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3 Ways to Streamline Holiday Order Fulfillment in 2021

Efficient, accurate order fulfillment is an outsized priority during the holidays. This year, the pressure on fulfillment centers and retail locations is especially high thanks to continuous management challenges and increased consumer demand, especially from online sales.

For perspective, U.S. holiday-season eCommerce sales grew by 32.2% in 2020 to reach a record-setting total of $188 billion. This season, eCommerce is projected to account for a record 18.9% of all holiday retail sales in the U.S. Considering the rising tide of COVID-19 variants and other factors, pre-COVID levels of in-store shopping aren’t expected to return anytime soon. 

On the bright side, the complex mechanisms of fulfillment are less likely to be taken for granted than they were in the past. Businesses that demonstrate successful and efficient fulfillment during this time will be rewarded with loyalty.

The following tips and strategies to accelerate throughput and reduce operating costs will help retailers and fulfillment centers protect margins and delight their customers through yet another pandemic-influenced peak shopping season.

1. Map Your Fulfillment Center to Optimize Throughput

Regardless of the amount of space you have, you should be familiar with the space, its layout and pick paths, how products currently flow, and the throughput of every single SKU. If you have a significant number of new SKUs, anticipate how they’ll move based on industry trends and data and how they’ll be picked.

If you haven’t taken into account these aspects of your space in recent months or re-slotted SKUs recently, the time is now.

Save Space and Save Time with Guide to Understanding Throughput for Fulfillment

2. Optimize Your Space for Labor and Pick Efficiency

Once you map and organize, it’s time to take further action to be ready for the rush. That means optimizing your space. As you do this, realize that labor costs account for a significant portion of a typical fulfillment center’s operations. When you optimize the space in a warehouse or fulfillment operation, you also optimize travel time, picking time, and storage capacity, all of which come back around to benefit your bottom line on labor costs.

Cost and space-saving solutions may be more attainable than you realize. Many businesses are overly fixated on automation or increased digitization to stay competitive. In reality, those means are expensive to implement and don't make business sense for every operation. On the other hand, upgraded high-density storage or rack solutions are comparatively affordable and ready faster, so you can see returns in time for your busy season.

UNEX Solutions Help You Optimize Space

SpeedCell - High-Density Storage

SpeedCell is UNEX’s dynamic, high-density storage solution that increases storage density by up to 60% and allows fulfillment center or retail staff to pick faster with greater SKU visibility. It is ideal for slow to medium-moving SKUs and fits into existing warehouse pallet racking to quickly and easily save space.

Marine sports retailer Overton’s used SpeedCell to add thousands of additional SKUs in the same warehouse space. When eCommerce orders are at their peak in November and December, every SKU needs to be as visible as possible for picking efficiency and SpeedCell can make a huge impact very quickly.

FlowCell - Order Packing and Staging

FlowCell flow racks come in various configurations suited to a fulfillment operation’s needs. They are quick to assemble and can easily be reconfigured and repurposed into other areas of your operation as seasonal demands subside. FlowCell is proven to increase space utilization by up to 50% while boosting overall efficiency by 30%.

Meal-kit market leader HelloFresh configured a custom FlowCell solution to increase its number of order and return lines by more than 50%, which made fulfillment more efficient.

SpanTrack - Carton Flow Rack

SpanTrack’s dedicated roller lanes and universal wheel beds are the perfect fit for medium to fast-moving SKUs. SpanTrack offers efficient, durable, and dependable carton flow rollers that drop into existing structures. It increases throughput and space utilization, and also creates ideal FIFO stock rotation.

Canadian apparel retailer Cutter & Buck used SpanTrack wheel beds as a solution in a state-of-the-art distribution center featuring 25,000 pick locations. The efficient flow of products within optimized space allowed the company to use their current footprint more efficiently while also setting aside 33,000 square feet of space for future expansion.

3. Make the Last Mile a Success

Regardless of the size of the fulfillment or retail operation, the last mile of delivery must be a success, or revenue will suffer due to a loss of customer loyalty and satisfaction. Due to the “Amazon effect,” consumers have come to expect quick delivery and real-time knowledge of a shipment’s location

It’s imperative that, in addition to the latest tracking technology, retailers and fulfillment managers employ strategies to ensure on-time deliveries, including route planning, regular fleet maintenance, and contingencies for unpredictable events like storms and traffic jams.

Work with UNEX to Ensure Holiday Fulfillment Runs Smoothly

Protect and grow your operation’s margins this season with UNEX solutions that save time, money, and space. Contact us to learn more about the best product fit for your business this season.

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Explore the basics of Warehouse Space Optimization in our FREE Guide.