Building a warehouse from the ground up is hard enough; redesigning or expanding an existing warehouse may be even more difficult. But it is a necessary task from time to time, whether you want to do it or not.
The Devil Is in the Details
When redesigning or expanding your warehouse, you’re faced with managing the myriad details of the task. Perhaps the most important detail is how you’ll manage your newly redesigned or expanded business. Your old paper-and-pencil method or dinosaur computer inventory tracking system won’t cut it with the new warehouse design. It’s past time to move your management system completely to the next level.
Since you’re changing things anyway, why not implement that digital warehouse management system you’ve had your eye on lately? Your old system may have worked great for years, but now it barely provides decent, simple storage location functionality. It’s time to move to a system that can handle all the tasks your business throws at it.
Benefits of a Well-Designed Warehouse Management System (WMS)
A warehouse management system should integrate your computer system with material handling equipment and storage equipment and be easily accessible to your employees. Everything should function as a single, cohesive working unit. This results in improved customer service, cost savings and increased profits. Some specific benefits of the right WMS for your warehouse operations include:
- An effective WMS can eliminate warehouse and customer service errors. The warehouse receives, stores, picks and ships your goods. Products are initially received, then verified and bar-coded. Entering them into the control system allows tracking of all future movements. This cuts the chance of tracking errors dramatically.
- Moving from paper-based to electronic transmission of information reduces customer-oriented and warehouse-oriented lead times to a negligible level. Combining electronically generated pick and put away transactions with customer-oriented information can cut lead times and boost your bottom line.
- WMS can maximize labor utilization and productivity. Labor productivity increases when tasks are effectively managed. WMS can also provide labor planning feedback to management. This allows the scheduling of personnel hours needed to meet expected peaks and valleys in product activity.
- WMS allows maximization of space in the warehouse. The WMS can give operators directions on where to put items to obtain maximum utilization of each slot, matching product to the storage location that best fits it.
- Capacity calculation can be input into the system to ensure consideration of the storage options for each item of product when assigning storage location, for example, if an item requires refrigeration or if storage in the box is sufficient. The system can assign storage on the pallet, separately or stacked.
- Information on hazardous materials can be input into the system to flag the product for storage in approved areas.
Worth the Hassle
The implementation of a comprehensive warehouse management system can be complex. Today’s systems can be standalone software or part of a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. These can include such high-end technology as radio frequency identification (RFID) and voice recognition. The basic principle driving these high-tech functions remains the same, however. The purpose is to provide control of the movement of materials within the warehouse in the most efficient manner possible.
Implementation may be a trying task, but it is an undertaking well worth the hassle.