Automated Warehousing – A Necessary Investment?

Date December 16, 2013 Author Comments Leave your thoughts

In light of our recent cooperation with OBS Logistics, and their CALIDUS WMS (warehouse management software), we thought it timely to take a look into warehouse automation, the associated technologies and advantages of implementing professional Warehouse Management Systems.

A recent study by the Aberdeen group, entitled Warehouse Automation – What’s Really Working? found that around 60% of modern warehouses are still employing a traditional paper-based system – a staggering statistic for a number of reasons, not least as the supply chains of many organisations have become constrained by heightened customer expectations in the age of e-commerce and next-day delivery.

In an industry where time and space are both sought after commodities, the pressure to maintain a smooth, well-oiled, warehouse operation has taken on new forms. Such tensions, both at ground-level and upper management – with a desire to cut costs and to create more efficient processes – are acting as the catalysts for innovations in warehouse automation solutions, as well as warehouse management systems.

Consider for a second that up to 60% of all costs to warehouse businesses are in some way attributable to the inventory picking process – another alarming statistic to come out of the Aberdeen group warehouse automation study – the emphasis and appetite on more control throughout this process, and many others associated with it, comes as little surprise. Greater speed, accuracy and ultimately, a reduction in labour costs alongside the elimination of costly errors, are all pressing and realistic ambitions for forward thinking warehouse and logistics-based businesses. The automation technology available can altogether streamline warehouse operations.

Professional warehouse management software, such as the CALIDUS WMS, is designed and developed specifically to increase the visibility into warehouse operations through accurate and real-time data. This can be used to make informed decisions which can significantly improve the output of warehouse picking and packing operations.

By assigning and prioritising tasks to the warehouse workforce, warehouse management software actively monitors and audits their performance, giving a digital view of the areas in need of improvement and ensuring that the highest levels of control are upheld throughout the entire process; from pre-advice, goods receipt and put-away, to picking, packing, and delivery.

Warehouse Management Systems for warehouse design

The ability to insightfully make plans and alterations to the automated warehouse is key to on-going growth and success. Utilising the data provided by the implementation of a warehouse management system, businesses are able to adapt the warehouse design to better suit their needs and requirements. This can be particularly useful within areas of industry which are both seasonal and reactionary to market trends, helping them to gain a real advantage as stock levels inevitably fluctuate.

Improved warehouse planning can also have a decisive effect in the efficiency of the put-away and packing facets of the business, as the data can highlight inventory that should be placed nearer to the loading bays for faster dispatch, or even those items which are often sold together, resulting in more efficient order-picking.

Warehouse Management Software and Warehouse Mobility Integration

When building warehouse automation solutions, the compatibility of, and communication between, the ‘front-line’ technologies such as handheld terminals, barcode scanners, barcode label printers, and vehicle mounted computers, is of paramount importance. Creating a fully automated warehouse can lead to important cost savings in areas of wastage and human error, which is often the collateral damage of paper-based systems.

Warehouse automation and mobility devices are becoming ever-more sophisticated as leading manufacturers such as Honeywell, Datalogic and Intermec continue to develop products that are aimed at simplifying the entire supply chain for the maximum productivity and return. Advances in wireless LAN infrastructure are allowing warehouse staff to roam more efficiently without the pitfalls of poor connectivity and hassles of repeated re-authentication.

Making a return on warehouse management and automation investments      

Seeing not only financial, but productivity, returns on any warehouse management software or warehouse automation investment is understandably of high importance to any enterprise. Reconfiguring a warehouse operation to accommodate the technology, not to mention the costs associated, can be cause for both objection and viability concerns. However, safeguarding the supply chain against unwanted disruptions and discrepancies can be the springboard to a more efficient and streamlined operation.

If you’d like to find out how warehouse automation solutions can help to grow your business, follow the links to Ensign’s warehouse automation options and the OBS Logistics CALIDUS WMS.

Are there any topics or issues regarding warehouse automation or warehouse management software that you’d like us to cover in our next blog? If so, please get in touch – marketing@ensign-net.co.uk – we’d be happy to listen to your ideas.

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Author Gregg Meade

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