E-commerce has always been a challenging sector, particularly when it comes to managing a large inventory. With customers expecting quick delivery and high levels of service, e-commerce businesses must be able to manage their operations to succeed efficiently.
One of the biggest challenges faced by e-commerce businesses is the management of their warehouses. A mismanaged warehouse can slow down operations, reduce efficiency, and hurt overall productivity. It can even stop the whole process chain. A report published by McKinsey & Company in 2019 estimated that around £300 billion is spent on warehousing costs alone, without considering the cost of correcting errors.
Managing a warehouse can be tedious and redundant if done manually. There are many challenges that can arise and cause problems later on. Here are some to watch out for and ways to overcome them!
5 Warehouse Management Operational Challenges
Managing a warehouse can be full of challenges, but we’ve shortlisted five of the most common ones your business should be aware of:
Challenge 1: Poor Inventory Management
A warehouse may contain tons of SKUs and a variety of products. Right placement plays a vital role in not just making it easier to pick but having lesser room for errors. Bad placement or lacking a systemized approach to inventory management can make a business face the following situations:
- Difficulty in locating products when an order needs to be fulfilled. This can result in employees wasting time searching for the product and can lead to marketplace SLA breaches and, ultimately, delayed deliveries.
- Accepting orders without knowing the current stock levels, and later missing out on the deliverables causing delayed deliveries, loss of customer trust, and negative reviews, damaging the brand’s reputation.
- Denying orders on the assumption of lesser stock but later finding a few pieces left, leading to order loss and stock expiry.
Keeping a real-time record of the inventory is crucial to avoiding these problems and maintaining accuracy in fulfilling orders on time.
Challenge 2: Accidental Redundancy
One of the common challenges faced by larger warehouses is redundant operations. This refers to when the same operation is performed multiple times on the same item due to an improperly organized workflow. The operations in a warehouse are typically organized as workflows to streamline the process, but if these workflows are not systematically arranged, redundancies can occur.
These redundancies significantly shoot the labor costs and increase the order-to-ship time for a business. If the inefficiencies persist, it can result in more SLA breaches, where the promised delivery date is not met, which can ultimately lead to dissatisfied customers and a poor customer experience.
Challenge 3: Inefficient Space Utilization
Many warehouses are not being utilized to their full potential, with usage often only reaching 68% of capacity. This results in an inefficient use of space and a cluttered layout, which can make it difficult to store and manage inventory.
A messy and cluttered layout can also make it difficult for workers to find and access the needed products, leading to more time spent searching for items and potential delays in order fulfillment. To ensure an efficient and cost-effective warehouse operation, it’s important to make the most of the available space.
Challenge 4: No Preparation for Seasonal Demands
Staying attuned to market trends and customer demand is crucial for business like fashion, beauty and personal care, FMCG, particularly when it comes to product inventory. Some products may only have increased demand during a specific season, while others may be hot sellers year-round.
Proper inventory placement and management can help businesses keep up with demand and ensure that their most popular products are readily available. Staying informed about market trends and customer needs can help businesses keep their hot sellers in stock and within reach.
Challenge 5: Poor Damage Control
Damage is inevitable in a warehouse, though we can still take precautions to reduce it. When handling a large inventory and heavy-duty equipment, it’s important to take steps to minimize the risk of accidents such as slips, falls, breakage, and other incidents that can result in product loss.
To help sail through, you must have all the safety measures taken in the warehouse and protect not just the products/inventory but keep your employees safe at the same time. By protecting both products and employees, businesses can help ensure a safe and efficient warehouse operation, minimize product loss, and maintain a positive working environment.
Sorting the Hassle: How to Overcome These Challenges
As poor inventory management is one of the significant challenges, the best way to overcome the challenge is to switch to inventory management software or overall warehouse management software. By using comprehensive warehouse management software, businesses can better manage their product stocks, streamline operations, and optimize inventory management.
Warehouse management is not an easy nut to crack; even well-established brands have been leveraging warehouse management systems to overcome the challenges on the way. For instance, Chumbak, a leading design-led home and lifestyle brand faced challenges in keeping up with rapidly increasing customer demands across online and offline channels.
The brand struggled to manage warehouse operations, leading to the following challenges:
- Unaligned inventory visibility across offline and online sales channels
- Difficulty in integrating their ERP system
- Delayed order processing and fulfillment
- Lack of full automation to manage warehouse operations for e-commerce
- Inaccurate business reports and analytics
Unicommerce provided the brand with omni-enabled solutions, including inventory management and order management, to synchronize their inventory across all offline stores and warehouses. This helped the brand improve customer experience by increasing the fulfillment rate and meeting service level agreements (SLA).
If you’re looking to streamline your warehouse operations and drive business profitability, consider implementing a warehouse management system. It can help you overcome common challenges and provide a more efficient, integrated solution for managing your inventory, orders, and overall warehouse operations.