How to overcome the challenges of managing multiple warehouses?
If you’re a bestselling brand selling thousands of products every day on multiple eCommerce stores, then one warehouse won’t suffice. Even if your single warehouse in the middle of the UK has the capability to meet every spikes in demand; you are losing your customers owing to high shipping costs and shipping delays.
Why is it good to keep multiple warehouses?
Suppose you’re a leading distributor of shoes in the mainland UK. Nike has asked you to secure space for a warehouse and start selling on leading eCommerce stores. Which location would you choose?
Well, if you choose a location smack in the middle of the UK, you could be delaying orders that are received from Scotland or the South-West. Because of these logistics challenges; popular brands insist on multiple, compact warehouses in every major cities rather than a single huge warehouse.
The challenges of keeping multiple warehouses
While multiple warehouses address those problems, they bring new challenges of their own. With a single warehouse, it’s easier to keep an exact count of your entire inventory and simplify supply chain. However, when you’re running many warehouses, you have to track available inventory in each warehouse; decide which warehouse will ship a product upon customer’s order, which warehouse will store bulk of the order for a product category, etc. In a nutshell, managing a network of warehouses isn’t a work of a small team, logging data on sheets. It needs continuous collaboration of various teams in multiple locations, working on a robust inventory management system.
Monitoring inventory levels in all warehouses
When you have more than a single warehouse to manage, you have to ensure that all the products are in inventory, which can be a challenge. Inventory and sales number can run out of synchronization. When you have multiple warehouses to manage, it’s simpler for the people part of your supply chain to be ignorant of what is going on in other warehouses; which leads to low stock numbers before you realize. Understocked products lead to supply chain disorganizations and loss of monetary and customers’ value.
A well thought-out inventory management system cut the chaos around running into problems with your warehouses by giving a centralized location to view and monitor all warehouses.
Enabling real-time collaboration between warehouses
As warehouses tend at a distance from each other; it’s intolerable to have personnel who operate those warehouses packed in a single office. With remote operator managing warehouses, companies managing them often run into collaboration issues. Lost or unclear messages can cause blunders or bottlenecks. A lack of head-on collaborations can limit natural discussions around reorganization or refining processes.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Bestsellers
The next best practice is vital: you need to monitor your best-selling products not only from each individual channel but from all channels combined. By continually assessing products which are selling faster and how many you’re selling in a month, you can set up restocking systems to ensure you are never out of stock.
This information will also help you evaluate which warehouse your products should be stored in, thus ensuring your overall multi-warehouse inventory management system is efficient, which will, in turn, offer seamless fulfillment of your orders.
Use Wave Picking to save time
When planning your multi-warehouse inventory management, you want to ensure that you are aiming for a lean operation. In other words, you want to keep costs down. Two warehouse management systems to help you achieve this are wave picking and cross-docking.
The latter is a system whereby as soon as a product arrives, it is shipped out. Or if you manufacture your own products, think of it as a made-to-order system that allows for much less storage space thus keeping warehouse costs down. However, as your business grows, it is hard to maintain this storage option without causing fulfillment problems. Which is where wave picking comes in…
Wave picking is better for a bigger, growing business, and involves more storage space where orders can be sequentially filled throughout the day.
It is extremely important to ensure that you do stock counts at each warehouse. Common mistake eCommerce sellers make when changing to a multi-warehouse business is assuming they need to only track the total number of products without considering the product levels at each warehouse. You need to be aware of all your products at each warehouse to ensure those stock levels we mentioned are balanced at each warehouse.