By Maria Bruyns, Warehouse Manager and Tim Proome, General Manager: Supply Chain Services
Everything from proper inventory control to how you have your stock organised determines how smoothly the modern warehouse functions.
The future of warehousing lies in automating logistics operations inside and outside the facility, and in automating decision-making via a warehouse management system.
The goal? To prevent any chance of error brought on by handling goods manually. The 2022 MHI Annual Industry Report states that 83% of respondents believe the digital supply chain will be the dominant model in industry over the next five years.
In 2015, in line with a future fit vision for the business, Tarsus Distribution undertook a massive overhaul of its largely manually operated warehouse. The aim was to develop a smart modern warehouse that would vastly improve the buying experience for both channel partners and customers. It was an undertaking that prepared the business for an ever-increasing move to the digital world.
The Solution: A data driven warehouse design
The efficiency of an ecommerce business depends heavily on how well its warehouse is optimised. At Tarsus Distribution, we enhanced the warehouse to streamline processes such as receiving, demand replenishment, lean replenishment, activity-based counting, waving, picking, packing, shipping, and handling returns.
This was done to ensure a superior post-purchase experience for our partners and customers -- how you treat a customer after they purchase a product from you is a vital component of customer retention and satisfaction.
In setting up the racking system, for example, we used the data from our warehouse management system (WMS) to identify the top-selling products and organised the warehouse accordingly to save on time, labour and effort. We discovered, for example, that 12% of our stock keeping units (SKUs) made up 90% of our invoicing.
With this in mind, we positioned the pallets in the racking system to maximise the flow and replenishment of inventory. We also discovered which products had become obsolete and moved them out of the main area of the warehouse to free up space for the fast movers.
We also implemented a conveyor belt system to automate the flow of consignments. This has made the movement of consignments to the couriers faster, easier and digital. It also ensures that products move safely as there is no chance of dropping heavy items. The result has been improved speed from order to shipment.
Next, we ensured digital integration between our couriers and the warehouse. With integration from our WMS, we can proactively transfer consignment data to our courier's system, giving them visibility of consignments coming through, allowing them to consign orders digitally. This has eliminated all manual capturing of consignments. Scanning of the label created through our WMS determines a handshake between TD and the couriers, giving them direct data of the delivery.
The Outcome: What has this meant for the reseller?
Tarsus Distribution has always been aware of the fact that Amazon, the world's biggest online marketplace, would come to South Africa. A brand of this magnitude has immense expertise in stockholding and delivery, with more than 400 warehouses across the world to get its goods to customers. The launch of Amazon will provide an alternative e-commerce platform that has a competitive edge over many local online retailers.
To pre-empt its arrival we have built an excellent stock profile that is highly accurate. Knowing that when we indicate to a reseller that we have stock, we do have stock, is a massive differentiator for Tarsus Distribution and for our resellers who can rely on us. Another major advantage is our speed of transaction, as well as full visibility of the status of orders. Essentially, we provide B2C service for B2B customers, which benefits everyone in the supply chain.
In our experience automation and data-driven operations have provided the basis of our warehouse efficiency, enabling us to manage increasing demand, thriving online retail, and stiff competition. We recommend that every storage, logistics and retail company consider integrating warehouse automation technology into their infrastructure.