Don’t expect the E-Commerce boom to fade any time soon. Consumers love the instant point-and-click gratification of an online purchase; all from the comfort of their living room couch or on the fly from their mobile devices. Amazon, Zappos, Best Buy and even Home Depot are driving the explosion of new categories each year. With a myriad of choice and quick delivery, U.S. E-Retail sales will grow from $263 billion in 2013 to an expected $414 billion in 2018- an annual growth rate of 9.5%.
E-Commerce is certainly BIG business and it’s generated almost entirely of very small orders. The average value of an online order in 2014 was just $75 dollars, comprised of a single item to a handful of products per order – all shipped direct to your doorstep vs. traditional brick and mortar store fronts. No surprise, consumer expectations for convenience, variety and speed has had a tremendous impact on the retail supply chain, driving considerable demands on logistics and the physical layout of storage and fulfillment centers.
E-Commerce Demands on Retail Supply Chain
- Shift from full pallet and carton shipments to small orders and each picks
- Proliferation of SKUs to meet unwavering demand for variety
- Need for more labor for case/each picks vs. full pallet orders
- Move from truck load or LTL to overnight and 2nd day parcel freight
- Higher packaging and shipping costs
How to improve E-Commerce Storage and Order Fulfillment
The first step is to restructure your storage and order fulfillment systems for quick throughput of multiple small orders, all each or piece pick. You’ll want to consolidate the order picking activity – move from traditional pallet rack storage – to a forward pick area or multi-level pick module. A pick module integrates carton flow with high-speed conveyance for quick order throughput. A large number of SKUs are condensed into a small footprint SKU capacity by up to 50% while significantly improving productivity; order pickers don’t have to travel to pick items.
How It Works
- SKUs are stored in carton flow with items picked to tote or carton and placed on a conveyor
- A short supply (2 week) reserve storage (6-8 cases) per SKU is contained in the carton flow lane
- Carton flow is replenished on the opposite side of the pick lane as to not interfere with fulfillment operations
- Selective rack, located adjacent to the pick module, provides full pallet reserve storage
- Save space – up to 50% vs. static rack
- Increase pick locations – up to 40 slots per bay
- Reduce travel time and equipment requirements
- Decrease labor costs – by as much as 50%
- Increase productivity
Check out one of our latest custom carton flow solutions developed in our in-house Engineering testing lab using Dyna-Flo (HD). Heavy-duty Dyna-Flo is used to store rubber floor mats stored in poly-bags. The bags are stacked on thin slip sheets, placed on the load-side slip plate. The fully stack load is pushed slightly off the slip plate to flow gently to the opposite side for individual pick for customer orders.
Add a Tilt Tray
Case picking from carton flow vs. selective rack saves time and space, but standard case flow with flush shelf facings can have some limitations, especially for each pick/E-Commerce applications. Consider adding a tilt-tray for these item locations. Cartons flow from load end as in a typical system, with the first carton pushed gently onto a tilted tray located at the discharge side. Open cartons placed in the tilted position adds better visibility and accessibility to individual items.
Need help designing a custom case-pick system? No problem. Using your inventory and SKU velocity reports, Mallard’s carton flow specialists will help you design the optimal product configuration for maximum picking efficiency.
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