Jurrien Heynen, associate director UK warehousing, Wayfair answered questions for the newly published DeliveryX Warehousing 2023 Report.
As a homeware retailer, what are the warehousing challenges when selling everything from toothbrush holders to sofa beds?
For over two decades, our customers have come to Wayfair for all things home. We have gone from a two-person team working in a spare bedroom to a world-class organisation serving millions of customers around the globe. Today, we are home to more than 40 million products for any home need from over 20,000 suppliers worldwide. The sheer variety of products we handle means we must employ various handling and storage solutions to operate most efficiently. We have invested extensively both in manual handling training for our associates and in automated solutions such as vacuum lifters to ensure we can safely and efficiently handle the range of products stored at our UK warehouse in Lutterworth. The safety of our associates is our number one consideration at all times.
How has the site at Lutterworth helped you meet these challenges?
Our mission at Wayfair is to deliver perfect orders cost-effectively at scale. Our UK site at Magna Park in Lutterworth (1,068,000 sq ft and 20m high) has been fitted to support this achievement. This location is central to a wide range of fulfilment services for Wayfair’s European business. At Lutterworth, we are fulfilling customer orders from the UK, but also for our customers in Ireland, Germany, and Austria.
Besides picking stock and providing cross-docking facilities for our supplier partners, we also process all customer returns for the UK at Lutterworth. Furthermore, we run a self-contained home delivery operation for local postcodes and complete various value-added services for our supplier partners at this site, including quality control checking and overpacking for protection and other multi-channel fulfilment solutions.
With 105,000 pallet locations and more than 50,000 other storage locations in our racking, plus 25,000 shelving slots for smaller items and a sortation system that can handle items up to 50kg and 2m long, our purpose-designed warehouse at Lutterworth is well set up to pursue our mission. Ensuring that our associates have a great and safe workplace is our other primary consideration, and the site has many features to help us achieve this as well.
What technology have you adopted in your UK warehouse? And does warehouse automation have the potential to speed up customer deliveries?
At our Lutterworth warehouse, we have deployed two sorters to enable the sortation of our outbound orders, which has helped us to dispatch more than 60% of our orders same day for next-day delivery, including larger items such as sofas, beds, and dining tables.
Not only does the sorter move the vast array of articles onto the delivery trucks, but the technology applied means that the process of ensuring the cartons get to the right truck at the right time is hugely simplified. As a result, it speeds up the whole process and enables us to get orders to our customers faster.
We have also deployed anti-collision technology on our picking trucks. At 12 tons each, they are large, sophisticated pieces of equipment and an essential addition to our operations to uphold our most priority: the safety of our employees.
How does Wayfair’s warehouse operations support its sustainability goals?
At Wayfair, we are building our home with the future in mind. To us, this means helping to provide the feeling of home for those in our communities, developing a more inclusive workforce, and doing our part to protect our planet for future generations.
Through our Corporate Responsibility program, we address how our company impacts the planet and society. Also, in our warehouses, we continuously work on establishing various sustainability programs. These include efforts around energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste management, and sustainable packaging.
We are working to ensure our packaging is more sustainable while at the same time reducing product damage and return rates. In the last two years, we tested and deployed alternatives to conventional packaging material with more sustainable materials, such as paper bags, filling, and honeycomb paper in our UK warehouse.
We also share best practices with suppliers for damage prevention, minimising unnecessary materials, and utilising packaging that is both curbside recyclable and crafted from recycled content.
As part of our commitment to reducing waste across our supply chain, we donate thousands of pieces of furniture each year to local nonprofit organisations, such as Shelter, the leading charity working to tackle homelessness and housing issues in the UK. Not only does this help furnish homes for many families in need, but it also gives a second life to returned or excess products.
Our Lutterworth warehouse has the latest programmable LED lighting, allowing us to alter the lux and length of illumination time. We consistently review our sites to reduce our energy consumption further. Also, approximately 30% of the roof of our site in Lutterworth is fitted with clear panels during daylight hours. This vastly reduces the requirement for our LED lighting.
As another initiative, we have also upgraded our BMS (Building Management System), which allows us to closely monitor warehouse and office area temperatures and ensure that temperature regulation equipment, such as the large recirculation fans, only operates when required. In addition, we plan to have an electrical shunt unit for later in the year to reduce our CO2 emissions on site.
All of our UK sites have renewable electricity contracts in place. Solar panels also partially cover our UK warehouse, and we are continuously exploring opportunities to increase it further.
Headquartered: Boston, Massachusetts Founded: 2002
Wayfair’s co-founders Niraj Shah and Steve Conine wanted to break away from the traditional home furniture retail offerings, which were constricted by the size of bricks-and-mortar stores.
Initially Shah and Conine looked at what people were searching for and built destinations for those products. Soon they had launched CSN Stores, a collection of more than 200 sites with everything from bar stools to bedroom furniture and birdhouses.
In 2011, they brought everything together under one roof and created wayfair.com: a single site where people could find millions of products for every part of their homes.
This feature originally appeared in the DeliveryX Warehousing 2023 Report, download it in full here.