E-Commerce Warehouse Equipment Checklist
As customers turn to online solutions for their purchasing needs, e-commerce businesses continue to scale beyond belief. Now more than ever, running an online shop requires quick order fulfillment, accurate product sorting and abundant storage space. From seamless pick modules to sharp automation tools, having the right equipment is key to any e-commerce operation.
Keep reading to learn about the types of equipment you’ll need when trying to upgrade or start an e-commerce warehouse.
Proper warehouse racking is the backbone of warehouse management. Efficient e-commerce warehouses aim to make the most of their space, both vertical or horizontal. Storage racks can be customized to fulfill optimal storage of any warehouse layout.
Whether you run your own e-commerce business or you manage a 3PL (third-party logistics) company, storage racks allow for the intake, organization and distribution of items that eventually make product sales possible.
For larger warehouses with nonstop activity, pallet racks are necessary for storing large, relatively uniform inventory. Heavy-duty pallets are only accessible using forklifts or powered transport tools and ensure there is always a reasonable amount of backstock.
In addition to pallet racking, other common storage racking types include cantilever rack, drive-in rack, carton flow rack and pushback rack, among other types.
Because the majority of immediate shipping requirements involve single items, e-commerce warehouse operation relies heavily on shelving units.
When assembling orders minute by minute, employees locate designated product types not by pallet or rack but through smaller shelving systems. These shelves store everything from valuable SKUs to essential packaging materials, such as boxes, labels and ink cartridges.
Warehouse shelving for online sales can also be strategically set up with automated storage and retrieval systems.
Automated Storage and Retrieval System
An automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) is a set of computer-run machines that retrieve and deliver storage items to a warehouse operator. AS/RS systems increase the precision and accuracy of warehouse demands.
There are three main types of AS/RS:
- Unit-Load AS/RS handles large storage loads at the pallet level.
- Mini-Load AS/RS handles smaller storage loads like bins, trays and containers.
- Robotic AS/RS handles a variety of items down to individual products.
An AS/RS will use different carousels, lifts and shuttle systems, depending on its type and intended use.
Pick modules use a set of equipment to reduce the time it takes to locate, retrieve and fulfill fast-paced orders. Instead of a warehouse employee running between aisles of product to find an item, pick modules make it easy to use multi-level racks, conveyor belts and storage bins in a configuration customized to your e-commerce warehouse’s needs.
For high-volume products or product types, dedicated conveyors and flow lines can maximize efficiency. Instead of using several conveyor belts to deliver the endless stream of products to one place, e-commerce shipping departments can set up specific conveyor systems.
Conveyors can be differentiated by product type, product size, order quantity, high-demand items, or perishable vs. non-perishable products. The options are endless.
Powered Transport Equipment
Warehouse transport ensures that the necessary materials move easily from one end of the warehouse to another. Powered transport tools include the following:
Rudimentary Transport Equipment
Warehouse operators and shipping workers rely on transport equipment, even when it doesn’t involve large pallets. Hand carts, pushcarts and dollies help collect multiple items at a time, relieving workers from lifting too many heavy items at once while transporting items throughout the warehouse.
Small Storage Containers
Small storage containers provide temporary organization to prevent shipment mistakes. Individual products are placed in plastic bins, boxes or containers until ready for packaging and labeling. Small containers are also useful for extra parts required for assembly or packaging, like rubber bands or buttons.
Small containers common in e-commerce warehouses include cubbies, totes and stackable bins. To save on warehousing costs, many e-commerce businesses purchase used bins.
Packing and Shipping Equipment
Warehouses that handle large volumes of online orders must have an active packing and shipping area. This is where warehouse employees ensure every order is assembled, packaged, labeled and shipped accurately and on time.
Here’s a list of packing and shipping equipment e-commerce companies use:
- Tables and benches
- Shipping materials (boxes, envelopes, package stuffing)
- Sealers (tape, glue, staple guns)
- Shipping labels and print systems
- Strapping and wrapping materials
- Shrinkwrap machines
- Empty pallets and materials for bulk shipping (if relevant to your business)
You’re probably also going to need some equipment to handle waste and recycling. Balers, for example, compress large cardboard boxes that accumulate during shipping.
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Warehouse Management Technology
You don’t need robots to manage a successful e-commerce warehouse. But don’t dismiss the concept right away. A 2021 MHI survey found the top industry increasing its robotics usage was warehouse management. From AS/RS systems to robotic picking and packing, more online fulfillment centers rely on the latest technology for optimized workflow.
A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is an industry standard for e-commerce businesses. Setting up a WMS gives you total control of inventory, supply chain, distribution, employment and more. It allows for more warehouse automation in every department, from mobile label printing to barcoding and order fulfillment.
If you’re managing expensive materials, such as electronics or designer goods, setting up a security system may be a good idea. This can mean cameras and alarm systems. It can also mean hiring a warehouse security specialist to audit and improve warehouse layout for increased security.
Find the Right E-Commerce Warehouse Equipment
Outfitting your e-commerce warehouse with the right equipment ensures seamless operation — the type of nonstop operation that’s vital to your bottom line. With so many moving parts in an e-commerce warehouse, it can be challenging to know where to start.
If you need help selecting and setting up your e-commerce warehouse equipment, contact us today. We’ll walk you through every step of the process.