Can warehouse management systems transform port operations?

Can warehouse management systems transform port operations?

21 April 2020

  • port containers


Due to the demands of the global economy, warehouses have evolved and become increasingly important in the flow of B2B and B2C goods.  Whereas in 2010 warehouses were regarded as a cost centre, today they are strategic e-commerce hubs and play a central role in complex supply chains.

The ability to store goods within a port warehouse is highly valuable, because it reduces the need to transport inbound goods onto a separate DC. Keeping inbound goods in situ cuts out unnecessary air / freight miles, emissions and costs, and can significantly streamline some supply chain processes. Now, as warehouse space dries up due to the changes of demand caused by Coronavirus, seaports are becoming busier than ever at providing a storage service, especially for retailers with inbound containers full of inventory. 

A warehouse management system (WMS) can potentially transform warehouse operations at ports, allowing them gain additional revenue by providing a service similar to a 3PL, offering a full range of added value logistics services. As an automation technology, a WMS can help ports significantly increase the levels of stock they manage on behalf of customers – increasing capacity by up to 30% - and ensuring that the warehouse utilises its available space as efficiently as possible. 

Here are two examples of how a WMS can enable ports to offer highly efficient logistics services, including order picking and assembly, packing, labelling and sampling. By using automation technology, ports can compete alongside 3PLs, to guarantee minimum service levels, efficient stock replenishment and full traceability. 

Two ways ports can offer value added warehousing services

Rapid fulfilment for e-commerce

Thanks to retailers like Amazon and Next, consumers have become accustomed to getting the goods they order online very quickly. In some sectors, fashion being a key example, time to delivery is even more important than price for securing an order. Given that the majority of inbound goods sold via e-commerce arrive in containers from Asia, port based storage means goods can be offloaded, picked and dispatched as quickly and cost effectively as possible. 

Drop shipping

Rather than waste resources with an intermediary, many retailers now expect their manufacturers to drop ship orders directly to the customer, helping them to increase profit margins and improve time to delivery rates. In the same way, manufacturers keen to develop a direct relationship with the customer are opting to by-pass the retailer and drop ship, also increasing their own profit margins. A win-win for both parties, drop shipping is one of the fastest growing supply chain trends and made possible with a WMS that enables efficient and accurate processing of e-commerce orders.

Drop shipping through a WMS has enabled many companies to get more involved with ecommerce and expand their sales opportunities. Customers are unaware that their order didn’t come straight from the retailer because the added value team in the warehouse packs each order to reflect each retailer’s branding and sales receipts. Margins have improved because they are selling a higher volume of products more frequently and they also benefit from gaining a better understanding of who their best customers are.