The Evolution of Zalos: The Story behind Zalando Logistics

by Konstantin Lazarev - 19 Mar 2013

If you’ve bought something at Zalando you’ve probably noticed that your package arrives very quickly. How do we do it? In this article, we – two members of the technical logistics team – give you an introduction to Zalando’s logistics and how our specially designed system Zalos (Zalando Logistic System) came into being.

When we sent out the first order in 2008 our warehouse was in the head office and Robert and David brought the boxes to the post office by taxi. Today things work a little bit differently – we have several warehouses to assure fast delivery to many European countries.

Our first online shop was based on the Magento out-of-the-box platform. At that time there was only a small interface with the parcel service DHL – it generated shipping labels and everything else was done manually. Thankfully, Zalando did extremely well :-) – and that’s why we started to look for a logistics partner who would be flexible enough for a fast growing company like ours. It was important that the partner had enough experience with start-ups and could understand the Zalando way of thinking and working. In March 2009 we started working with DocData, who had their own logistics IT system and warehouse – not far from Zalando’s headquarters in Berlin.

Zalando's first 'warehouse' Due to the rapid growth in the number of orders, logistics soon became one of Zalando’s core competencies. We decided to open our very own warehouse – which we did in Brieselang, not far from Berlin, in the Summer 2011. At the same time we started using a new logistics system called Zalos. Just as we’d done previously with the shop, we started of using an out-of-the-box solution which could be customized and configured to the shop’s needs. After some research we found a partner who was experienced in logistic systems and could provide us with a flexible solution.

Our new logistics center in Erfurt – "Europe’s biggest fashion wardrobe" – presents fresh new challenges in the field of logistics and justifies our decision to create our own logistics system. Our prior experience with third party logistics systems was that they simply couldn’t meet our increasing demands. Specifically:

  • The out-of-the-box system wasn’t programmed with our specific processes in mind. Rather they were just standard processes that were adjusted to the needs of Zalando – meaning that solutions or outcomes were not always optimal.
  • Extensions to the system were often needed on demand and were difficult to implement.
  • New warehouse locations (like Erfurt or the upcoming warehouse in Mönchengladbach) have their own rationales and layout, so the system needs to have a high level of flexibility and parameterization.
  • The system needed to work in tandem with complex technologies and processes – such as with an automated conveying systems, high performance printers or the batching of orders.

As Zalando matured, we gained more and more experience in building highly complex IT systems for the online shop and creating our own infrastructure. That’s why it was pretty clear that we’d be creating the new logistics system for the new warehouse by ourselves.

Zalando Erfurt In order to develop the second version of Zalos, we built up our logistics team. We hired many product managers, process managers, software developers and quality assurance experts. Zalos is just one part of our internally used system, called the Zalando eCommerce Operating System (ZEOS). Each of ZEOS subsystems can be extended and enhanced, for example in terms of scalability or modularization. A dynamic environment and weekly releases give our team lots of room to be creative. We like to work on Zalos and its features and try our best to release at least one "cool feature" ;-) every week. We like to keep our colleagues in the warehouses happy by providing them with important new functions and some eye-pleasing entertainment.

In the next logistics blog post, we’ll take a more in-depth look into Zalos’ technologies, interfaces and operational system as well as having a talk to those who know Zalos best. Stay tuned! ;-)

Rasmus and Konstantin are both product managers in our logistics team. Like Yin and Yang they’re covering the areas of inbound logistics and outbound logistics – unlike Yin and Yang they’re both male! ;-)

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