Five Tips for Moving Beyond the Traditional Warehouse Management System

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Five Tips for Moving Beyond the Traditional Warehouse Management System

By Bart Cera - 10/19/2016
For decades, companies have relied on warehouse management systems (WMS) to control inventory and material handling processes within their warehouses. Historically, retail distribution centers have been built upon plans that included predetermined transportation routes that outlined the number of stores on a route, what product those stores would get and the quantity and configuration of those products. Consequently, distribution centers have had similar designs, process methodologies and IT infrastructures for years.
 
E-commerce has changed the entire game, though.
 
E-commerce operations — which often provide a limited view of anticipated activity and unknown demand
— must be integrated with retail plans. And the retail mindset should change to either limit the amount of planned work — in order to incorporate e-commerce — or to incorporate a “plan as you go” method.
Because e-commerce has become such a large part of the overall inventory for retail stores, it has become imperative for retailers to position goods in the right place to meet demand and satisfy sometimes unforgiving e-commerce customers.
 
Historically, with more traditional distribution centers, retailers run the risk of having to discount and liquidate product when various channels become overburdened with inventory. Conversely, having too little inventory results in lost margins. So a flexible fulfillment system that can pull from multiple channels to meet customers’ demands benefits everyone.
 
Intelligent Warehouse Execution Systems (WES) drastically increase fulfillment center efficiency and contribute to increased profits. Below are five tips to consider when you’re thinking about making a change in your fulfillment center.
 
1. One Inventory, One Labor Force – The best WES combine waveless fulfillment with a single inventory and labor force. This type of system orchestrates and balances labor and machinery across the distribution center’s picking, packing and shipping processes in real time. Traditional WMS architecture adds unnecessary IT complexity with their compartmentalized views of labor and productivity.
 
2. Waveless/Continuous Processing – To ensure maximum efficiency, it is important to find a WES that creates a continuous flow. This is accomplished by using waveless processing techniques. This type of processing, unlike traditional picking operations, enters all orders into an order well as they are received at the facility. Orders are then sorted and fulfilled based on priority, shipping requirements and picker locations to minimize order completion times, thus promoting flexibility and greatly enhancing processing and order fulfilment speeds.
 
 
3. Scalable –A WES should have omnichannel capabilities and include a highly-scalable software architecture. Look for a WES that is capable of delivering a higher performance of order fulfillment with process automation. This includes managing material handling systems, robots and other complex automation technologies.
 
4. Reporting and Management Tools – A good WES will allow you to manage your distribution center and create reports. It is crucial to know how your distribution center is operating. A great WES will not only provide that information through management and reporting tools, but will also principally control workflow without requiring direct management intervention.
 
5. Lean Distribution – The goal of a WES is to improve efficiency and reduce waste. The WES should be continually optimizing work to maintain a constant workflow that meets production objectives, enhances service levels and reduces waste.
 
Bart Cera is chief operating officer and chief financial officer at VARGO. vargosolutions.com/.


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