Food & Beverage: Your WMS Ecommerce Requirements Checklist
Published on 8 June 2022
Over the last two years, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the spotlight has shone brightly on ecommerce, for obvious reasons. For one, its convenience, as well as speed, availability and sheer variety of available products—many of which you may not be able to easily find in a store or from one vendor.
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In both the B2B and B2C sectors, ecommerce was already thriving prior to the stay-at-home orders that began in 2020 which triggered the great rise in DTC ecommerce. Even with the recent lifting of many pandemic-related restrictions that encourage consumers to flock to stores, the growth path for ecommerce remains strong. This year in 2022, the market of B2C ecommerce in North America, revenue is estimated to reach U.S. $1,015 billion in 2022, with an annual growth rate of over 14 percent projected through 2025, according to Statista.
Within the B2B sector, digital transformation initiatives are driving strong growth in ecommerce. In North America, B2B ecommerce sales are expected to grow by more than 12 percent annually through 2030, reaching $7,151.7 billion in 2030.
Whether your operations are relatively new to ecommerce, or you are a seasoned pro at ecommerce fulfillment, chances are the sector is a fast-growing one among your distribution channels. You may not be certain what ecommerce capabilities to look for in your warehouse management system (WMS), or you may be in the market for an upgrade or replacement of your WMS to a more advanced solution.
We’ve recently reviewed key basic requirements to look for in a WMS by food and beverage companies. So in this blog, we are taking a look at leading WMS capabilities to seek with ecommerce orders in mind for direct fulfillment to the customer. Ecommerce orders are often characterized by smaller, lower volume (even single item) shipments than those found in wholesale and retail markets. As such, ecommerce has unique operational requirements within the warehouse, DC or fulfillment center, which is reflected in the WMS capabilities to seek in an ecommerce-enabled solution.
Omnichannel logistics: The WMS has to be fully featured to accommodate the new and expanding channels used in ecommerce. This includes many hybrid shopping models like today’s buy-online return in-store (BORIS) and buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS)-not to mention returns, to efficiently manage inbound volumes of returns, In many consumer categories, return rates from online orders can be notoriously high, such as in apparel, footwear and electronics.
An ecommerce-enabled WMS needs to handle new configurations in the warehouse to accommodate changing SKU bases, such as in the case of a 3PL with many customers across retail and ecommerce. As well, some 3PLs and large companies are configuring a micro-fulfillment center or the dedicated portion of warehouse where frequently ordered ecommerce SKUs can be stored, picked, and processed for fast fulfillment.
The WMS must also enable these activities to co-exist alongside the variations of more traditional distribution channels from supplying stores with pallet-sized orders, and the cross-docking and sorting required for local stores and supercenters, for example.
Optimizing picking processes: Picking is a critical function for any warehouse or DC but in ecommerce, pulling the right products at the right time takes on new priority, calling for dynamic optimization features in an WMS. The demands of ecommerce means frequent picking waves, multiple-order picking waves, and more frequent cut-off times.
An example of a WMS facilitating fulfillment of multiple channels at once is from single-piece picking in bulk and packing for high volumes of single-item orders that don’t require a sorting phase, or when sorting is required, multi-order picking in bulk for orders with many SKUs.
With optimization of picking processes and workflow, warehouse managers can make the best use of labor, and supporting material handling equipment, to create waves for picking, and automate the picking cycle with order information from the ERP or order management system (OMS). A robust WMS will allow set up for zone, batch or cluster picking, and allow for adjustment of picking methods whether via manual methods, or more automated methods via mobile terminal, pick by voice, pick by light, and allow integration with robotic systems like autonomous mobile robots (AMR).
Comprehensive integrations: The ability to easily integrate the WMS into the existing IT ecosystem is of value when adopting a new WMS. Today’s SaaS-based and cloud-based solutions as well as the open APIs and other standardized interfaces are making more and more possible for new systems and applications to be added, enabling interconnectivity, sharing of information and scalability, allowing the warehouse operation to adapt and grow with shipping volumes.
AWMS must be compatible with systems already used in your warehouse and may be able to integrate with different forms of technology from material handling equipment within the four walls of the DC to other systems like ERP, OMS, returns management applications, ecommerce platforms, and single-carrier or multi-carrier shipping software, among others.
This visibility and control gives customers timely information about their orders, whether it’s a routine shipping confirmation, or involving an out-of-stock item, a return, or other exception-all while enhancing the customer experience which is expected to be frictionless today.
About Generix Group North America
Generix Group North America provides a series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite to create efficiencies across an entire supply chain. Our solutions are in use around the world and our experience is second-to-none. We invite you to contact us to learn more.