If your ecommerce business sells merchandise, you need a place to store them—in an ecommerce warehouse, fulfilment centre or a distribution centre. You can purchase a piece of land, lease a large facility, or outsource ecommerce warehousing to fulfil your customer orders— but warehousing doesn’t start or end here.
Efficient ecommerce warehouse management will determine the overall efficiency of your business.
Otherwise, you will be stuck with mismanaged inventory, inefficient fulfilment, poor performing staff, a low-profit margin and high operating costs. Not to mention, damaged relationships with your customers.
Let’s find out warehouse management can help you keep your ecommerce business afloat.
In this blog, you will learn what is ecommerce warehouse management, what is a warehouse management system (WMS), what are essential warehouse management processes, and the benefits of outsourcing warehouse management to a 3PL provider.
Warehouse management is a set of operations involved in running the day-to-day operations of an ecommerce warehouse. This includes receiving, tracking, and storing inventory, training warehouse staff, picking, packing and shipping orders.
A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software solution that consists of a set of policies and processes to organise the work of an ecommerce warehouse so that the facility can be operated efficiently and meet its objectives.
A warehouse management system (WMS) can help businesses in resource planning, supply chain logistics, and ecommerce order fulfilment. Here are more features of a warehouse management system (WMS):
1. Receiving and stowing inventory
One of the fundamental ecommerce warehousing operations is to receive inventory from trucks at loading docks and then stow them in the warehouse. First, the received boxes of inventory are scanned to record the SKUs and their quantity. Then, the inventory is put away in its designated storage location and scanned again. These warehouse operations are performed with clear instructions for the staff, so they know how to receive, unpack, retrieve, pick, pack, and ship inventory.
2. Inventory tracking and management
Inventory tracking is the process of monitoring inventory levels, so you know:
Thus, inventory management lets you know how many products are ready to be shipped if a customer places an order and how much inventory you should store in your warehouse based on customer demand.
3. Picking and packing
Picking and packing are two core functions performed in an ecommerce warehouse. When a customer order is received, picking lists are generated for each picker to retrieve items most efficiently. This picking list contains the list of the items ordered and storage locations at the warehouse. The picker then collects the ordered products from their respective locations.
Once an order is picked, it is then handed to a packer responsible for securely placing the items in a box or poly mailer, adding in any needed packing materials, and putting a shipping label on it. The orders are then marked “ready-to-ship.”
4. Shipping orders
The shipping carriers pick up orders from the ecommerce warehouse and then ship them to their customer location. Once the order ships, your warehouse management system (WMS) automatically sends ecommerce order tracking information back to the system so that you and your customers can track the shipment.
5. Returns management
Returns management is crucial for ecommerce brands to recapture the lost revenue. When returned products reach back to the ecommerce warehouse or the fulfilment centre, a quality check is conducted to determine whether products are ready to sell again. The items in good condition are quickly restocked, items that need to be revamped are refurbished, and the items in bad condition—ecommerce brands can file a claim on marketplaces.
6. Labour management
Ecommerce brands can manage the workforce at their warehouse with appropriate labour management. This includes planning staff rotations and shift times and assessing whether warehouse staff have adequate training to complete their job. Moreover, it can be used to establish KPIs (key performance indicators) and monitor progress toward them.
Reporting is an essential part of any process that enables ecommerce brands to analyse the performance and efficiency of the ecommerce warehouse, its operations and the staff. These include order accuracy rate, inventory turnover, order picking accuracy, inventory ageing, and other ecommerce metrics.
With a 3PL provider like Eshopbox, you reap a lot of benefits from ecommerce warehouse management:
3PLs access a powerful inventory management system (IMS) that can enable you to track goods across your ecommerce business’s supply chain. With Eshopbox’s actionable dashboard, you can track your inventory in real-time, including SKU, quantity, status, and more across warehouse locations.
The workforce is an integral part of the warehouse, and managing them effectively can improve your overall productivity. 3PLs like Eshopbox adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs) for every warehouse operation. The workforce is given step-by-step instructions for every task to improve efficiency and quality to ensure uniformity in operational performance. It helps reduce leakages due to miscommunication and eliminates any wastage of time and redundancy—helping you keep costs low.
When you run your own ecommerce warehouse, you’re most likely fulfilling orders from that one location. Partnering with a 3PL means, you can store inventory in several of their fulfilment centres to keep inventory closer to more customers and reduce shipping costs. For instance, Eshopbox drives down shipping costs by 45% with its distributed network of fulfilment centres across India in every zone—North, South, East and West.
Sudden influxes or dips in order volume can take you by surprise and cause a lot of damage, as your ecommerce warehouse might not be prepared to manage the order fluctuation efficiently. You can leverage a 3PL’s scalable storage and manage variability in sales effectively. For instance, Eshopbox re-allocates fulfilment resources according to the current order volume to manage the demand fluctuations.
A poorly configured warehouse can give rise to various problems like wastage of floor space and negative impact on the movement of warehouse staff and equipment. 3PLs have access to the technology to organise their warehouse’s layout with a 3D model of the most optimal arrangement—ultimately optimising the warehouse space drastically. This allows the warehouse staff to perform daily functions smoothly, faster and more accurately.
A small mistake in order management can collapse the entire workflow of a warehouse and fulfilment process. Fortunately, 3PLs like Eshopbox automatically consolidate your orders from multiple sales channels into a unified view. So that you have a real-time view of the entire order processing operations, such as the status of all your orders.
Picking and packing are among the most important processes in a warehouse that also causes some of the biggest problems. Luckily, with a 3PL, you can optimise picking and packing to minimise movement and time consumption. They also follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to make picking and packing as efficiently as possible. Moreover, you can reduce common human errors by using powerful technology, such as barcode scanners, conveyor belts, intelligent robots, and more.
An ideal warehouse must facilitate smooth storage and distribution of inventory by providing integrated features. These include highly trained manpower, transport facilities and well-designed storage facilities. Such ecommerce warehousing solutions are often offered by tech-enabled 3PLs like Eshopbox, accompanied by superior quality of service. Moreover, Eshopbox can help you optimise your ecommerce warehouse operations and rise above common warehouse management problems.
Ecommerce warehouses generate a lot of data while executing various operations and processes. This data holds valuable insight for improving warehouse productivity and the entire fulfilment process. But, just because you’re not working inside the 3PL’s warehouse doesn’t mean you won’t know what’s happening. 3PLs like Eshopbox enable you to capture your warehouse data and analyse it. Moreover, with access to Eshopbox’s actionable dashboard, analytics, periodic reports and key metrics, you can drive your ecommerce brand in the right direction.
Things can go wrong even in the best ecommerce warehouses—but they are always prepared for it. For instance, Eshopbox's fulfilment centres are equipped with state-of-the-art devices and gadgets to provide a high level of security.
Warehouse management is a tricky thing to get right if you’re trying manually. By investing in a warehouse management system (WMS), repetitive tasks will be taken off your warehousing team’s plate. As a result, you’ll be able to improve order accuracy, ship orders faster, and have the data you need to make the warehouse operations run at peak efficiency. Moreover, outsourcing warehouse management to a 3PL provider like Eshopbox can help you reap multiple benefits of seamless ecommerce warehousing and fulfilment to scale indefinitely.