Guest blog from Duncan La Barre, of Veeqo and speaker at our upcoming eCommerce MasterPlan Virtual Summit
Every ecommerce retailer wants to save time and money. Freeing up time means you can use it in more productive areas like getting orders out quicker. Saving money means you have more funds to invest in continual business growth.
Yet the warehouse can be a drain on both of these things for many ecommerce businesses.
So in this post we’ll address four things you can do to save time and money by streamlining your warehouse operation.
1. Label areas of your warehouse
Research we recently did for our “Definitive Guide to Picking & Packing” ebook indicated that 60% of a picker’s time is spent just walking around the warehouse.
With this in mind, it’s paramount to ensure that your warehouse is arranged in the most effective way possible. The less time your pickers spend walking around, the quicker they can get your orders ready for packing.
Simple locations and labelling for different parts of the warehouse is a key first step here. This means pickers can head to a specific location of the warehouse knowing the item they need is going to be right there.
Think about the most effective route around when naming areas of your warehouse. It’s also important to keep a systematic approach so sticking with one format is crucial.
For example, for smaller warehouses you may simply name the different rows and shelves:
Whereas a slightly bigger or more complex operation may need to expand to having different warehouse and row areas:
2. Keep best selling items close to packing desks
That same research mentioned earlier also indicated that, on average, 20% of products made up 60% of sales for the retailers we spoke to.
This means there is likely a cohort of your products that get picked more frequently than others. So it makes sense to identify these and reduce picker walking time to that stock.
A quick sales report from the last few months will allow you to see which items are most frequently purchased. You can then think about rearranging that stock to be kept as close to the packing desks as possible.
It can also be a good idea to keep very best selling smaller items on shelves right above the packing desk. This way, packers may even be able to add these products to orders themselves.
3. Choose an effective picking method
Many businesses we at Veeqo talk to make the mistake of sticking with the same picking method they had on day one. Typically, this is picking a single order at a time.
While this may have worked fine in the past, it becomes far from optimal once more and more orders start coming in.
For growing ecommerce businesses, switching to one of the following three methods can massively save time and free up resources:
This sees a picker get assigned a certain number of orders in one go. They’ll then pick them all at once and return ready for packing.
Batch picking is great for retailers shipping a high volume of orders with single or very few items in each order.
This is where each picker gets assigned a warehouse zone. Each order is then passed through all relevant zones to have its items picked by the pickers in each zone.
Zone picking is useful to prevent multiple pickers getting in each other’s way. It also helps improve accuracy if you have high order volume with multiple products per order.
However, overall shipping time may slightly increase due to the time it takes to pass an order through all the zones.
This is basically zone picking with the main difference being that all items are picked at the same time. There’s then a central packing desk orders are consolidated on before shipping.
Wave picking is a lot quicker than zone. But it does come with higher labour costs due to the more time needed for the packer to combine orders.
So if you rate speed more important than costs and have a high volume of multiple item orders then this could be the method for you.
4. Optimise your packing area
When you’re starting out with only a few basic orders, you can make do packing pretty much anywhere.
But a business shipping thousands of orders a day needs a slick operation. Without a quality packing procedure, customers get delayed, incorrect or damaged orders. And it’s your brand that pays the penalty.
Proper Packing Desk
The first thing to ensure is that your packing desk itself is of good enough standard to handle your workload.
A quality packing desk is extremely sturdy and much larger than a normal office desk. It also has handy shelves and rolls attached to store packing materials. Something like the Speedy Shelving Packing Station works great.
Even if you believe current order volume doesn’t warrant it, setting two packing desks is always a good idea. This makes it much easier to have someone jump in to help push through sudden busy periods.
Better Shipping Computer
To go along with the desk, a packer will need some form of device and work area in order to get the following tasks done:
- Weigh parcels.
- Print packing slips/invoices on an A4 laser printer.
- Print shipping labels on a thermal printer.
- Mark orders as shipped on your system and sales channels.
- Email tracking details to your customers.
This can be done via a normal Windows PC. But using a typical keyboard and mouse setup isn’t optimal for this kind of work – it’s slow and error-prone.
We recommend a dedicated piece of hardware to do all this without a keyboard or mouse. That’s why Veeqo will soon be rolling out our V-Hub. It’ll have a built-in barcode scanner, digital scales, 10” touch screen and parcel dimension scanner to make shipping incredibly easier.
Faster Invoice Printer
When you’re printing thousands of packing slips or invoices a day, it’s vital to have a printer that can cope with the demands.
For example, this Samsung CLX-6260ND prints 24 pages a minute, while this HP Laserjet Enterprise prints 55 pages per minute. This means you’d save 24 minutes for every 1,000 orders that are processed.
So investing in a decent printer is another way you can save you valuable time every single day.
Is there anything else you do to save time in the warehouse? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.