I want to set up my own warehouse / fulfillment operation for my new ecommerce startup. I do not want to depend on, and potentially be exploited by, a 3rd party e-fulfillment company.
Is it basically just renting a warehouse, stocking up on all the necessary packaging material, hiring 2-3 workers to do the packing (and providing them with airconditioning, food and healthcare) and then making a deal with say DHL to come pick up my products from my warehouse at the end of the day / shopping cart integration?
Or is there more to it, like acquiring special licenses from the government?
Here in Sweden that would be all you need assuming the ecommerce startup is a registered company and [that company] is hiring these people. You would still need to pay taxes and the employers fee to the government (as with any employees) but there are no extra permits or anything needed to start a warehouse and send things from it. There are a few laws with regards to work conditions, health & safety that applies that you should be aware of.
Some exceptions exists for certain products (like for instance explosive materials), but for these sort of products you should know that already based on how you are getting them, that the are restrictions on shipping and maybe that your buyers needs extra permits.
If you have hired persons for the startup, just do the same for them - if not consult a legal advisor on how to hire people. Also if you are not sure about the laws that applies to workers and there safety you should do the same.
The most important thing you need to do is to organize your facility. Warehouses feature complex organizational schemes that can be optimized to increase efficiency and effectiveness. One way to think about this organization has to do with mapping out the flow of material in the facility. From the point at which you receive your merchandise to the point at which it leaves the warehouse to be shipped to your customers, you should be thinking about the most efficient way to direct the flow. Keep in mind that having the right shelving is crucial for organized inventory. Ask yourself are you going to specialize in a specific type of products, or will you carry a wide variety? How much inventory are you going to have on hand at a given time? Also, bear in mind that you may carry certain stocks at different seasonal periods, or your inventory may be constantly changing due to market trends.
I am one of those dreaded 3pl companies that you hear about - however; mine is more of a 4pl concept. It requires managing labor and keeping you the most productive at the lowest cost to you. But enough of that...there are more things to think about when opening an e-commerce warehouse. So many more!! I'm sure these folks had great input so did you consider the software you are going to use to wave your orders to be picked and shipped? The 2-3 people that you are speaking of hiring - are you looking to have low order/piece count? If so, you may be onto something more of 'out of your garage' type shipping. Yes, you can contract with a DHL to pick up for you - how are you going to make sure they are paid? These and so much more are things that you need to think about. It's so much more than people think. Good luck to you in your new endeavor! Keeping my fingers crossed for your success!!