Welcome to the 15 November Warehouse & Logistics News. Christmas is coming: time for some serious e-commerce! As the time approaches to do something about buying Christmas presents for family and friends, these days most consumers’ first thought is probably to do as much of it as possible on-line. Since the late 1990s the rise and rise of on-line retailing as an all-year-round, 24/7 activity has been one of the key trends driving change in the ‘W&L’ industry around the world.
If you’re involved with the fulfillment side of e-commerce operations, you’ll know full well that two essentials for success are the accurate capture and onward transmission of data about products and transactions, and suitable premises to house the operation, with flexible storage to allow you to keep pace with changing demand. In this issue we’ve special features on Data Capture, including RFID, barcodes, readers, scanners, tags, labels and handheld technology, and on Buildings and facilities, including temporary structures.
At the dawn of e-commerce, some firms built dedicated e-fulfillment centres but got their fingers badly burned, partly because they tried to make one handling system fit the needs of their various sales channels. Now companies are beginning to think about e-fulfillment separately from retail store replenishment, even if both are carried out under the same roof.
The UK market for data capture systems is holding up relatively well in the recession. Technology advances are also changing order picking systems to make pick accuracy higher, necessary because returned goods caused by wrong picks are very costly to handle and can lose customers. Laser-read barcodes have improved error rates to 1% or less, where there is human intervention, and pick-to-light and voice-directed picking have improved accuracy even more.
On the building side, the rapidly changing product lines and fluctuating stock levels found in e-commerce put temporary storage in the spotlight. At one time air domes were a popular temporary storage option but are now less sought after, despite being the cheapest solution by far, versus frame-supported fabric structures and pre-fab structures. Even so, domes are acceptable for low value goods storage, though existing customers are making their structures last longer than usual as recession bites.
The customer’s immediate storage needs will inevitably hold sway in deciding which construction method to use for their temporary building. But whichever method is picked, customers now have the added advantage that because all temporary construction types are rentable, they can be removed if they fall empty, or folded up in the case of air domes, and thus circumvent the Government’s recently imposed rates tax on empty buildings, which is good news for the end user.
Warehouse & Logistics News