Contextual factors for omni-channel warehousing: An empirical study in China
Abstract: Introduction: In recent years omni-channel retailing has been accepted and used by both physical and e-commerce retailers. In omni-channel retailing different channels are integrated. An effective and efficient distribution system is becoming more crucial. The core of the distribution system is warehousing that affects lead time and logistics cost. The main challenge is to handle large store replenishment and small web orders in an integrated warehouse. The Chinese market is one of the largest growing retail markets with a large number of small and medium-sized retailers. The market is fragmented and changed rapidly. Therefore, we have much interest in omni-channel warehousing in Chinese retailing and want to have a deep understanding about the experience in Chinese omni-channel retailing and compare with Swedish retailing. Purpose: The purpose of the thesis is to explore how Chinese retailers have adapted their warehouse operations and design to omni-channel logistics and find related retailers’ experience, important contextual factors and challenges. Methodology: For the purpose of this study, the work consists of a literature review for theory development and a multiple case study for the empirics. The literature review is the basis of building a conceptual framework, including omni-channel retailing, warehousing operation and current findings in omni-channel warehousing. There are four companies from four industry sectors in China being investigated. Empirical data are collected through face-to-face and phone interviews. The analysis is both conducted within case and cross case. Findings: The retailers' experiences are divided into three perspectives: automation and network, integration and separation, and picking strategies. In Chinese omni-channel retailing there is a trend to using higher automation in warehouse operations and using online fulfillment center in the distribution system. Picking strategies are chosen according to the companies’ own features. Then the important contextual factors in the three perspectives are analyzed and found. The main challenges in Chinese omni-channel retailing are illustrated in three areas: logistics performance, the distribution system and warehouse operations. The differences between Chinese omni-channel retailing and Swedish omni-channel retailing are also found with comparing our findings with Swedish cases. Finally, the suggestions for future research in relevant topics are given based on our findings. Contribution: This thesis has been a complete elaboration between the two authors. Each author has been involved in every part of the process and contributed equally.
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