Spruce up your warehouse - 5 ways a WMS helps warehouses manage the festive rush

Spruce up your warehouse - 5 ways a WMS helps warehouses manage the festive rush

01 October 2020

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Christmas will be starting early this year like no other. IMRG is anticipating online shopping volumes will be ‘really very excessive’ during the 2020 festive season as shoppers decide to treat their families or take advantage of bargains.

Indigo is advising warehouses everywhere to have warehouse management software technology in place, to be able to respond to the expected seasonal demand surges and peak periods.

Even before lockdown, e-commerce sales during the first months of 2020 were around 5% higher than recorded previously. Since Covid-19 first hit, numbers have soared, with growth rates of around 40-50%, according to IMRG, the UK’s industry association for online retailers. And they've remained high ever since.

All but the most reluctant online shoppers have migrated away from the high street in a bid to social distance. Boots has tripled its online capacity and Yodel is forecasting they will be delivering a million extra parcels in their busiest period. Just multiply that up across all the other retailers and delivery service companies, to get an idea of total volumes hitting doorsteps this winter.

To help the industry and avoid disappointment, retailers and industry experts are warning shoppers to buy early. In the event of more restrictions coming into force due to Covid-19, people have already started panic buying grocery items, with the familiar sight of empty toilet roll aisles returning.

Normally the festive season ramp-up begins on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekends. Due to financial constraints, some consumers have curtailed their usual spending, which means many retailers will already have surplus stock in their warehouses. Managing this extra stock volume whilst also keeping the warehouse a safe place to work will be much easier with a best-of-breed warehouse management system (WMS).

5 ways a WMS brings calm to an extra busy warehouse

Here are some of the benefits a WMS can bring when there is extra stock to manage and a very high order volume to complete each day:

Store more stock in the same space

Up to 30% more inventory can be stored in any given warehouse space, without any adverse effect on efficiency levels. This is achieved because a WMS makes it possible to store inventory in a more flexible way, using dynamic location setting. Rather than keeping to pre-designated locations - some of which could be half empty - a WMS directs operatives to place the stock wherever there is a slot available. Then when it’s time to pick orders, pickers are reminded of where stock is held and directed to the closest relevant location.

No more stock takes

Doing a stock take is disruptive at the best of times and it can mean having to shut down order picking for a period. That’s out of the question during busy periods like Christmas or when the warehouse is holding more stock than usual. Perpetual inventory (PI) stock counting comes into its own here, by continuously recording stock movements and creating a real-time audit trail for reporting purposes.  

Minimise wastage

For warehouses holding perishable goods in large quantities, a WMS will also notify pickers of the lots to select based on use by dates to ensure nothing is wasted. At the same time, an audit trail is created of the final destination for each item, so in the event of a recall, inventory can be located very quickly.

Getting newbies up to speed quickly

Peak periods often mean having to employ temporary staff, most of whom will not be familiar with how the warehouse operates.  A WMS helps take the need for experience of existing processes and workflows out of the equation. Instead, newbie operatives are led through each action, which ‘smooths out’ the resourcing impact of extra busy demand peaks. A WMS on a mobile device will guide them through key functions - like putaway, replenishment, picking and marshalling sequences - with the software taking care of all the decision making.

Maintaining a safe working distance

More workers during peak periods means there is a greater potential risk of breaching safe working guidelines. In most e-commerce warehouses, 80% of the fastest moving products are stored in 20% of locations. This makes picking orders quicker but creates busy areas in the warehouse, where infections can be transmitted. Using a WMS to help distribute high volume inventory around many locations avoids this happening without impacting on order completion efficiency levels.

Using a WMS will help to get you through the challenging 2020 festive season, ensuring that employees are safe and customers are getting the right goods, right on time.