Warehouse inside

Warehouse Management Software acts as an assistant to all facets involved in running a distribution center, including Inventory Management, Shipping and Tracking, Labor Management, Picking, etc. A WMS will provide you with real-time data on each of these operations and allow you to develop actionable plans on how to operate more efficiently. For example, you can see all the data relevant to your operators, such as their productivity level per day. You can also view status of customer orders and where they are in the picking/packing/shipping process. This type of insight can help you to identify and prevent bottlenecks and run more efficiently.

As discussed in part one of this blog series from April 28th, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing companies to choose between embracing an e-commerce business model or shutting down entirely. In order to run a successful e-commerce operation, companies must maintain a well-run warehouse or face the risk of losing customers. For example, warehouse inventory levels must be accurately displayed in real-time so customers can be certain they will receive what they see on your website in the time frame you promise. Also, companies must be able to track data from online sales so they can react to purchase trends. Knowing how to act on the data available to you and running an e-commerce platform flawlessly is a laborious task. Welcoming a Warehouse Management Software (WMS) into your business model can help.

What is WMS?

Warehouse Management Software acts as an assistant to all facets involved in running a distribution center, including Inventory Management, Shipping and Tracking, Labor Management, Picking, etc. A WMS will provide you with real-time data on each of these operations and allow you to develop actionable plans on how to operate more efficiently. For example, you can see all the data relevant to your operators, such as their productivity level per day. You can also view status of customer orders and where they are in the picking/packing/shipping process. This type of insight can help you to identify and prevent bottlenecks and run more efficiently.

Common Warehouse Issues That can be Avoided with a WMS

  1. Human Error

Without a WMS, human error is inevitable. Manual data entry leads to mistyped numbers and letters, ineligible handwriting and miscommunications. Each mistake costs your company money. A WMS system can significantly reduce this problem with the simple solutions below.

    • Meaningfully consolidate UPC and GTIN barcodes with your business operations. Coding your products with these digits is essential to running a successful distribution center. The potential for human error when dealing with these numbers in the absence of automation is high, as they consist of 12-14 digits. These numbers can be stored in the system and then be accessible in all relevant applications and viewed or transmitted to authorized partners. Customer barcodes can also be used for your partners that assign their own barcodes. Every time inventory is picked, moved to a different location or shipped, the system will automatically reflect that, through usage of RF guns or simple scanning. Product movement can be easily communicated in real time to the transportation company, vendors, customers, salespeople and warehouse employees. These parties can feel confident that the information they are receiving is accurate, and act immediately upon their movements. You can feel confident that you are not losing money over needless mistakes.
    • Integrate WMS with parcel services (like UPS and FedEx) to generate tracking and label output. Guarantee that labels are printed correctly to ensure customer satisfaction. In addition to reducing the opportunity for human error, this feature also helps to save time as you don’t need to create an additional step for printing these shipping labels and inputting the data for tracking purposes; your system will do this automatically.

2. Gaps in Productivity

It is well documented that one of the most prominent causes of unproductive warehouse operations is the lack of streamlined tools and data visibility throughout the picking, packing and shipping process, which can ultimately result in inaccurate or late shipments to customers. Utilizing a WMS will help your employees have a clear picture of what is needed of them at all times, so they can know ahead of time when their service will be needed and be prepared. A WMS will enable you to avoid halts caused by:

    • An insufficient amount of inventory. With ABS’s WMS, you can view the amount of a specific product by location, purchase order, carton/serial number, etc. ABS’s WMS gives you the ability to integrate a SKU architecture and stay on top of your numbers, so you can easily identify your reorder point, or the point in time where it is optimal to order new merchandise. This is true even as the demands of your customers evolve; the easy-to-read metrics provided will help you to forecast the amount of materials you need as patterns change. There are also many RF environment-friendly functions that allow you to triple check the accuracy of your inventory. For example, the cycle counting application grants you the ability to perform daily inventory counts, where you will be notified automatically when something seems off.
    • Lack of available personnel. You have the proper materials. You have the trained employees.  But there still isn’t work getting done. All warehouses have fallen victim to bottlenecks at some point, but with a WMS, this can become a problem of the past. ABS’ WMS offers an Operator Transaction History Inquiry function. You can view the work of operators per person, per task (receiving/movement/returns) and per day. You can identify and put an end to any bottleneck-causing habits in the workplace.

3. Draining Money on Unnecessary Labor Hours and Tasks

    • Suboptimal Picking. The goal with picking should be to minimize time and movement, while maximizing units picked per hour. Many distribution centers waste countless labor hours because they implement inefficient picking strategies. ABS’ WMS supports the following picking methods:
        • Single Line Orders – single SKU per order, multiple orders
        • One order at a time – one order multi-line
        • Cart/Bin – multiple orders sorted as they are picked
        • Batch Pick and Sort – separate sort function
        • Zone Pick – items are separated by zones and picked in that zone
        • Zone Pick and Combine – separate zone batches are merged at or before packing
        • Pick and Pass – order is picked to conveyor or cart and pushed to next zone

It is important to choose the strategy that makes the most sense with your business model.

    • Automating Tasks. Over the course of the past decade, the automation of tedious tasks has become commonplace in distribution centers. Many companies hesitate to make the switch from manual to automated solutions`, as the effort involved can seem daunting. ABS will work with you every step of the way in implementing the automation that will help optimize your operation, retain your customers and reduce chargebacks. ABS’s WMS will also allow you to easily automate the sending of invoices and shipment confirmations, creation of shipping labels, output of EDI and updating of current status of inventory when it is picked and packed. In addition to saving your company a large sum of money, this will also free up the time of employees, so they can focus on doing their jobs more thoroughly and being more innovative in the workplace.

4. Surplus of Data

With every new customer, transaction, location and vendor comes more information that needs to be stored in your system. Managing this data and the systems to support it can present challenges such as:

    • A slow processing time when you attempt to sift through this information. The more data that lives in your files, the more time it takes the software to process them.
    • Lengthy backup periods. The more data you have on file, the longer it will take for your periodic backups to reach completing. If you never delete old files, you may have a decade’s worth of information. Companies that do this may face backup periods reaching as much as 24 hours.
    • High costs for your cloud system. Storing your information in a cloud isn’t free. Make sure the information that you have stored is necessary or else it isn’t worth paying the money to store it.
    • Reduced protection against data breaches. The more data you have, the harder it is to keep it safe. This is a risk not worth taking, as a data breach could entirely ruin your company’s reputation and eliminate your customer base.
    • Outdated data-based decisions. It’s always smart to have data driving your business decisions. Numbers don’t lie. But, when those numbers span back to 5+ years ago, they may be guiding you down the wrong path. Make sure your data is up-to-date so you’re making smart business decisions for your current target market.

ABS’s Cloud Based solution manages these challenges for you and gets you up and running more quickly, safely, efficiently and accurately.

If you are interested in running your warehouse more efficiently, contact us at ABS today. We recognize the ever changing demands of your customers, especially during these challenging times, and our team and our scalable application is ready to make these transitions with you in order to remain competitive and profitable.