Given the dynamic pace of e-commerce today, fulfillment operations often have to respond to changing order demand on the fly. In order to satisfy the diversity of delivery requirements streaming into a fulfillment center from online customers, e-commerce and omnichannel retailers need a fulfillment solution that can continuously adjust the priority of orders being filled in the system. The reason for this is that orders entering the system at any given moment may demand shorter fulfillment windows than ones already assigned within the system, which means retailers need to find a way to satisfy the service agreements for those orders, or they won’t likely keep pace with the competition and will ultimately lose market share.
So how does an operation dynamically adjust the fulfillment process to accommodate last minute orders? It all depends on the warehouse software managing the fulfillment operation. And depending on the software, an operation may or may not be able to adequately respond to changing order demand on the fly.
Suppose, for example, that you’re running a fulfillment center in Lancaster, Pa and have an order moving through the facility that needs to be delivered in Philadelphia the next day in order to meet the customer’s service level agreement. Having been entered into the system in the morning, the order has been both picked and routed and is currently in a pack station with a couple hours to spare before its slotted parcel carrier induction time. Now, suppose another order comes in for the same items that were picked for the Philadelphia order. This one is also slotted for delivery the next day, but in Denver, CO — and the carrier induction cut off time for that service is only minutes away.
If you’re running a fulfillment operation that’s directed by a warehouse management system, the WMS is going to be limited and disruptive in its ability to react. Unfortunately, warehouse management systems can only allocate inventory ahead of order fulfillment in a wave-based fulfillment process. Subsequently, the WMS can’t dynamically prioritize new orders entering the system, without a good deal of disruption to the entire fulfillment operation. And while WMS suppliers may tout their software’s ability to execute dynamic waves, these small or single item waves for expedited orders tie-up a large amount of resources while that wave is allowed to process through. They also disallow other resources to gain critical access to the database while the long, slow-churning, wave-based query is processed. In high transaction production environments, this can result in disruptions such as all RF gun users being bounced out of the system because of timed-out database queries, forcing them to login again and try to pick up where they left off. So the advantage gained from expediting one order comes at a price to others.
If on the other hand, you’re running an operation that features a waveless approach to order fulfillment directed by Invata’s sophisticated warehouse execution system, the WES will simply reassign the inventory originally designated for the Philadelphia-bound order to the Denver-bound order and re-pick the order for Philadelphia in time to get both orders out the door for next day delivery.
This ability to dynamically reassign in-motion inventory is the key to an e-commerce or omnichannel competitive strategy. As the cornerstone to a fulfillment operation’s ability to make last minute fulfillment decisions, it enables retailers to take advantage of processing opportunities that would not otherwise be available and may not have even been evident when an order or set of orders was first pulled into the system.
Having the ability to postpone inventory allocation decisions requires a fulfillment solution that has both real-time visibility over in-motion inventory and real-time control over inventory allocation. By combining these capabilities with robust algorithms for continuously assessing and calibrating the delivery requirements of e-commerce demand, Invata’s WES allows retailers to use last minute decisions to not only solve the challenges of last minute online customer requests, but also take advantage of processing commonalities across orders from various sales channels and capitalize on fulfillment opportunities as they arise.
Specifically designed for high transaction production environments, Invata’s WES is structured to perform under the industry’s most rigorous transaction requirements, while enabling levels of operational efficiency and customer service that would not otherwise be possible. Utilizing a truly waveless fulfillment approach to order processing, Invata’s WES provides retailers with a layer of flexibility that is not available in systems that must rely on the handoff of inventory control between a WMS and WCS or even many standard WES offerings. In doing so, it empowers retailers to satisfy customer requests by dynamically keeping pace with fluctuations in order demand and thereby gain a strategic edge in the marketplace through greater customer loyalty and repeat business.