A year-long process of deploying new automation, order management and WMS technology at Surrey-based e-commerce fulfilment specialist Haul + Store has ensured readiness for “out of the ordinary” peaks in demand for e-commerce fulfilment.
Co-Owner Neil Burden said Haul + Store had done a lot of work over the last year, working with supplier MintSoft, around the locations of stock in the warehouse, barcoding all of those locations and making pick faces as streamlined as possible so that when it comes to picking on mass the teams can cope with the added demand.
“We rely on our team immensely to fulfil the orders, but the backbone to everything that they do, from pick and pack, to managing stock inventory with shopping carts, it’s all driven by technology,” he said.
Burden was speaking to Logistics Manager ahead of this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday online retail promotion events.
According to the Office of National Statistics, total online retail sales in October accounted for 28.1% of all retail transactions, up from a 19.1% share in October 2019, but down from a peak of 32.8% in May 2020.
Burden said that in the face of such uncertainty, warehouse managers still need to prepare for a sudden spike in orders, with Covid-19 creating an entirely new set of logistical challenges.
“Last year we had some issues with parcel carriers which is why we’ve been proactive this time around. We’re keen to avoid a situation where we’ve done our role i.e. we’ve picked and packed the orders and they’re ready to go but the network just can’t take them because they’re at capacity and they are then left onsite with us overnight. This will create problems later down the line for our customers and the eventual purchaser.”
When it comes to managing throughput, some logistics operations offered overtime to existing workforce while others employed new staff to pick and pack the additional orders. Now, with strict social distancing measures in place, increasing the footprint of the warehouse is, in many cases, not possible so utilising all available space is key in allowing warehouse managers to scale up.
Haul + Store said it had utilised order management and warehouse management systems, including Mintsoft, to optimise warehouse space and automate processes that would previously have required manual input. As a result, the fulfilment firm said that it was reducing the number of warehouse operatives on the shop floor, while ensuring orders are fulfilled.
Furthermore, Burden said that managing relationships with parcel carriers already running at peak capacity is important when it comes to handling an increased volume of orders.
“I think the most important thing is for all parties to keep the line of communication open, to ensure any issues or queries can be dealt with in an orderly and timely manner before real problems begin to mount up. For example, if retailers are in regular contact with their fulfilment house, they can highlight any new deals or product launches they have in the pipeline, allowing the warehouse operatives to prepare.
“Whether it’s selling their goods through a new online channel, or launching new goods or promotional bundles. Just anything in that regard, because if that info comes to us too late it becomes hard to fulfil the orders in the way they want.”