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These days, businesses have had to get a little creative with their supply chain solutions.

The sudden explosion in ecommerce doesn’t look like it’ll be ending anytime soon, and as a result, businesses of all sizes have needed to find innovative ways for their logistics to keep up. Between the increase in overall order volume, as well as the increase in customer expectations for how fast their order will be delivered, businesses have been trying to find ways to reduce the amount of time it takes to fulfill and complete their orders.

A solution for these issues that has been gaining popularity lately has been the rise of micro-fulfillment, a faster way for customers to receive their orders while cutting down on overall handling time for the businesses in question.


What Is Micro-Fulfillment?


Micro-fulfillment is a way of completing orders that seeks to combine the speed of last-mile delivery with the regionally-focused convenience of in-store order pickup.

With micro-fulfillment, the customer’s items are taken to a small, regional distribution center for the final delivery of their order. These warehouses need to offer a number of different services, from picking and packaging, all the way to the actual physical delivery of the order.

Think of it as a smaller distribution center. Micro-fulfillment centers receive their inventory from other, larger warehouses where the products originate from. Instead of long-term major inventory storage, the goal of a micro-fulfillment center is to perform any remaining tasks needed to complete the delivery, whether it includes packaging, delivery, or simply stocking popular products that tend to sell better for more specific customers and regions.

It’s gained a lot of popularity and attention in the world of grocery retail, as it can allow food to be stored safer and delivered more quickly, but a great deal of other industries have started to benefit from this approach too. Knowing this, would your warehouse be able to benefit from the rise of micro-fulfillment?


Designing a Micro-Fulfillment Warehouse


Micro-fulfillment centers aren’t too different in design and planning than a standard warehouse, just with different focuses.

For example, the amount of on-hand inventory a micro-fulfillment center is typically expected to keep is smaller than a normal warehouse. These centers tend to focus more on the most popular and fastest-selling items, allowing them to fill orders for those items quicker, while waiting for other warehouses to provide the rest of the inventory. As a result, your warehouse will probably need to place a lower-priority on large, longer-term storage options like pallet racking and more on nimble, smaller shelves like wire shelving, steel shelves, and rivet shelving.


Additionally, micro-fulfillment centers may need to store a more varied range of items, depending on the companies they’re helping to provide logistics and storage for. If your warehouse has the ability to offer food storage shelving, freezer shelving, or medical shelving, you may be in a better position to handle the wide variety of items you’ll be asked to help fulfill.

Stocking items is only a small part of the duties of a micro-fulfillment center, and you may need to help with other parts of the fulfillment and logistics process as well. Picking, packaging, and handling returns are all typical parts of the micro-fulfillment experience, as they allow for faster handling of deliveries and returns from their targeted geographic locations. Make sure your team is equipped with warehouse packing stations to help them finish up whatever remaining tasks need to be completed to complete delivery.

And whatever else you do, just remember to stay flexible. Micro-fulfillment can be one of the biggest parts of the warehouse industry going forward, and being able to offer the services and storage your clients need will help you stay competitive.

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