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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Materials Handling Technology Study

Materials Handling Technology Study

Modern Materials Handling magazine conducted its annual Materials Handling Technology Study to better understand the usage and adoption of technology applications being used and planned for use in materials handling environments. Where applicable, results are tracked back to prior studies to gauge any changes that may have occurred over time.

Software is playing an important role in the smooth running of today’s warehousing and distribution operations, and the latest results of this Modern Material Handling’s study proves that.

In this year’s survey of Modern Materials Handling subscribers, respondents shared their views of current software usage, projected software investments, and critical implementation and usage concerns.

Specific areas investigated included:

  • Company’s adoption of technology
  • Impact of the current state of the economy on technology purchases
  • Annual spending on technology solutions and circumstances driving technology investments
  • Usage and plans to evaluate materials handling technology solutions
  • Reasons for implementing materials handling applications: What challenges looking to address
  • Types of materials handling software solutions currently in use/planned for purchase or upgrade:
    • Warehouse Management Software (WMS)
    • Transportation Management Software (TMS)
    • Supply chain management solutions
  • Adoption of cloud-based applications
  • Respondent Demographics

Key questions asked included:

  • Describe your company’s adoption of technology for your materials handling procedures
  • How has the current economic climate changed your company’s approach to adopting materials handling management software?
  • How has your company’s use of materials handling software changed over the past 2 years?
  • Which of the following software applications are currently in use in your warehousing and distribution environment?
  • Are you using or planning to evaluate cloud-based applications?
  • Use or adoption of Big Data, IoT, Blockchain, WMS, TMS
  • What is driving your decision to invest in new materials handling or supply chain software?

Down the full, 33-page report which features a deep dive into the data gleaned from this year’s technology survey gathered from our readers.

Millennials in the Supply Chain Workforce

Supply Chain Workforce Study

New research from SCMR, APICS and APQC reveals a generation that is enthused and engaged in a career in the supply chain workforce.

As more millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) enter the marketplace, managers are recognizing the need to adjust traditional business and supply chain approaches to embrace a generation that is changing the workplace. Those who adapt quickly may garner the benefits gained from a highly competitive, techno-savvy generation. Supply Chain Management Review magazine, APICS and APQC, are conducting a study to better understand your generation as a critical segment of the supply chain workforce.

This industry research was conducted by Peerless Research Group in conjunction with Supply Chain Management Review , APICS, the leading professional association for supply chain and operations management, and APQC, (American Productivity & Quality Center) a premier provider in benchmarking, best practices and knowledge management applications.

The research was executed to better understand how Millennials become involved in the supply chain workforce and learn more about their viewpoints in working in today’s supply chain.

Some of the questions asked include

  • Your First Position within Supply Chain
  • Employment Tenure
  • Areas within Supply Chain Currently Involved
  • Prospective Areas of Future Supply Chain Involvement
  • Challenges and Frustrations with Current Job
  • Likelihood of Working in Supply Chain Field in 5 years
  • Reasons for Entering the Supply Chain Field
  • Training and Education Plans
  • Professional Association Membership

Modern Materials Handling 2018 Salary Survey

Materials Handling Salary Survey

Purpose of Salary Survey Industry Research Study

  1. To determine the current salaries and overall compensation for materials handling professionals
  2. To examine materials handling pros’ current job and overall career satisfaction

Specifically, the research examines

  1. Compensation
    • Salary level as well as bonus plans
  2. Job and career history
    • # of years with current employer
    • Job responsibilities
    • # of years work in field
  3. Satisfaction with career as a materials handling professional
    • Job stability & Job-related pressures/stress
  4. Demographics

Salary Survey Methodology

In August/ September 2018 an email invitation was sent to subscribers of Modern Materials Handling asking for their participation in this study. The email included a dedicated URL linked to a website which hosted the questionnaire. As an incentive to respond, participants were given an opportunity to enter a raffle for one of two $100 e-cards. Results are based on 304 qualified respondents. Where available and applicable, 2018 results are trend to MMH’s 2015, 2016 and 2017 Salary Surveys. The margin of error for this study is +/- 5.8%, meaning if the entire population responded, results may vary by +/- 5.8%.

Warehouse Operations & Trends Survey

Warehouse & Operations Study

This industry research was conducted by the Peerless Research Group on behalf of Logistics Management and Modern Materials Handling magazine, and marks our thirteenth annual Evaluation of Warehouse Operations & Trends survey.

The study was conducted to evaluate current activities and to assess any trends in the evolution of warehouses and distribution-center facilities and operations.

Specific areas of investigation include:

  • Nature of warehouse operations and distribution center’s operations
  • Size of distribution center and scope of distribution activities
  • Areas for possible expansion
  • Distribution center systems and technologies in use
  • Means for measuring productivity
  • Actions taken to manage warehouse operating costs
  • Events that cause disruptions in distribution center operations

The report compares this year’s findings to 2017, 2016 and 2015 results. In each wave, the survey was administered via email invitation to subscribers of Logistics Management magazine. Respondents were qualified for being involved in decisions as they pertain to their company’s distribution center operations.

Included in this report is

  • Size and Scope of Distribution Center
  • Systems and Technologies in Use
  • Company Policies/Initiatives
  • Respondent and Company Profile

Supply Chain Management Review’s Compensation and Executive Education Salary Survey

Salary Survey & Education Study

2019 Salary Survey

Purpose of salary survey study

  • Determine the current salaries and overall compensation for supply chain professionals.
  • Examine the current job/overall career satisfaction of supply chain professionals.
  • Ascertain supply chain executive’s education as well as participation in career-related education

Specifically, the research examines

  • Compensation
  • Job and career history
  • Satisfaction with career as a supply chain professional
  • Education to include executive classes, training, certifications

Demographics Methodology

In May, 2019, an e-mail invitation was sent to subscribers of Supply Chain Management Review asking for their participation in this industry research study. The e-mail included a dedicated URL linked to a website hosting the questionnaire. Results are based on 199 qualified respondents. The margin of error for this study is +/- 7.1%, meaning if the entire population responded, results may vary by +/- 7.1%.

Some of the questions asked include

  • What is your current total annual salary for 2019?
  • In the last year, by what percent did your salary level change?
  • Age and salary by age
  • Gender and salary by gender
  • Number of direct and indirect reports
  • Experience and Salary by years of logistics/supply chain management experience
  • Factors that most greatly affect satisfaction with current job
  • Level of education and degree
  • Company size: Number of employees

Modern Materials Handling Pallet Usage Study

Pallet Market Research Report

This study is the fourth wave of a tracking study conducted on behalf of Modern Materials Handling. The industry research is conducted to better understand current & future pallet usage and to assess any trends that may be occurring in the pallet market. Results in this report trend back to the 2015 wave.

Areas of Investigation:

  • Factors considered important when determining which types of pallets to use
  • Types of pallets (wood, plastic, metal, etc.) in use/planned for future use
  • Usage of new vs. used wood pallets
  • Usage of plastic pallets
  • Usage of metal pallets
  • Level of usage for pallets during the next two years
  • Recent changes to pallet usage patterns
  • Usage of pallets rental services
  • Usage of pallets outside the US

Sample: Subscribers of Modern Materials Handling magazine Respondent Qualifications: Being employed at a location that uses pallets Research Method: By email invitation. The invitation included a URL linked to a dedicated website which hosted the questionnaire.

Some questions which were asked include:

  • What are the most important factors in your decisions to use a certain type of pallet?
  • What types of pallets do you use?
  • What are the sizes you commonly use?
  • What type of wood pallets are you primarily using?
  • Are the wood pallets you purchase new or used?
  • How would you describe your usage of plastic pallets during the last year?
  • During the next 12 months do you expect your usage of metal pallets to increase, decrease or stay the same?
  • Does your company rent, plan to rent pallets or use a retrieval/recovery provider?
  • Over the next two years do you expect the number of pallets you ship internationally to increase, decrease or stay the same?
  • Are your pallet providers offering any of the following solutions?

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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Key Challenges and Best Practices for B2B Fulfillment

executive briefs b2b ibm

Executive Brief for IBM – September 2016 (MMH & SCMR)

Business-to-Business (B2B) Commerce, the exchange of products, services, or information between businesses—instead of businesses and consumers—is expanding by leaps and bounds. This growth is pushing more companies to rethink their fulfillment practices, particularly in the areas of inventory management, order velocity, and the ability to meet order commitment dates.

B2B Process

Credit the rapid expansion in e-commerce with driving much of the need for improved B2B processes. Today, 74% of B2B buyers research at least one-half of their work purchases online, according to Frost & Sullivan. Combined with cost savings gained by the self-serve e-commerce environment, more businesses are expected to move online in the next few years.

For further proof of the shift to higher B2B sales, you need only look at the online giant itself, The company reported a number of key increases for the first quarter of 2016, when total sales rose 20.5% year over year to $20.58 billion from $17.08 billion. More specifically, it saw a surge to “more than 300,000” businesses that it serves in its Amazon Business marketplace, “ranging from small to Fortune 500 companies.”

Download this executive brief and learn more about B2B fulfillment.