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The E-Commerce Fulfillment Antidote

Everyone is pledging to lead a healthier lifestyle– eating healthier, exercising, and even drinking more water; no procrastinating! Similarly, distribution and fulfillment centers have a pledge of their own: fulfilling online orders quickly with more accuracy.

Today’s DCs are adjusting their systems accordingly as to not run the risk of losing customers—customers who order their goods today and want them, well, today. That’s the expectation and DCs are planning, building, and executing to meet those high demands.

With online shopping being the preferred method for most consumers, getting customers what they want in a timely and efficient manner can be challenging. E-commerce sales grew 12.4% in Q1 2019 compared to Q1 2018 while total retail sales only grew 2% in the same period. E-commerce sales now account for 10.2% of total sales compared to less than 4% in 20091. Think of it this way: if retail sales were a pie, E-Commerce sales make up a bigger piece of that flaky, rich, and delicious pie.

Mmm, pie.

Any-who, back to the point! This factoid reveals to us that e-commerce sales are becoming a significant percentage of retail sales. This phenomenon is impacting almost all retailers who want to retain or grow market share.

Smaller Orders. Larger Expectations.

Even though orders are getting smaller and expectations are growing larger, DCs are now turning to these main ingredients:

  • Put-To-Light Consolidation
  • Warehouse Management Software
  • Warehouse Execution Software
  • Warehouse Control software

With these components, it is possible to have successful order fulfillment. Although this can be accomplished to some degree with voice picking, more DCs are realizing positive impacts using put-to-light.

So, what is put-to-light? A put-to-light system directs operators to sort, or “put,” items into individual orders from a large batch of units. Each location assigned to the order will have an illuminated display associated with it. After identifying an article, the display shows the operator put locations and the quantity required in each order. One of the advantages of a put-to-light consolidation process is the level of order accuracy that is achieved, which is the ultimate goal.

There is no simple answer or chart to reference that can tell a company whether they should incorporate a put-to-light order consolidation process for their e-commerce fulfillment operation. Because every business is unique, there are only general guidelines that may indicate that order consolidation should be considered.

To read more about this and more, check out our white paper, Put Order Consolidation to Work in Your DC.


1U.S. Department of Commerce. (2019). Retrieved August 9, 2019, from

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