E-Commerce Rapid Growth in 2020

E-commerce has grown rapidly over the last two decades, becoming more prominent since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in early 2020. Many companies were forced to quickly expand their online shopping options, while others had to set up e-commerce operations for the first time. More than any other time in recent history, optimizing store and warehouse operations for e-commerce became an urgent top priority nationwide.

During early 2020, e-commerce skyrocketed from 0.9% to 14% of total United States retail sales. According to a recent report by McKinsey, U.S. e-commerce market penetration rose to approximately 10 years’ worth of growth in 90 days’ time.

That rapid and unprecedented transformation, combined with increased demand, reduced capacity, fewer workers, supply chain interruptions, and higher customer expectations, has created a challenging environment for companies worldwide.

Extreme Rise in Consumer Demand

The pandemic and the rise in e-commerce led customers to expect faster turnaround times on their online orders. For facilities that were already struggling to keep up with the rapid evolution of supply and demand, this added an additional layer of complication to the process.

Not only were organizations challenged to be more agile than ever before, it also became necessary for them to streamline their processes as quickly as possible.

Optimize Your Store and Warehouse Operations for E-commerce

Whether you’re making the change for the first time or working to streamline your operations, there are a few things you can do to make the transition smoother and more efficient for both your team and your customers.

Leverage Operator-Assist Technologies

Along with the ongoing changes in multiple markets, more operator-assist technologies exist than ever before. These can help your employees work more efficiently in fulfilling customer orders. For example, having a fast and accurate picking system is essential to a successful e-commerce operation.

Picking solutions are simple to train your team on, and easy to implement. Selecting the right picking solution for your warehouse can make the fulfillment process more efficient. Depending on your facility, there are multiple options available. These include:

  • Pick-to-Light uses LED light to illuminate the totes containing the products your staff members need to pick. It’s an excellent solution for facilities with a wide variety of products.
  • Pick-to-Vision is a hands-free experience that utilizes glasses equipped with augmented reality (AR) technology, eliminating the need for a separate scanner.
  • Pick-to-Voice makes your existing process faster, letting staff members listen to voice instructions through a headset.
  • Put Wall bins cue staff on either side of order completion status. This simple option is efficient, scalable, paperless, and modular.

In addition to picking solutions, adding pick modules to your facility is another consideration. These are especially useful when your sales have outgrown the number of available employees. Pick modules are “smart” shelving units that combine storage and automation systems, creating a dense space where your staff can work to move products through the fulfillment process.

Mitigate Labor Shortages with Automation

Labor shortages are a concern across multiple industries as the economy continues to recover from the challenges of 2020. Automating product storage and retrieval is crucial for any organization implementing e-commerce operations, but it becomes especially important when there is a labor shortage at play.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) such as Carousels, Vertical Lift Modules, Fixed Aisle Storage & Retrieval Systems, and Mini-Load Systems, put technology to work in your order fulfillment process. These systems assist your staff, speed your operations, and reduce the risk of injury, which is especially important if you’re experiencing a staff shortage. Ensure you’ve integrated the appropriate trucks with your technology for the most efficient process possible.

The right conveyor system can exponentially boost your facility’s productivity. Additionally, consider adding robotic automation as an additional layer of assistance to your facility and team. The size and layout of your facility, the size and capacity of your team, and the nature of your business are factors that will dictate which solutions are best for you.

Strive for Continuous Improvement

Stay focused on organization-wide continuous improvement, both for your management team and staff. If you aren’t already implementing lean management principles, it’s time to consider incorporating them into your operations. Lean management focuses on identifying and making small, sustainable, incremental adjustments in order to achieve a state of continuous improvement. That continuous improvement, in turn, leads to higher productivity and higher quality.

Encourage your managers and employees to pay attention to how your processes are operating in real time, and how those processes may be improved. Lean management and manufacturing require company-wide involvement. Small changes can add up to big results over time, and the more effective your in-house operations are, the more satisfied your customers will be in the long run.

Next Step

Ready to better equip your facility for e-commerce operations? At IndPro, our system specialists and expert technicians develop and integrate automation systems into any facility. If you’re ready to shift your warehouse into a more efficient, productive, and powerful operation, get in touch with our team today.