What Stores Can Learn From DCs
In contrast to stores, most retail distribution centers have robust systems that manage store replenishment, direct-to-consumer fulfillment, and other inbound and outbound processes. Many retail DCs use work execution software solutions that are equally applicable to store fulfillment processes.
Work execution systems include easy-to-use mobile applications for employees, labor and work management dashboards for managers, and work optimization and execution software for managing and orchestrating work on the floor. The solutions allow DCs to adapt their current work processes to better support multiple channels working in concert with existing automation and inventory management systems (ERP, WMS, etc.). They improve inventory management and process efficiency in picking and other product handling activities.
In stores, work execution solutions can help track products as they move from receiving to stock locations. More importantly, work execution software fills the void in store-based execution systems with intelligent process optimization and intuitive, easy to use mobile applications for employees in the front and back of store.
Technology Foundations For Store-Based Fulfillment
Most stores today are a fulfillment technology blank slate. Stores that have deployed mobile technology are using it primarily for customer service, not for inventory management and fulfillment activities. More importantly, many stores lack reliable in-store inventory tracking capabilities or technology to manage or optimize stocking, picking and other inventory management processes.
Inventory Management – Inventory management has been a foundational challenge, and with the current pandemic, it’s only gotten worse. While companies are investing to improve cross-channel inventory visibility, many still lack insights into inventory within a store causing them to ramp up discounts or offer substitutions.
POS Systems – Unlike DCs that track products to specific warehouse locations, POS systems do not typically track merchandise by location. Staff cannot look up how many of a given item are in the back room or in the front of the store, much less the specific location where they can find the item. Adding to the inventory control issue, shelf locations in the front of store may have multiple SKUs, and products are frequently moving as customers take items, place them back on shelves, and/or misplace them in random locations.
Process Automation – The other primary gap in store technology is in process automation. Neither back-end merchandising systems nor POS systems address the product handling processes required of store employees. Rather than system-directed workflows and processes, many stores have improvised manual processes, often relying on pen and paper or mobile devices for product look up only. These manual processes are inherently inefficient and inconsistent, increasing costs and putting customer satisfaction and loyalty at risk.
Below are six ways stores can improve their fulfillment operations. The following best practices would apply to dark stores (locations dedicated to delivery and pick up only) and hybrid stores serving ecom and in-person shoppers. To learn more about in-store picking, watch our recent webinar on-demand, or contact us to schedule a demo.