Eight steps for designing a warehouse for online sales

During the pandemic, it has been online sales that have allowed many retailers to survive while their shops have been closed. Even with the easing of restrictions, ordering online will continue to be the preferred method of shopping for many customers.

An online order fulfilment warehouse needs to process orders accurately, quickly and accurately. To modify an existing warehouse for ecommerce operations or to open a new warehouse, follow these eight steps.

1. Calculate the space needed

The first question that needs asking is how much warehouse space is needed. Calculate how many pallets or boxes of inventory need to be stored and work out the cubic metres of space required to store them. Then, add on space for packing, receiving inventory, rest areas and a place where goods are sent ready for dispatch.

Expect the return rate to be higher for online orders compared to shops, so set aside a space to handle returns.

2. List essential equipment

You’ll need to make a list of all the essential equipment needed to run the warehouse. Steely Products can help you with this step. We make a wide range of storage, material handling, picking station equipment and shelving. Talk to us at the planning stage to make sure that you will have all the equipment you need.

Essential equipment can also include warehouse management system software, computers, tablets, barcode readers, packing tape dispensers and other necessary equipment.

Quality warehouse management systems integrate all operations, tracking orders from being received, picked, packed to arriving at their destination. An accounts system can be linked to a warehouse management system.

3. Find systems to automate repetitive processes

There is a wide range of technology available to help automate repetitive operations. For example, bar code readers can streamline picking and packing, making sure that the correct items are picked. Conveyor belts can save repeated journeys.

4. Plan picking paths

There are a number of picking methods that can be used, including batch picking and zone picking. Use systems that optimise picking paths. It may seem logical to store similar items together, but it’s often better to have high-demand items near packing stations to decrease the average picking journey time.

5. Establish safety guidelines

A busy warehouse can be dangerous without adequate safety systems in place. Health and safety assessments are needed, and guidelines should be written down.

6. Training

All staff need to be trained for working with the new warehouse system, so that picking, packing and dispatch all run smoothly. Staff need detailed safety training to minimise risks when lifting and manually moving items.

7. Set up monitoring systems

It is essential to monitor the performance of the warehouse. Systems should be set up to track inventory turnover, order lead times, return rates and costs.

8. Plan to learn from failures

A new warehouse system won’t work perfectly at first – there will be mistakes and failures. Be prepared to honestly face failures and learn from them. Respond to critical customer feedback by improving systems, and talk to other ecommerce retailers about the mistakes they have made and learn from them.

If you’re planning a new warehouse system and need assistance on the best equipment to for your needs, talk to us at Steely Products by calling or using the contact form below.

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    Posted by Mark
    30th April 2021
    Retail & Warehousing

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