Competition to hoover up land for extra fulfilment has reached fever pitch – especially since retailers and burgeoning e-commerce operators have already looked to make the most of every inch of existing warehouse space here - so many have been left with no alternative but to invest in distribution networks within the EU.
Toy train maker Hornby and clothing retailer JD Sports are among leading UK firms desperately seeking warehouse space in booming logistics hotspots like The Netherlands and Germany to offset port delays, extra freight taxes and courier costs, plus new VAT and customs fees.
But how do British businesses overcome travel restrictions, social distancing directives, and on-site labour shortages to make such a move – especially when it comes to onboarding and maintaining a new warehouse management system? The answer lies in the power of cloud-based warehouse management systems (WMS) that have the capability for both Remote Implementation (RI) and self configuration.
RI allows the latest best of breed WMS software to be onboarded from anywhere in the world, while producing the same adoption and use as traditional on-site engagement and still within 30-60 days.
Not only is this a highly efficient and effective way of introducing a WMS, but with minimal upfront costs and support expenses it reduces the total cost of ownership, delivering fast return on investment as margins ever tighten.
For anyone exploring the RI route, they should check the quality of the tailored virtual support on offer, as it is key to success. This includes regular online training and status meetings, ensuring new teams can digitally access and rigorously test all the system parameters before go live.
But once the new WMS is up and running to serve EU customers it should also be capable of lifting optimisation to the next level through best use of the available new space.
Cloud-based systems, such as SnapFulfil, use real time location, receiving, shipping and inventory data – essential in this post Brexit era – to determine an optimal warehouse layout, to manage travel times and optimise operational efficiency. It can even alleviate reverse logistics burdens - helping efficiently process, handle and place return stock.
Badly stored stock is a waste of valuable warehouse space and you should be able to evaluate how much excess there is, plus inventory turnover rates. Gathering real-time data can help determine how best to store inventory, such as placing fast moving stock in the best picking locations while consolidating slow moving items, to achieve the best use of space at any given point in time.
This can highlight any number of issues such as multiple locations for storing the same item, poorly managed pick faces, or simply bad location planning. Other space saving strategies such as consolidating part pallets, prioritising replenishment of part pallets to the pick faces and utilising all locations can additionally deliver dramatic improvements across the board.
WMS technology should also be able to pinpoint the exact location of stock, how much there is available and the most efficient picking method. A data driven, space optimised warehouse will point operators along optimal pick paths, use multiple picking locations for the same SKU based on size and velocity, plus other advanced techniques to drive down the time it takes to find and fulfil orders while keeping replenishment moves to a minimum.
Another key cost component for many WMS solutions is maintenance and changes to the programming to respond to changes in demand for type, size and frequency of goods in and out. To meet today’s fulfilment challenges, swift and timely self configuration is a must, whereby teams have the skill set to manage that process onsite without waiting for a costly engineer to do carry out the task on their behalf. The freedom of self configuration leads to a far more nimble operation and unnecessary service charges are removed.
Dynamic functionality like this can also quickly improve the storage capacity of the average warehouse (old or new) by between 20 and 30 percent.
So, don’t feel held back in the race for coveted European distribution space and ensure you’re operating as efficiently and accurately as possible straight away - and even while on the fly - wherever you may be located in this extra challenging world we live in.