Significantly varying order loads with only a few items in each case are characteristic of the logistical challenges faced by e-commerce. "Therefore, the only chance e-commerce logistics has to exist in such a dynamic environment is to ensure as flexible a set-up as possible," says Dirk Schlömer, Managing Partner of the logistics consultancy firm viaLog.
"That includes flexible warehouse structures to accommodate the most diverse of ranges, easily adaptable IT structures to map process changes as simply as possible, and highly responsive working models that facilitate the deployment of labour forces on a needs basis."
Companies that operate (at least) one more distribution channel on top of their e-commerce system must decide whether both channels should be given a shared or separate warehouse structure. "Many companies opt for a multi-channel logistics system if one or both of their administrative units are relatively small," notes Schlömer. "A shared logistics structure is also practical if considerable synergy effects could potentially be achieved." If, however, both sales channels exhibit distinct differences in key areas, he notes that warehouse separation is advisable. In this case differences as regards the range, the order structures, the packaging and sales units and the distribution structure are decisive.
Logistics centres are becoming more and more intelligent
Proceeding on the assumption that sameday delivery will arise in one form or another for certain requirements at some point, it follows that new logistics sites must be within close proximity of the customers, if such a service is to be transacted on time and at all logistically. This works primarily in existing buildings, the use of which is shared by various different companies, in urban centres or inner-city locations, because space for new logistics sites just isn't available. Alternatively, so-called brownfield sites can be repurposed into e-commerce logistics centres.
Systems like Grenzebach's mobile order-picking warehouse G-Com – winner of the German Award for Supply Chain Management in 2015 – are especially well-suited for handling the intralogistics requirements of such an environment. This constitutes a very cost-effective solution, specifically for medium-sized customers who want to start out in the e-commerce business. G-Com makes it possible for shelves to be brought to a picking station on a fully-automated basis.