Gavin Clark, Commercial Director at Snapfulfil, explains how fast-growing ecommerce retailers are driving warehouse management innovation
What key trends can we expect to see in warehouse management over the next year?
We have seen high interest in and adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud offerings, especially from fast-growing ecommerce businesses and third-party logistics companies supporting this space. I see this continuing, as established companies with an ecommerce offering are finding it hard to drag their existing on-premise warehouse management systems into this fast-changing area, and also struggle to get any attention from their busy IT teams to help support these heavy implementations. As a result, fast to implement, low cost, highly functional cloud-based systems will continue to grow and dominate WMS.
Retailers should beware of slow to implement, high personnel involvement and high-cost WMS systems. The retail space is changing, and the requirements for rapid return on investment, flexibility and scalability are leading retailers to consider changing their WMS, with many now opting for cloud and SaaS models. The support cost alone in a traditional Tier 1 WMS contract would cover the annual costs of a new SaaS product and, with similar functionality, rapid implementation and low total cost of ownership, the benefits of cloud and SaaS WMS can’t be overlooked.
The capital investment into full automation is still prohibitive for most retailers. Technologies which automate part of the process, for example, sortation systems, conveyors and pick-to-light trolleys, are more accessible and are likely to offer a better ROI. Robotics can also replace some repetitive warehouse tasks – goods to man rather than man to goods is on the increase, especially for retailers that have similar sized products or high line item orders.
In my recent experience, it is the fast-growing ecommerce retailers who are innovating rather than investing in order to cope with explosive growth. For example, we have a customer who is emulating what others are achieving through the use of robotics by setting up ‘picking pods’ in their warehouse. Each of these pods stores every SKU and every location within each pod is within arms’ reach for the picker, delivering the benefit of goods to man, without the need for automation. They have also installed high throughput, supermarket-type pack stations to double check the picks – again stealing years of good ideas from other types of retail process. This has been repeated by several of our high growth ecommerce clients all over the world.
We will be releasing an HTML5 version of Snapfulfil in the first half of 2017, which will allow the system to be used on tablets and iPads as well as RF devices. Most importantly, the new version comes with a powerful control tower reporting suite and Q&A capability which allows users to query the system and quickly get the answers they need – it’s a bit like Google for the WMS, and something both we and our customers are extremely excited about.
Snapfulfill is a best-of-breed cloud warehouse management system which can be implemented quickly, with no hassel or high upfront investment. Contact us to find out why more and more fast growing ecommerce retailers are using snapfulfill to optimise inventory, space and resources in their warehouse.