How can implementing a WMS improve productivity?



Following on from the initial blog post’s mention that a WMS can improve “productivity”, it can often be said that the whole warehouse and logistical environment in an organisation is found to be ripe for gains in this area. Manual or semi-manual systems are inefficient and costly, involving, by definition, staff creating and managing high amounts of paperwork and increased volumes leading to more staff and system pressures.

Indeed, there is a rule in operations management that any system will get diminishing returns as throughput reaches above the 70 per cent theoretical maximum, with problems occurring and costs increasing even more as that then rises above 85 per cent. These issues can lead to stock-outs, time wasted finding stock, picking inefficiencies, delivery failures, system non-compliance and paperwork failure; all of these are detrimental to customer service compliance, which can then lead to financial compensation penalties.

Of course, individual cases may have differing lead issues, but, in general, the time saving element is often said to be the biggest benefit gained from implementing an effective Warehouse Management System. By saving time in operational activity, greater attention can then be given to more productive tasks, ultimately resulting in extra throughput being possible with existing working hours. This then leads to value in two main ways:

  1. In a static situation, you will be able to get through the same work load as before in less time, freeing up hours for additional work. With extra efficiency and more varied work this can also lead to greater staff satisfaction.
  2. In an expanding situation, having tasks completed quicker, and physical capacity permitting, can lead to increased stock going through the warehouse. More business equals more billing!

Unless your storage space is totally automated and “dark”, all warehouse related tasks involve some investment of time. However, there are certain complex, time-consuming tasks that will be made easier with a reliable WMS in place:

  • Administrative paperwork associated with customer receipts and orders, including load manifests, stock reports and invoicing (especially in a 3PL environment) are easier to access and can even be made fully electronic.
  • Observing and controlling management information relating to stock, e.g. monitoring returns, stock discrepancies, quality control, tracking of hazardous materials, lot and batch numbers, etc, etc.
  • Space utilisation and tasks associated with maximising your space can benefit from stock put-away processes where sensible suggested locations can add significant benefits to the speed of your order picking and pick-face replenishment.

A WMS will certainly cater for all of the above demands with minimum effort, with the obvious exception of the physical side of tasks such as putting stock away and picking, allowing you to set parameters to tailor the software to your needs. It is also fair to say that having these tasks completed automatically without any complex calculations or spreadsheet work definitely saves you time, and perhaps even a headache!

Introducing a system in to your operation can remove the full-time management of paperwork, even allowing the opportunity for working remotely and allowing customers to access electronic data on-demand. With paperwork removed, certain aspects of the system administration can be moved to the warehouse floor itself and we can then talk of introducing wireless operations and scanning and staff updating the WMS as and when they perform the physical processes themselves.

Next: Part III – Getting it right every time!