May 17, 2020

Optimising picking strategies for #Instafashion sales

Mike Chadwick
4 min
Warehouse workers picking stock
Mike Chadwick, Supply Chain Consultant at Indigo Software, highlights ways in which warehouses can optimse their picking strategies.

There are over 4bn...

Mike Chadwick, Supply Chain Consultant at Indigo Software, highlights ways in which warehouses can optimse their picking strategies.

There are over 4bn internet users worldwide, that’s more than half of the world’s total population. Active social media users make up around 3bn - nearly 40% of the population - showing how ubiquitous it has become to our lives.

Brands appreciate how hooked we all are on social media and what this means in terms of its commercial potential. They recruit influencers – people like Lorna Luxe, Dani Dyer and Lottie Tomlinson - to help promote their products or services and help drive sales. It’s especially powerful among Generation Z and millennials. 

Social media has become another great leveller (like the Internet before it), allowing start-ups to compete with big brands - clever strategy and artful supply chain execution are what’s important. The new BBC Three series “Breaking Fashion” portrays this perfectly, showing how Manchester ‘fast fashion’ brand “In The Style” is able to compete with the likes of PrettyLittleThing and boohoo using social media influencers and celebrities to help create demand and boost sales.

How do #influencers affect the warehouse?

What is the impact of social media in the warehouse? What needs to happen when a new ‘must have’ item goes viral on Instagram? How can warehouse operations cope and how does a Warehouse Management System (WMS) help ensure the right items get to the right customers as quickly and cheaply as possible?

Flexible picking methods to support ecommerce sales

Warehouse management software is an essential tool to get through the day’s order pool efficiently and without having to rely on too much additional labour – which adds cost to already tight margins. WMS software needs to have the flexibility to support multiple approaches to picking, depending on the different types of products being sold. 


Batch Pick and Sort Picking

Ideal for high volumes of small orders, batch picking allows SKUs for multiple orders or shipments to be picked simultaneously and then grouped into individual orders. This type of picking greatly increases the throughput possible in a warehouse, because it reduces the travel times to gather stock items and makes the whole process as efficient as possible. Goods are then brought to a central marshalling area where order assembly operatives finish each customer order, adding brand specific finishes as a value add where relevant. If your WMS supports batch pick and sort functionality, social or ecommerce orders can be released in the shortest possible time, for the lowest cost possible.

Wave picking

Larger orders (in terms of the numbers of SKUs per order) can be picked using wave picking and a good WMS will have the flexibility to support this method too. In wave picking, each SKU for an individual order is picked discretely. The benefit of this approach is that orders can be scheduled for a set time within the day, depending on their profile or priority. Orders coming in from VIP customers or with a special delivery request can be scheduled for times when additional resources are available, or to reflect the delivery carrier being used.

For brands wanting to capitalise on the power of social media to create demand and increase sales, the ability to switch seamlessly between wave picking, batch pick and sort picking is an essential WMS feature.

How to select the right picking method for social commerce

The decision around which picking method is best for ecommerce brands needs to be made according to the types of goods being sold in the warehouse. 

Large numbers of smaller products are best picked using the batch picking method. This is because groups of individual SKUs can be picked simultaneously into a central tote and then centrally sorted into individual orders, significantly cutting down on the amount of travel time between stock locations.

If the warehouse is exceptionally busy, with a large number of pickers and different product SKUs, wave picking can be more efficient. This is because it cuts down on congestion between locations and allows orders to be grouped into zones for optimum productivity. 

For brands using social media to drive sales, your warehouse can potentially use both these methods. When new products are first launched, wave picking can ensure those orders are prioritised, meaning that must have items are hitting the streets (and social media) as quickly as possible, for the lowest possible delivery cost. The faster items can reach end consumers, the faster they can be promoted with selfies to perpetuate demand!

Before commencing any project to implement WMS technology, it’s imperative to conduct a full warehouse review and identify any opportunities to improve efficiencies in advance of introducing software. Indigo’s supply chain consultants have extensive real-world experience working with social commerce or ecommerce brands and can advise on the most appropriate strategies.

For more information on all topics for Procurement, Supply Chain & Logistics - please take a look at the latest edition of Supply Chain Digital magazine.

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Jul 23, 2021

UK Food Supply Chain to be Exempt from COVID-19 Isolation

2 min
Emergency measures will allow workers in the UK’s food supply chain to continue working after potential contact if they test negative

Vital workers in the UK’s food supply chain will be exempt from isolating after contact with COVID-19 under new emergency measures announced by the British government. 

More than 10,000 people working in supermarket distribution centres, manufacturing plants and other food logistics services will be affected by the initiative. Staff who are told to isolate by test and trace or are notified by an official app will be allowed to continue working as long as they test negative. 

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the scheme would undergo a limited trial this week after consultation with the country's biggest food retailers. It plans to extend the measures through a wider roll out next week, impacting around 500 sites dedicated to stocking supermarkets and producing staple foods such as bread and milk. 

“Food businesses across the country have been the hidden heroes of the pandemic,” said Environment Secretary George Eustice. "We are working closely with industry to allow staff to go about their essential work safely with daily testing.”

Speaking to Sky News, Eustice added that the exception would not be extended to other sectors. 

"The reason we have made a special exception for food is for very obvious reasons,” he said. "We need to make sure that we maintain our food supply. We will never take risks with our food supply."

UK Supply Chains Under Strain

The news follows reports of empty shelves and widespread shortages in British supermarkets after a record number of people were told to isolate via the NHS app. Branded the ‘pingdemic’, more than 600,000 alerts were sent out to phones and mobile devices in the week beginning 8 July, warning people that they had come into contact with those infected by the virus. 

It left already strained food supply chains under staffed and unable to cope. The mass alert has also caused disruption in other supply chains, exacerbating a prevailing shortage of drivers and other essential logistics professionals. 

READ MORE: Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried

Savid Javid, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who was appointed last month following the departure of MP Matt Hancock, said: “As we manage this virus and do everything we can to break chains of transmission, daily contact testing of workers in this vital sector will help to minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk.”


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