Efficiency is usually top of mind when it comes to running an eCommerce fulfillment center. You and your team need to quickly retrieve items, prepare them for shipment and get them out the door so they can be delivered as fast as possible. For online retailers, the average cost to fulfill an order is 70 percent of the average order value. That means your business is only making 30 percent profit off every item that leaves your facility.
To reduce your fulfillment costs and improve efficiency, use these tips to get your products out the door as quickly and as cheaply as possible so you can make the most of every order.
Monitor Existing Fulfillment Rates
Before you start adjusting your operations, you need to have something to compare these changes to. Start by recording existing fulfillment rates so you have an idea of how much your facility needs to improve. Assign specific times to individual tasks, such as item retrieval, assembling packages and containers and loading/unloading materials. Go through this information and look for ways to increase efficiency.
You should have an idea of how your employees go about these routine tasks. Reduce inefficiencies and redundant steps–such as the number of product touches–to improve efficiency. Identify optimal picking paths to reduce confusion and downtime in the workplace.
Continue tracking these figures over time. If these times start to tick up again, consider making additional adjustments to your operations.
Rearrange Your Inventory
Nothing will slow you and your team like working in a disorganized warehouse. To improve fulfillment rates, consider changing the layout of your facility. It all starts with stack racks. Stack racks in fulfillment centers are designed to break up the space so your employees can easily find what they need on the shelf. You can assign certain aisles, shelves and areas of your facility to different types of products to improve picking rates.
The most in-demand items should be the easiest to grab and locate on the shelf. Your employees shouldn’t have to go too far out of their way to retrieve these items. You can even keep some items in or near the loading dock to eliminate the picking process entirely. Keep heavy items close to the bottom to reduce the chances of error and on-the-job accidents.
Use plastic bulk containers to make the picking process easier for your employees. Instead of handling lift trucks and dollies, they can push around large wheeled containers to quickly gather the items that need to go out for delivery. Pushing a cart or bulk container doesn’t require a lot of training and experience. There’s also less room for error so you don’t have to worry about one of your employees accidentally injuring themselves or knocking into some of your inventory.
Conduct a Safety Assessment
Safety is an important part of running any business, especially for those who work in a warehouse. These employees tend to suffer from a range of on-the-job hazards, including back pain, muscle tears and stiffness, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome as they scan and handle various items day in and day out. An accident could affect the integrity of your inventory or injure one of your employees, bringing your facility to a grinding halt. Your employees should be able to go about their business without worrying about their health and safety.
Conduct a safety assessment to identify any potential hazards in the workplace. Your inventory should be stacked and stored safely on the shelf. Avoid stacking products into towers that may fall over. Keep aisles and doorways clear of debris to keep your workers moving throughout the space. Invest in proper lighting to keep the space visible.
Teach your employees to watch out for one another on the job. If someone is lifting something with their back instead of their legs or someone doesn’t feel comfortable operating a forklift, they should speak up. Your employees should also clean up and organize your facility as they go about their shifts. They should get in the habit of putting back miscellaneous items where they belong, getting rid of trash and straightening up aisles and walkways.
Some companies may look to automation to improve order fulfillment times, but this equipment can be out of reach for some businesses. If you’re looking to keep your costs as low as possible without fundamentally altering your operations, these tips will help steer you in the right direction. Stay organized to keep your products moving.