With the first quarter of 2017 behind us and Q2 off to a running start, this year is shaping up to be one dominated by a few major trends. E-commerce continues to grow and take more hold of the marketplace. Forrester Research estimates that online sales in the U.S. will reach upwards of $523 billion by 2020.
Mobile technology is everywhere, and this is shifting how consumers buy products. Smartphone users surpassed computer uses in Q1 of 2016 as the primary digital source for traffic to e-commerce, and that number seems to be growing. With purchases now made at the click of a button, a shift has taken place in how manufacturers, shippers, and retailers get products to consumers in order to meet changing expectations.
Warehouse management solutions have been developing at an incredible pace to keep up with the new logistics landscape; consumer expectations of end-to-end supply chain visibility, ultra-fast fulfillment times, and incredible flexibility are becoming the norm. Let’s take a look at three of the key features a warehouse management solution (WMS) has to have to be competitive in 2017.
Bin-level location tracking
RFID chips didn’t make the splash in the consumer space many people expected them to in the early 2000’s. But as the technology becomes less expensive it is being deployed more and more frequently in the modern warehouse. Scanning technology and RFID and barcodes are an important tool enables bin-level location tracking and makes inventory management much more accurate and efficient. The major benefit of bin-level tracking is that inventory is more exact, and warehouse management systems that include this functionality can reduce warehouse and distribution labor costs by upwards of 30% or more.
Smart warehouses give all parties involved access to timely inventory information, and integrate this directly into other logistics technologies. Clear tracking of bin-level inventory gives companies access to the information they need to more accurately forecast their inventory needs down the line.
Total Inventory Visibility
The growing use of technologies like RFID-based bin-level inventory tracking in every step of the supply chain makes everything from production lines to warehouses smarter. Digital systems tracking for inventory and shipping empowers those managing the systems, while at the same time accelerates consumer expectation. The result is twofold: inventory is more visible and people want faster.
Having access to real time data and a more complete picture of the supply chain allows logistical decisions to be made with more up to the minute information. With a strong grasp on inventory, products get into the hands of consumers faster, and companies are able to replenish low stock quickly.
Robust data and the up-to-date inventory history of a given product allows information to drive the decision making process. The result is less error, less loss, and a maximization of efficiency.
Having up-to-date information on inventory is essential in ensuring that products are there when consumers want them. A market oversaturated with choice when it comes to purchase points and distributors means that if a consumer looks for a product and it is not stocked, or if won’t get to them fast enough, they may move on.
Dependable inventory reporting prevents issues from occurring by automating re-order points. When inventory is running low, advanced warehouse management systems allow re-ordering early enough to prevent any hiccups. Strong and real-time data allows stock to be kept to a minimum in the warehouse. The result is a freeing of space, a driving down of costs, and a smaller inventory that does more.
The bottom line is automated re-order points reduce fulfillment times, while reducing supply chain costs, and maximize earnings. Products have to be where they need to be when customers want them, but excessive inventory drives up cost. Automating the inventory process to track sales trends, account for lead time demands, and ensuring minimal effective safety stock allows companies to meet the complex demands of today’s global digital markets.
With the 2017 market steadily growing, bolstered by international markets and steadily growing e-commerce, efficient warehouse management has never mattered more. Total inventory visibility, bin-level location tracking, and automated reordering are three key features a competitive WMS solution has to have in 2017.
If you need a partner to help you strategically manage and successfully move your products out of the port and onto their final destination, be sure to download our ebook – Speeding Time-to-Shelf and Cutting Costs– a must read for today’s logistics managers.