Sale days can get extremely exciting for logistics firms partnering e-commerce. Especially during sale days when the work load surges exponentially to touch 300% of normal.
When India's biggest e-tailer declares sale days, normal goes out of the window. Instead of packing and handling 6,000 items for dispatch, the bonded warehouse has to handle up to 16,500 in a day. That's 10 items being picked, packed into a box, with an address printed every minute. Instead of 7 trucks that arrive at the warehouse, the staff has to load and unload 11 trucks. The value of goods that pass through the warehouse on sale days is nearly Rs200 million in a day.
The pace of working goes up, and so does the number of working hours. Typically, people put in 16 hours a day at the site for about 20 days to manage the huge volumes of items that arrive in readiness for the sale. The number of personnel on site is often doubled with resources being pulled in from other warehouses. And people stay late to dispatch thousands of boxes while keeping to the shipping timelines promised by the e-tailer.
Managing this volume and value can be quite a task, but Avvashya CCI (ACCI), a part of the Avvashya Group, has it all in hand. As India's leading contract logistics firm, ACCI has been partnering India's leading names in the automotive, pharma, chemicals and e-commerce sectors for the last 3-4 years. Of these, it's e-commerce that is growing aggressively.
Partnering e-commerce organisations in inventory calls for some unique capabilities and a vast amount of agility. Says Balaji V, CEO of ACCI, ''In e-commerce, seasonal requirements are dynamic. Typically, 60-70% of the business happens in just 2-3 months of the year. This being the requirement, we as logistics partners need to be ready to scale up in a short span of time.''
To meet the flux in demand, ACCI uses a mix of technology and training. ''We use technologies that enable us to expedite our services to meet the demand without compromising on service quality,'' says Balaji. ACCI uses automation to make improvements to the workflow and material flow within the warehouse. ''We have tried to minimise manual handling. This helps in productivity improvement of about 25-30%. This also allows us to meet sudden surges in inbound and outbound deliveries, and we can thus scale up easily to meet the huge volumes generated during sale months or days,'' Balaji explains.
ACCI has also adopted tech tools that provide greater visibility in order management throughout the entire channel — from when an order is received to the time an item is dispatched. These tools enable ACCI to visualise bottleneck areas and thus manage equipment and resources to reduce choke points. ''We are able to meet targets and timelines during a particular day because we are able to anticipate where the choke points are. We can then deploy additional manpower or equipment to those particular activities.''
People training also plays a crucial role in managing the huge demands that are made by e-commerce requirements. ACCI has created a dynamic performance monitoring mechanism that has been integrated with its channel and service partners.
ACCI uses digital training methodologies to improve productivity. The training sessions are videographed and the video is analysed through software which provides a time and motion study. ''This helps us understand who is good at which specific tasks. This analysis becomes the basis for focused training and we are able to create champions from within. We can continuously manage areas for improvement and provide focused training as needed.''
According to the CEO, the virtual training has helped ACCI immensely in productivity improvement and service enhancement, showing results of up to 40-45% improvement in productivity metrics.
The company is also looking to get future ready. On the anvil is a new Warehouse Management System that will go beyond the current benchmarks of warehousing in India to integrate with order management software at one end and customer deliveries at the other end. The new software will have capabilities such as root optimisation, network optimisation, and density mapping with rooting logic. The tech will help ACCI offer even higher levels of throughput and delivery. It will also offer added features such as digital signatures for confirming transactions in the systems.
The new WMS also comes with machine learning capabilities based on data analytics. Says Balaji, ''It will guide us to understand how resources and equipment can be optimally utilised. In phase two, we will adopt new tools that will provide predictive analysis, i.e. we will be able to forecast what kind of inventory will move during a particular period, what will be peak or low periods for transactions, etc. Automated or robotised picking is also on the horizon.''
Inventory management for e-commerce is all about time and agility. With an arsenal of tech tools and skilled personnel, ACCI is looking beyond KPIs and SLAs to offer best in class services to its customers.