Warehouse Management Software has been around since the early 1980’s but it was only later in the decade that WMS truly experienced a boom and began its evolution towards full automation. While complete automation in warehouses is still a costly exercise that not many companies can afford, having a WMS installed will significantly reduce inefficiencies, overall costs, and human error. Considering that human error equates to roughly 1 keystroke out of every 300, the benefits of a good WMS are clear.
What if your WMS isn’t giving you the ROI you expected? What happens when a system just isn’t working as well as it could?
A well thought out, successfully installed, and functioning WMS can revolutionize your business but the inverse is also true. A badly installed WMS can wreak havoc on not only your day-to-day supply chain running experience but also your bottom line as inefficient processes inevitably have downstream consequences.
The Holistic Approach
It is a common misconception that the software will do all the work but the truth is, no software can work in isolation – there needs to be a holistic approach to ensure the effective running and smooth operation. Looking at the entire chain enables you to identify problem areas, gives you insight into who to appoint and where, and enables you to put the proper processes in place. Well defined processes around your WMS will maximize your ROI and when teams and management know the procedures and steps needed to deal with issues when they occur, you guarantee the smooth running of your supply chain. This holistic approach needn’t end with your managers and your employees, either. Sometimes, even including your customers and suppliers can provide you with insight and critical input you would otherwise not have had. Considering the entire product supply chain will allow you to identify optimal points of automation and allow you to assess where automation could be functioning at a higher rate of efficiency.
All the automation in the world will not make a difference if the physical warehouse layout is inefficient. Be willing to engage external experts to assess your layout as an experienced set of eyes can immediately recognize problems such as dust on products in your storage area (an indication of obsolete inventory), the inefficient use of dock space etc. Optimizing your warehouse layout and implementing lean warehouse practices enhances storage systems, pallet patterns, and racking thereby giving you more use of your available real estate. Making sure that areas such as receiving have the necessary space for smooth, fast operations and creating pre-selected pick paths will get things moving more efficiently in your warehouse.
Analyze and Monitor
Warehouse Management Software is like any machine in that it cannot function without periodic analysis and monitoring. A WMS that is left alone will likely begin to suffer redundant processes which can, among other things, lead to increased labour costs. Ensuring that you have full traceability will not only provide better reporting analytics but also ensures you know where your products are at any given time. This allows for constant tweaking and improvement to existing processes and systems. Performing a full assessment at least once every 12 months will allow you to better streamline warehouse processes and give you the ability to implement an ongoing optimization strategy based on the data provided by the WMS.
Less is More
You’ve heard it a hundred times before and when it comes to WMS automation, this cannot be more true. Take some time to work alongside your employees – this will enable you to identify duplications and needless in-aisle steps, giving you the insight needed to implement effective solutions and processes. Employees can easily forget complicated processes, so keeping things to less than a handful of steps eliminates redundancies and saves employees’ time, improving process flow, and improving the overall performance of your warehouse.
An untrained employee has the capacity to unravel even the most well-thought-out system, no matter who is in the team or how optimized the warehouse is. Ensuring that employees are thoroughly and satisfactorily trained in all technologies applicable to their function goes a long way to ensuring system longevity and functioning. Your employees are a crucial part of the overall functioning of not only your warehouse but also your warehouse management software. Incentives for employees (especially in the picking and packing areas) can greatly improve employee morale, increasing productivity, and employee commitment to excellence.
Warehouse Management Software has proven to be invaluable in the day-to-day running of over half of warehouses in business today. Supply chain trends indicate that further and more complete warehouse automation is inevitable. From automated storage-retrieval systems to full system automation – Warehouse Management Software is only the beginning and the sooner you leverage WMS automation in your warehouse, the better.