In the world of warehouse management, omni-channel fulfillment is primarily based around one common inventory that can be used to fulfill multiple types of orders. This could mean any combination of wholesale, retail or e-commerce. The ability to track and manage one inventory gives a company many competitive advantages including:
Minimizing the amount of inventory stored across multiple sites or at one site controlled by multiple systems
Reducing capital investment needed for inventory, systems and expenses for additional management and support.
Enabling efficiencies in picking different order types simultaneously in larger waves or batched. This can increase the volume processed through a channel which can help cost justify automation, systems and technology.
Omni-channel can also include inventory management at the store level for online order fulfillment or in-store pick-ups. Potentially, this could lead to additional labor or decreased efficiencies. It is hard to manage the fluctuations of volumes, as well as effectively manage store associates to be as productive as in a distribution center environment.
One idea for potential omni-channel and inventory management issues is through wave planning software. It is a tool that utilizes an algorithm that is programmed to look at all the available orders and their corresponding priorities. It can sequence orders in waves to create the largest efficiencies possible while meeting all required business rules to satisfy customer requirements. Wave tools can potentially combine store orders with e-commerce orders to maximize the quantities of the same SKU or product handled at the same time. This allows an associate to pick more quantity during each trip to a location.
Without wave planning software, the process may sequence orders per hour based on when it was ordered by the customer. This approach is first in, first out. If all orders in each wave are picked without optimization, the same SKU could be present in each wave, causing a task to travel to the location and pick that product for each wave. With the wave tool looking at a larger grouping of orders, they may consolidate more of the picks from that SKU into one wave. This can cause efficiency in two ways. First by picking more units at the same time per trip to the location, and second by minimizing trips, which in turn reduces travel.
Overall, the wave planning tool can help optimize the omni-channel fulfillment process and minimize labor. How can your company use this tool for future planning and management?