative or setting foot in a retail storefront.

This new paradigm is creating a belief on the part of consumers that they have more leverage over the purchasing process than they have had in the past. They can find multiple sources of the same product or identify obscure or alternative product selections that they may not have considered without access to the Internet. This belief is putting price pressure on retail channels. Consumers want increased product selection, faster delivery, and better service… at a lower cost.

When designing and implementing systems to enable omnichannel capabilities, business processes must encompass the need for efficient, integrated communication of commitments around materials purchasing, payment, and the direction of movement between points in the supply chain. Systems must also enable efficient operational processes to reduce the cost of meeting those commitments such as addressing Retailer communication, Picking and Packing Efficiency, Industry Compliance, and Small Parcel Shipping:

Advanced technology through Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) can have an enormous impact in reaching these goals and optimizing omnichannel fulfillment through features and functionality designed inside of Warehouse Management Systems, such as:

1. Minimize product touches. Product dimension and weight data allows the WMS to predetermine carton size. Items on orders can be efficiently aggregated for packing station consumption or picked directly into shipping containers.

2. Efficient Shipping and Drop Shipping:  Integrated small parcel and LTL carrier rate selection and manifesting can drive efficiencies by printing carrier labels at the right point in the outbound order fulfillment process. Shipments can be automatically rated and consolidated to optimize costs.

eCommerce drop-shipments comprise an increasing amount of retail activity. The expectation is that the distributor will fulfill a retail drop shipment with the same commitment to service as if it were shipped from the retailer’s warehouse. Communication between retailer and drop-shipper is usually facilitated through EDI and requires compliance with retail specific packing slips, return labels, shipment routing, coupons, etc. A WMS is the engine that efficiently integrates all of the compliance elements of a drop-ship program, in addition to the promise of fulfillment within expected lead times.

3. Minimize travel. WMS analytics enable distributors to organize the warehouse so that unit, case, and pallet pick fulfillment can be treated in different “work streams” for optimal efficiency, yet remain flexible enough to allow the operator to consolidate picks during off-peak operations.

4. Utilize RF, Voice or automated picking technology, leveraging optimal picking methods. Leading WMS solutions empower the workforce with handheld devices that support automatic identification during the picking process—increasing order accuracy and inventory visibility to near 100%. Based on order types and available space, distributors can coordinate the optimal combination of picking methods (discrete order picking, wave/cluster picking, batch picking, zone picking).

5. Minimize shipping expense. WMS software can automatically “shop” the available shipping options for lowest rate at desired service level, enforcing compliance with policies set by customer service and eliminating a process silo that bottlenecks the warehouse operation.

6. Reduce out-of-stocks. Accurate inventory by bin location in the warehouse and the allocation of inventory at the warehouse level enables the accurate assignment of inventory to orders as well as the proper orchestration of bin replenishments to meet organizational commitments (whether contractual or implied).

7. Maximize productivity. Optimizing warehouse labor in an omnichannel environment is absolutely critical. The increased demands for 24- hour (or less) service means improving customer service metrics in the face of price pressure expectations. Visibility into key performance metrics is a prerequisite to effectively managing employee productivity.

8. Streamline document interchange. The WMS can integrate seamlessly with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, as well as automate transactions with supply chain partners using electronic data interchange (EDI) – a capability mandated by more and more retailers and manufacturers. Integration among WMS, ERP, and EDI will reduce or eliminate manual data entry errors and chargebacks, greatly accelerate transaction processing, streamline onboarding of new trading partners, and increase productivity without increasing staff.

Read the entire White Paper on Profitable Scalable Distribution in a Consumer Driven Supply  Chain

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