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1. What is a warehouse management system?
2. Where does WMS fit in the supply chain?
3. Which type of system is a WMS usually connected to?
4. What is the warehouse management process?
5. Our tips for effective warehouse management
6. Our guide to warehouse management pick rules
7. How to strengthen your warehouse operations
8. Understanding the benefits of Mobile WMS
Effective warehouse operations are integral to business success through maintaining adequate stock levels and prompt fulfilment of orders, leading to customer satisfaction, loyalty, repeat business and profitability.
Businesses are therefore constantly striving to improve the efficiency of their warehouse operations and overall productivity of staff. For these reasons, it is imperative that businesses have robust and effective stock control and warehouse management systems (WMS) in place.
However, there are a plethora of systems available, ranging from all-in-one, end-to-end ERP systems with integrated WMS functionality, to a range of bolt-on WMS packages that can be added to existing business management software. So which option should businesses opt for? Our Orderwise #1 guide to warehouse management in the UK is sure to help!
Affective WMS software fits into all aspects of the supply chain. And can help provide control, flexibility and visibility over all operations at each stage of the supply chain.
WMS however, can also be specifically incorporated into just one part of the supply chain, for example an online retailer may have a shorter supply chain to that of a physical store or may only need controls for stock management for example.
WMS software is an application that helps control and manage the day-to-day operations in a warehouse. WMS software guides inventory receiving and put-away, optimises picking and shipping of orders and advises on inventory replenishment.
WMS is a standalone system that needs support from other software systems for example ERP. ERP for is an all encompassing system which aids the control and management of many aspects of the business for example; accounting, procurement, project management, risk management, staffing and compliance.
A WMS system is typically connected with an ERP system, but not always. Considering factors such as business type and size.
It is likely that your warehouse is the central hub of your business, where goods arrive, stock is managed and orders are despatched to customers. With this being the case it is vitally important that you have the right processes in place that ensures your staff are working as accurately and as efficiently as possible on a daily basis.
• Importance of warehouse layout
• Benefits of barcode scanning technology in the warehouse
• Ways to get staff working productively.
For many companies, effective warehouse management is at the very heart of all business operations.
Orders require quick fulfilment with accurate stock levels maintained so that sales can be capitalised, high service levels achieved and increased revenue generated. Businesses are therefore constantly striving to improve the efficiency of warehouse tasks and overall productivity of staff in order for this to be achieved, looking to implement ways to help better manage their day to-day warehouse activities.
With these measures and processes having varying degrees of success, we thought we’d take a look at the key things that we have found are proven to help businesses enhance their daily warehouse operations.
It main seem obvious but often half the battle of achieving effective warehouse management comes down to how a business lays out their warehouse.
Often companies will lay out their stock within their premises with little consideration as to how this will impact on the performance of common warehouse activities. Properly structuring your warehouse requires careful planning and preparatory work in order to ensure it is rightfully set up for fast processes and turnaround. Not all businesses have the required level of knowledge, experience and resource internally to identify how a warehouse should be configured, so if this is true in your case why not speak to someone with expertise to gain advice and help with best practices. Your first port of call for this should always be your software provider as they may offer a warehouse set up service which will help you to avoid paying external consultants for guidance. Speak to them and see if they are able to assist in how best to layout racking, bins, position stock and manage processes like picking and stock put away. By catering this to the shape of your premises and way of working, you will be able to see immediate efficiency results.
With barcode scanning now such an integral part of modern day warehouse operations across the globe, it is incredible to think that there are still some businesses relying on paper notes within their warehouse in order to perform tasks.
Paper notes are renowned for being highly unreliable, often riddled with inaccuracies or lost during transfer through the warehouse causing efficiency to drop. Solving this issue, barcode scanning enables businesses to increase accuracy and streamline tasks to ensure that a higher level of productivity is achieved through quicker data entry and the ability to pick multiple orders simultaneously.
This has resulted in many companies striving for paperless warehouse environments where tasks are performed and information is seamlessly transferred through mobile barcode scanning devices. However as barcode scanning continues to evolve, there are now more enhanced ways for businesses to use barcode scanning technology, with this evolution driven by GS1. GS1 are global leaders in providing supply and demand chain barcoding standards across a wide range of business sectors.
Currently GS1 barcodes, which can come in a 1D or 2D format, are used by over two million companies around the world including major retailers, popular online marketplaces, food service operators and healthcare organisations. These include high profile names such as the NHS, Boots, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Morrisons, Nestle and Tesco.
The reason for many of these major companies turning to GS1 barcodes is down to the accurate recording of product traceability and major efficiency benefits the use of these barcodes is able to provide. These encoded barcodes allow several different fields of data to be instantly transferred into a device with a single scan, including a product’s EAN codes, Batch Numbers, Expiry Dates, quantities and more. By using these GS1 barcodes alongside compatible mobile devices, your business can not only benefit from accurate data transfer through paperless management but also much greater efficiency in task performance.
Your warehouse is essentially the central hub for your business, with the purchasing, selling, despatching and ongoing management of goods all passing through your warehouse.
For many businesses suffering from inaccuracies and inefficiencies within their stock management and despatch processes, the source of these problems can often come down to how information is transferred down from sales and other departments, through to picking staff and out to couriers.
Even if measures are in place to ensure stock control and warehouse processes are kept both accurate and streamlined, this can all be undone at either end if integration with your other departments, sales channels and courier providers aren’t in place, relying on manual transposition of data to get the information over to the right people.
Therefore when looking at systems that will improve warehouse management, you should be looking carefully at solutions that offer full integration with other key areas within your business. By linking your warehouse operations to all of your sales channels, purchasing systems, chosen couriers and other key business areas, you can ensure stock levels are kept up to date and consistent company wide with vital information always seamlessly transferred.
Although having systems in place that drive effective warehouse management and task performance is important, equally as important is having procedures that drive the productivity of staff.
Tying into having a warehouse correctly laid out, your business should firstly be looking at ways to direct staff around the warehouse using the most efficient walk routes based on the task being performed and the proximity between the bins being visited. By doing this, you can ensure that staff travel time is kept to a minimum as they navigate across the warehouse. However in order to drive out any further inefficiencies, it is also important for staff performance to be carefully monitored.
The best way to achieve this is by recording the time taken for staff to complete certain tasks and then analysing this information. This will enable your business to set average times that staff can strive to achieve and allow you to track how staff are performing against these target times. This ensures consistent staff performance and helps speed to be fully optimised.
Aside from determining the direction and the speed in which staff travel across the warehouse, the best way to get the most out of staff is to think about how tasks and picks are assigned. If one of your warehouse staff is driving a fork lift, utilise this and assign them larger or heavier picks. If a member of staff is travelling with a trolley, delegate more picks to them and allow them to collect multiple picks at once.
Although even further efficiency benefits can be gained from using a system that is able to automate this process, at the very least you should be using these tools to your advantage and thinking about how carefully assigning tasks to staff in the right way can lead to greater warehouse productivity.
Although one of the most essential parts of any successful business, many companies will struggle to achieve accurate forecasting for key periods within their calendar year.
With many businesses importing goods from overseas suppliers with lead times of several months it can be difficult for companies to ensure that the stock they order now is what they need by the time the stock arrives later on in the year. As a result, companies often have to settle for unreliable estimates, trying to gauge how much stock is needed based on past experience, performance of similar items and simple gut feeling.
If this sounds like you and you find yourself leaving this invaluable information to chance, your company will soon find your warehouse quickly becoming short on space and harder to manage due overstocking. Costs can then start to add up and profitability fall because of money being wasted on stock that will never be sold.
Therefore it is vitally important to effective stock management to have a means of accurately and automatically calculating what stock is required, when it is needed for and in what quantities. In order to do this correctly, all factors will need to be considered such as previous sales history, supplier lead times, upcoming promotions and the seasonality of certain items. Armed with an accurate, efficient method of determining this information and what stock is needed, you will find your warehouse much more manageable, customer demand able to be fulfilled on time and cash flow no longer tied up in wasted overstocking.
If you work in a warehouse, the word “picking” is likely to be part of your day-to-day vocabulary. But what do you know about “pick rules” and their potential impact on your warehouse operation?
A pick rule is essentially a set of criteria that are programmed within your WMS software to give each order that comes into the warehouse a special rule. These rules group orders within the system to make it easier for management to determine what resource is required for the day and assign pickers to one of these desired groups of orders. Each picker will then pick their orders based on one of these rules for their day at work. The rules can be assigned to different people throughout the day based on the volume of orders coming in for each one.
Adopting pick rules has various benefits for warehouse managers, staff and the wider business, which is why we’ve pulled together five things every warehouse operative needs to know about this technology:
Let’s face it, the warehouse isn’t a sit-down environment and the computer admin to manage a workforce is time-consuming and laborious. Luckily, handheld devices are self-efficient in assigning their own picks using pick rule technology.
Once a picker has finished a pick based on the rule they are assigned to, they can simply refresh their device and automatically receive a new pick based on their assignment.
This handy technology will free up management to make those all-important decisions from the warehouse floor and allow them to be proactive, rather than force them to be stuck behind a computer screen for hours on end.
Pick rules can come in different shapes and sizes, with the ability to handle different variables such as weight, delivery method, bin number and a heap of other categories. Grouping orders together using these variables ensures more efficiency and speed in the warehouse because of preparation.
For example, if a picker is assigned to smaller items, they can use a small trolley with small totes for a lighter load and gain more rhythm from picking items of a similar size. In comparison, larger items can be separated into their own picks and allocated to a forklift driver who can pick the large parts of the orders.
By grouping items into relevant categories, it eliminates any unnecessary back and forth for the picker, allowing them to maintain focus and increase their picking rates.
Efficiency is key in a warehouse to ensure orders are fulfilled correctly for customers, making it even more important to have a system in place that streamlines the picking and despatch operation.
Our picking technology allows operatives to send comments on a handheld device, providing direct instructions to a picker. For example, if you were assigning a picker to cover the smaller orders, a comment could be pushed to their handheld that says, “Collect a small trolley for this assignment”. This will keep the picker moving along with their day, rather than have them second-guessing before starting an assignment.
The system also has a built-in priority feature that will automatically assign the picker to what’s next on the list. So, if your picker has finished with the smaller items for the day, their handheld will automatically move them onto medium items. Or, if they’re assigned to items with a 24-hour delivery slot, they will automatically move onto 48-hour delivery slots upon completion, allowing the business to efficiently meet customer expectations.
Pick rules enable warehouse managers to position their workforce across different sections of the floor.For example, pick rules can send one picker to isles A-D and another picker to isles G-H. This will spread the workers out on the warehouse floor and avoid creating a bottleneck of pickers.
By grouping orders together using pick rules, businesses can establish which pick rules are most frequently used within the business. This enables management to make reports based on how many orders, and what types of orders, have landed in the system. Having this intelligence is not only useful for the wider business, but it can be used to provide incentives for pickers which will contribute to a happy workforce.
Global uncertainty has shown the need for yet more innovation in our warehouses. Here in the UK, the weak points in our warehouse logistics already revealed by Brexit have only strained to a bursting point by COVID-19. From vast corporations to your local independent tradesperson, we’ve seen halted services, shortages and delays, massive market shifts and sadly, business closures.
Now, businesses are battling through ever-changing restrictions. A shift or drift race has consequently emerged to secure our services and shape businesses for the future. We can’t always predict the next big storm to strike our operations. Yet, shifting to a more robust logistics structure can ensure resilience and flexibility when we could need it most.
So, here’s what your business can do to help your operations weather whatever comes your way:
To understand how to create secure warehouse logistics, you firstly need to gain complete visibility of your business. From your supply chain and warehouse operations to your shipping and end-consumer data, you should be able to access real-time information at any moment. Vitally, every action you make should be informed by your own accurate figures.
With a handle on your data and quick access to all the reports you need, you can use business insights to analyse your performance and ascertain the critical parts of your warehouse processes. This knowledge will highlight where you could streamline, speed up and improve the general productivity of your operations. But also, you will be able to see the essential elements to keep your business running. Above all, you will know where the potentially ‘weak’ points lie.
Moving forward, companies will be under increased pressure to have effective contingency planning in place. A long-term shift in ‘normal’ priorities will see board rooms favour reliability and flexibility for central operations. It will no longer be a case of choosing the cheapest available option to prop up our warehouse logistics. With contingency planning, the aim is to create more reaction time. Therefore, you can give yourself the breathing room to stay on top of any issues that arise.
For your supply chain:
For instance, to ready your supply chain, you should prepare with back-up or multiple suppliers. In a crisis scenario, the competition for new suppliers could be high. Those still available may offer terms that could affect your cash flow, time to pay, duty arrangements, and service provided.
In an ideal world, you would make these logistical decisions would when your business is secure to get the best deals. Yet, knowing ahead of time isn’t always possible. You should, therefore, consider whether the supplier fits the size of your business and if their service can adapt to your particular needs.
For your workforce:
Training your new and current staff to handle essential warehouse operations independently is all the more valuable to keep workflows and logistics running smoothly. However, to stop your productivity taking a hit, using the right technology can also help here.
Warehouse management software can automate many of your manual processes. It increases your throughput with accuracy, minimises costs, simplifies tasks like stock takes and data entries, and reduces your need for so many staff on a given shift.
In the event of inventory shortages, processing delays or delivery limitations, you should decide which items you will store, pick, pack and ship as a priority. Here, consider factors like the supply risk, cash flow and product perishability.
Then, be sure to confirm which customers and products take precedence. Agreeing on a fair method of stock allocation in the event of limited supply can solve problems before they occur.
Make it clear how your employees are working and how your business is operating. Be knowledgeable about every aspect of your warehouse and logistics, and clearly explain any affected stock and orders to your customers. By updating your website and communication channels, you reassure your partners, retailers and customers by managing their expectations.
Working with your team, business partners and data can also offer performance and end-consumer information. You can gain the ability to monitor lead times and fulfilment statuses to ensure you can deliver.
Check for any changes to courier and supply chain operations and integrate your systems with theirs. These steps can also help to maintain a more immediate and reliable source of data transfer, tracking and delivery information. With the use of electronic data interchange, not only can you track your items and purchase orders, but you can also ensure an automatic and accurate input of information without the need for manual rekeying tasks.
As COVID-19 has proven for end-users and businesses alike, we will now all go to more effort to receive our goods exactly when we need them and ensure they are of good quality. Fortifying logistics enables more businesses to adapt to any ongoing developments as they emerge.
Implementing mobile WMS technology is your warehouse boasts a number of advantages. Wirelessly synchronising in real-time to a picker’s handheld device, you can eliminate manual rekeying and paper-based processes from your operations. Automatically create, assign and amalgamate picks and other stock tasks, prioritising urgent orders and abiding to courier cut off times for enhanced picking efficiency. Give your pickers improved visibility of notifications and work assignments to keep your operation running smoothly without having to intervene. Pick multiple orders at once, quickly process returns or ship items directly in just a few taps of the 5-inch HD touchscreen, cutting out time-consuming administration. Reduce time spent dealing with costly returns to free up pickers on the ground, and with accurate picking, eliminate stock discrepancies and double handling of goods to keep your customers happy around the clock. With all these abilities and more, you can advance your warehouse performance from day one.
Provide an efficient, accurate and flexible way for your staff to book goods into your warehouse. With the Mobile Goods In module, staff can scan received stock in against the relevant purchase or container order for fast and accurate receipt and guided put away of goods.
Direct your team using the best walk routes and onscreen prompts to put a stop to unnecessary delays. Using integrated navigation, pickers will get to their destinations faster, enhancing productivity in the warehouse and creating a streamlined operation.
Our live data transfers will provide instant updates, allowing you to maximise your warehouse efficiency with paperless and wireless automation. Your team can utilise an even faster platform, eliminating synchronisation delays and storing and processing data more quickly than ever before.
Using the 1D and 2D barcode-scanning technology, receive information against purchase orders instantly for fast and accurate receipt of goods, with expiry dates, batch and serial numbers captured. Instantly flag stock issues and replenishments, and perform precise stock takes with minimal disruption.
Gain the ability to monitor picker performance and send statistics back to your central OrderWise system for analysis. Using the latest Android HHT, achieve greater control over the way your warehouse operates, ensuring powerful systems that work for you and your team.
Each handset includes Zebra’s Device Diagnostics app, where you can further eliminate needless device downtime. You can choose up to (5400 mAh) 14 hours of power for devices which is ideal for long or double shifts, and fast-charging capabilities mean you can get an extra two hours work time from as little as 15 minutes of charging. For added peace of mind, on top of OrderWise, Mobility Extensions (Mx) from Zebra offers over a hundred features to improve Android security, manageability and more. Enhanced data capture support and business-class Wi-Fi will ensure your pickers receive a superior wireless experience without interruption to their productivity. Stay ahead of the game by investing in the latest devices equipped with the Android platform – future-proof your technology investment with built-in support for future Android releases.
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