The Impacts of E-commerce: Fulfillment Challenges and Improvement Priorities

The rise in e-commerce is continuing at a remarkable pace. In 2017, consumers spent $453 billion online, a 16% increase from 2016, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. That’s the highest growth rate since 2011.

Naturally, this march of e-commerce impacts the fulfillment processes that need to happen in warehouses and other nodes in distribution networks. While traditional channels still need to be served, there is more piece picking and single-line orders to get out the door, and cycle times to hit next-day or even same-day delivery commitments are much tighter than when replenishment to retailers or distributors was the norm. To add to these challenges, this transition in the type and pace of fulfillment work is happening at a time when unemployment levels have plummeted and distribution center (DC) operators are finding labor increasingly difficult to find and retain.

To better understand how companies are managing their e-commerce platforms and related order fulfillment operations, Peerless Research Group (PRG), on behalf of Modern Materials Handling and Honeywell Intelligrated, surveyed 171 U.S.-based material handling executives. Survey results reveal that while organizations are still looking for solutions to better equip DC managers to control widespread, mission critical challenges—such as labor management, order processing and tracking, and warehouse and distribution costs many remain slow to adopt the necessary technologies to improve supply chain productivity.

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How To Become A Shipper of Choice

In a Transportation Environment where driver shortages and capacity crunches are the norm, a shipper can afford to be picky. By changing your supply chain operations to be a preferred partner for carriers, you can up your chances of securing the available capacity, most desirable routes, and best possible rates on the market today.


In the transportation world, demand is outstripping supply at an alarming rate. Credit the driver shortage, the new electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, a robust economy, and regulations like the Hours of Service (HOS) rules with fueling a seller’s market for carriers and drivers. Increasingly selective about the shippers and facilities that they work with, both entities are gravitating toward the “carrier-friendly” companies that go the extra mile to become shippers of choice.

As the power in the market continues to shift from the shipper to the carrier, shipping consistent volumes; orchestrating prompt loading and unloading; making timely payments; and working with shipping “windows” (versus exact appointment times) can all play a big part in improving shipper-carrier relationships. A large number of businesses are grappling with high levels of frustration, expensive choices, and myriad other challenges that keep them from getting their goods from Point A to Point B, on time and in an affordable manner. Shippers that adopt carrier-friendly business practices not only get lower transportation costs and consistent freight coverage, but they also benefit from stronger and longer-lasting ties with their valued transportation partners.

It’s no secret that high freight volumes coupled with a nationwide driver shortage and new regulations have resulted in unprecedented volatility. As demand outstrips supply, the balance of power has shifted to carriers. In which they are becoming increasingly selective about the shippers and facilities with whom they choose to work. In order to mitigate the impact of the shifting market and grow their business, shippers need to focus on becoming carrier-friendly and positioning themselves as a “shipper of choice.”

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Dock Management Strategies

Executive Brief Dock Management

Still managing your dock and yard with manual old-school processes? You’re not alone. Look at how your yard management and dock scheduling systems can help bring your organization out of the dark ages.

Rising Cost of Dock Management

Transportation costs, the driver shortage, and capacity crunches are just a few external variables impacting the supply chain. Therefore, it makes it difficult for companies to be productive, efficient, and profitable. Add the rigors of e-commerce, omni-channel distribution, and customer demands to the list and you wind up with an environment that’s challenging for even the most seasoned logistics and supply chain professionals.

Focusing on getting the right product in the right quantity to the right place at the right time. These professionals know that today’s customer demands full transparency into where those deliveries are at all times. While warehouse and transportation management systems can generally answer those questions in the warehouse or during transport, what happens out in the yard or on the dock isn’t always as transparent.

Focused on meeting customer needs and demands, with limited resources, logistics professionals will turn to technology to help them do their jobs while maintaining profitability and shoring up the bottom line.

Achieving these goals isn’t easy in any business environment, however, it’s onerous in our e-commerce, omni-channel distribution world. The companies that invest in technology and include their docks in those investment decisions will be best positioned for success.

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