American Storage and Logistics, the largest stocking dealer of new and used warehouse equipment in Grand Rapids, is seeing increased demand from companies looking for advice on the equipment they would need to set up a basic e-commerce operation.
“The need for an e-commerce capability has really impacted the flow of most warehouses,” said James Wiese, president of American Storage. “We made a pivot to e-commerce, and we feel like this has really put us in a good position to be able to help other warehouse operators with their equipment selection, as well.”
Setting up a warehouse for e-commerce brings a host of new issues. Rather than just shipping large pallets of material, e-commerce requires shipping two, three or six products in a single box. This significantly increases the labor required, as well as the need for accurate inventory counts.
Now more than ever, good inventory management is the key to success for manufacturers and distributors. If you don’t have the right product in the right place at the right time, you’re going to lose customers. If you don’t have it in the right quantity or you can’t pick and pack at a low cost, you’re going to see e-commerce negatively impact your profitability and cash flow.
“What really made the shift possible for us was implementing a combination of technology and equipment,” Wiese said. “We’ve been using SalesPad to manage our inventory for a year or two now, and we’re really just starting to take advantage of the software’s power. It allowed us to reduce our lead times from three or four days down to same day, in most cases.”
For those considering launching an e-commerce operation in their warehouse, there are a few key pieces of equipment to consider:
- Pallet rack: To store the material you buy in bulk
- Industrial shelving: To set up your picking area
- Inventory management software: This should include the ability to identify specific slots
- Thermal label printer: To print barcodes and shipping labels
- Handheld scanner
- Packing station and packaging material
- Rolling ladder: To quickly reach product stored over 5 feet
- Carts: Push-carts and pallet jacks help you quickly move product throughout your facility
- Flow racking: Depending on the pace of picking, gravity flow racking could reduce pick times
Wiese mentioned that a lot of the equipment is available new or used from your local material handling equipment dealer. Considering the fast-changing nature of an e-commerce operation, he recommended that you find a local dealer with same day or next day pickup and delivery.