Blake Bearden, regional director, West Coast, for Bastian Solutions, says meeting those increasingly demanding service levels is the largest challenge facing retailers.
"How can these companies get goods to consumers faster and cheaper, while still generating a profit?
If customers can't get a product from you in the time frame needed, they're willing to shop around for a company that can deliver," he
Meeting this demand currently may take several forms, says Bearden
, from "click and ship" from a distribution center to "click and collect" allowing consumers to pick up their goods in local retail locations.
"The challenge to businesses: 'How do I employ a system that will deliver goods on the same day and do so profitably?' Few companies have an expansive network of distribution centers similar to Amazon's
to meet this elusive goal," he
says it's simple to quantify what's at stake - the retention of existing customers and the growth of new potential customers.
"The companies that can employ a strategy to profitably deliver on the promise of same-day delivery will take more of the market share and achieve a competitive advantage," he
"Additionally, there's an opportunity to achieve greater margins for the sale of certain goods that customers 'have to have' right away, such as the latest smart phone or other consumer electronics.
says the companies that can deliver these goods to the market faster will obtain more margin, as these customers are typically not as price sensitive as the typical consumer.
acknowledges that real-time information flow is a critical first step in delivering the promise of sameday fulfillment.
Warehouse management software (WMS) and warehouse execution software (WES), he
says, are keys to reducing order cycle times and allowing orders to flow quickly from the initial click to buy to e-commerce automation in the distribution center.
"The WMS and WES software seamlessly connect to the transportation management and shipping systems, allowing the information required for customers to track the delivery of orders," says Bearden
agrees with Haven Ferner that omni-channel retailers will also need to employ the latest technologies in warehouse automation (goods-to-person, robotic order picking systems, shuttle-based systems) for "each" picking to reduce, if not completely eliminate, operator travel within the warehouse.
"Eliminating this travel time with a goods-to-person solution or using robotics for picking is where automated systems can deliver their greatest pick and cost efficiencies," he
In order to meet tight shipping windows required for same-day service, Bearden
says omni-channel companies must have the ability to conduct order cycle times in 15 to 30 minutes.
"In doing so, they will have longer order cutoff windows with their shipping carriers to deliver the sameday promise to more customers," he
adds that another key feature of newer goods-to-person technologies is the capability for automated replenishment, which can almost eliminate the need for manual replenishment operations and ensure that inventory in forward pick locations is on hand and ready for the picking process.
In addition, newer automated systems offer scalability, the ability to easily ramp operations up or down according to daily order volumes.
"These systems can be designed to accommodate the busy holiday shopping seasons and allow companies to meet the ever increasing demands of the busy fourth quarter holiday season," says Bearden