Get the Most Out of Your Retail DC
Is a distribution center merely a place to store products that are too big or valuable to back-stock at stores? Is your DC functioning as a giant closet? Your retail DC can increase sales and be a strategic advantage to your retail chain. In fact, your DC can be a profit center—instead of a cost center.
Distribution centers should be automated, but they have to be automated correctly. Using methods or designed for use in a retail store won’t translate well to the warehouse environment. Even automation meant for wholesale distribution can decrease productivity, because the retail distribution center is a unique beast.
There are essential differences between a retail DC and a traditional wholesale distribution warehouse. Let’s look at some of the retail-specific challenges that can cause a headache if not properly automated.
Split orders (and crossdocked orders) are orders that are received and picked to retail locations in a single step. The product moves straight in from receiving to a staging area without ever being put away. The inventory is briefly considered a part of DC stock until shipped.
What do you do with overshipments or undershipments on a split PO? Does your receiver know where to allocate the overstock?
The Average WMS
A WMS without retail-specific functionality won’t know what to do with extra stock, or how to cope with missing items. That’s why retail DCs need a warehouse management system that is built with special order handling in mind.
Latitude WMS easily automates the process of splitting orders. Receiving personnel aren’t required to make decisions about allocation when it comes to overshipments or undershipments, either. Receiving discrepancies can be handled by automatically allocating stocked can be based on store ranking.
Pass-through Purchase Orders
Pass-through POs are placed by corporate office buyers for individual stores. For cost-saving purposes, they are shipped to the DC and re-distributed to the stores. Although the retail DC must verify receipt of the pass-through PO shipment, the goods are never actually received into warehouse inventory.
The Average WMS
Let’s face it: your basic, run-of-the-mill WMS wouldn’t know how to deal with inventory that has to be moved through the warehouse without ever being received.
Pass-through POs take just moments to process using Latitude WMS. Receivers are able to accept the shipment with a master load scan and use Latitude’s advanced truck routing capabilities to direct the product to the correct truck trailer. Fast and efficient, pass-through POs can save your business money.
Pull-from-stock orders are familiar to a wholesale distribution warehouse, but a high-volume retail DC can maximize efficiency by using batch-pull picking for high-volume products into a staging area. Products can then be picked for each store in the staging area.
How can a non-retail WMS combine multiple store orders into one batch pull? It probably can’t. Pickers would be required to pick each order for each store, wasting valuable time and creating a bottleneck in the picking department.
For a pull-from-stock order, Latitude WMS prompts the picker to pick the entire quantity of a single item into a load. The load is then moved to a bin in a separate zone, and pickers can separate the item into pallets for each store.
Processing and Shipping Internet Sales
Web orders typically have ten lines or less, which can be incredibly inefficient to pick. Your warehouse needs to be able to process Internet orders as easily as store orders, using the same inventory, staff and equipment. Whether these orders are transferred to a store for pick-up, or shipped via one of the parcel delivery services, they should also be integrated into the regular workflow of the DC.
A native or integrated shipping manifest system must be in place to weigh, ship, and provide tracking and billing information to the carriers and ERP system.
Finding a powerful WMS that can handle BOTH retail distribution functionality AND online sales order processing associated with a traditional supplier warehouse with individual customers is tough. Finding a WMS that works with a shipping manifest system, too? Even harder.
Latitude WMS uses batch pulling to pick multiple orders simultaneously. Anywhere from two to twelve web orders can be picked by a single worker with one pass through the warehouse. Orders can even be broken up by zone. Orders are picked into loads, and then loads are combined into shipping cartons.
An optional shipping solution, Latitude Manifest System, is certified by UPS, FedEx and other shippers. It sends tracking information to the Latitude WMS and passed billing info back up to the host system for accounting. Efficiently fulfill, and ship, internet orders—even to international locations—without breaking a sweat.
Seasonal Peaks and Valleys
One of the biggest challenges in a retail company is the cyclical nature of the business. Holidays, seasonal changes, and new store openings mean a big influx of goods. Internet sales can be hard to predict, with last-minute shoppers placing rush orders. During seasonal peaks, you may need to hire temp workers to help with the grunt labor of pulling and packing orders. And now you have to train them on the basic warehouse management system and keep them from messing with inventory counts.
Many warehouse management systems are easy to learn, but how do you prevent temp workers from gaining access to parts of your system that they don’t belong in? You need a WMS that can provide worker-specific access to menus and screens. A standard WMS may not have this functionality.
Sudden increases in sales during holidays and other peak seasons means hiring temp workers. Training them should be a snap. Within a few hours, Latitude WMS will help new workers pick and pull orders with nearly 100% accuracy. Latitude also reports the new workers’ progress, quickly, indicating production levels and pinpointing problems. Temporary workers can be restricted to simplified menus and prevented from complex activities like adjusting inventory.
Get a WMS Meant for Retail Distribution
Too many retail DCs create workarounds to try to compensate for the lack of a robust warehouse management system. They waste time, energy, and end up with inventory discrepancies as harried warehouse workers try to make due.
With a warehouse management system like Latitude WMS, your retail distribution center handles all the retail-specific functions seamlessly and efficiently. There is no need for workarounds or manual tasks.
But What Does It Cost?
A warehouse management system is an important investment, but most retail distribution centers that implement Latitude WMS earn back their initial investment within 18 months or less.
How Long Does It Take to Implement?
Depending on the size and number of locations, PathGuide can have a base system operational in as little as three months with full implementation in 4-6 months.