What Amazon Can Teach Aviation About Warehouse Management

For many industries and businesses, warehouse management is a crucial requirement to maintain productivity. And among the countless companies across the world, global e-commerce giant Amazon has one of the most famous and impressive systems yet. 

Amazon has more than 110 warehouses in the United States alone, and more than 185 centers globally, with an inventory of about 12 million items across all its categories and services. It’s no wonder that the company is projected to make up half of the total e-commerce market share in the U.S. by the year 2021. But how exactly does Amazon manage all its warehouses on a daily basis? More importantly, what lessons can other industriesーsuch as aviationーlearn from this?

Taking Random Storage to New Heights

Millions of customers now take advantage of Amazon’s promise of same-day or two-day shipping. Behind this impressive feat is an incredibly complex system that has completely redefined warehouse efficiency. The most surprising part, however, is it’s all built around chaos. In Amazon warehouses, specific items don’t have neatly designated spots to fit in; instead, everything is organized completely at random.

For an e-commerce company like Amazon, there are two main benefits to storing products completely at random:

  • Easy access. It’s faster to get to items as needed when they can be found at multiple spots across the warehouse than just in one place. Also, since items are sold individually to customers, there’s no need to bundle up the same products together in the same place. 
  • Efficient use of space. When spaces are not reserved for specific items, they can be used for any products that enter the warehouse. That means spaces won’t be left empty while waiting for specific products to come through, and they will be used efficiently, as needed. 

While Amazon did not invent the random storage system, it did use the strategy on an unprecedented scale through the company’s inventory management system. When an Amazon employee stows an item on a random shelf, they scan a barcode on both the product and the shelf, allowing the computer to keep track of where every item is located.

Inventory Management in MRO

The main lesson to take away from Amazon’s success is that having a reliable inventory management system is crucial. Without this, Amazon’s random storage strategy would simply fall to pieces.

Unlike in e-commerce, the Aviation Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul (MRO) industry doesn’t handle millions of customers and items daily. However, there is the same need to have the necessary materials available whenever they are needed. Using an inventory management system would allow you to:

  • Streamline sourcing and ordering, allowing users to combine requests into single orders, customize and automate approval workflows, and set triggers for automatic replenishment.
  • Reduce costs through efficient ordering and allocation, improving inventory turnover and availability; and
  • Control inventory at the worksite in real-time with mobile transactions and paperless solutions.

At the end of the day, the aviation industry is different from the e-commerce arena of Amazon. However, success is still hugely reliant on proper supply chain management, and using the right tools such as software provided by EmpowerMX is a big help in keeping track of procurement and inventory.