Modern logistics companies continually seek viable methods of addressing fluctuating product markets and shipping demands (think Amazon-induced same-day shipping, for example). Warehouse management systems (WMSs) can be the answer if adopted correctly – they provide numerous benefits including reduced lead time, bolstered worker efficiency, increased speed of product delivery, and minimized distribution costs.
In the most recent Körber Master Class, we addressed these and more of the supply chain’s most pressing WMS-related topics. Read on for a brief wrap-up of each Master Class session. To replay or watch for the first time, check it out here.
Session #1 ‒ 10 critical capabilities of a WMS
A modern WMS increases productivity and efficiency, and can help deliver the perfect order to ensure a brand’s success. In fact, a WMS can help businesses conquer today’s supply chain complexities in three overarching ways:
- A modern WMS must seamlessly align with and support broad organizational goals and provide key capabilities to empower differentiation through the supply chain operation.
- A WMS should enable operations to meet changing demands in real-time, work with broader solutions that extend beyond four walls (such as Transportation Management Systems), use novel technologies and evaluate future demands to increase success.
- Lastly, a WMS should be an engagement engine. Today’s workers, customers and partners demand a connected experience to drive employee satisfaction, collaborative problem solving and customer loyalty.
Session #2 ‒ WMS in the cloud
A shift to the cloud is underway: Six-seven years ago, WMS cloud clients consisted predominantly of smaller, entrepreneurial companies that wanted to own their WMS without heavy reliance on IT. Today, however, larger enterprises are increasingly adopting WMS cloud solutions because of their many benefits that include but are not limited to better recovery and supportability, consolidated security and testability.
According to recent MarketsandMarkets research, the market for on-cloud warehouse management systems is expected to grow by a 28.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in 2020-2025. Interestingly, though, this session’s participant poll found that only 6% of respondents have migrated 75-100% of their applications to the cloud. That migration will likely speed up as more supply chain professionals demand the resiliency and flexibility offered by cloud solutions.
Session #3 ‒ Getting your ROI in an enterprise or SMB WMS implementation
Since a WMS purchase and implementation are one of the largest projects a business might face, it’s critical businesses approach the planning phase with great care.
Some common reasons why projects oftentimes fail include poor project management discipline, lack of executive-level support and insufficient training across the organization. However, successful WMS implementation is possible for businesses that focus on the following five key areas …
- Ensure internal alignment: The earlier your implementation team takes ownership of the project, the better. It’s also critical to understand and address the needs of all stakeholders involved, including executive management, the operations team and customers.
- Define the solution: To ensure the project stays on track, identify the internal team members (such as project lead and subject matter experts) and make sure they are available to the external team (like the project manager and technical lead).
- Stick with a cadence: Set a cadence – such as monthly, weekly and daily check-ins – and follow it religiously. What impediments are in the way and how can these be adjusted so the project moves forward, on time and on budget?
- Enable user acceptance testing and training: Define a plan for user acceptance before WMS testing, such as perfect-path, real-world and end-to-end testing, begins. Ensure your superusers train the end users, and make sure to provide step-by-step instructions for exception management.
- Have a measurable go-live plan: Before a WMS goes live, review testing and training plans and measure training effectiveness. Plan to perform multiple tests to measure system and team readiness at volume and have pre-defined check points at 30, 60 and 90 days before and after going live.
Session #4 ‒ From production to last-mile delivery: WMS as the integration point
A WMS has not always been the hub of the supply chain: the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system has. However, the WMS is quickly becoming the center of the supply chain because of its ability to make companies nimbler and take into account variability in the market.
A long-time Körber customer, for instance, started 15 years ago as a wholesale-only retailer. However, it expanded into several other channels such as brick-and-mortar and eCommerce, while also selling other companies’ products through third-party vendor ship-direct relationships. As new channels added more complexity, its WMS became the center of the client’s world as it had the interoperability to support all these channels.
In short, this customer’s flexibility, enabled by its WMS, has been key to it effectively supporting multiple selling channels.
Session #5 ‒ From a manual to a fully automated warehouse
Successfully coordinating a warehouse automation project is no easy task – it requires deep planning based on trusted data, a clear vision for how the technology will be used, and buy-in across the warehouse.
The best supply chain automation projects begin with a solid understanding of design data (# of SKUs, orders, turnaround time) and confidence in the partner chosen for design and implementation. Does your partner only offer analysis, or will they also help you execute? Do they have solid experience integrating software? Remember also that the partner you choose and the data you analyze is dependent on the area of the warehouse you’re automating first – ex. storage, transportation or picking.
Creating a schedule can also be a key, yet tricky, part of warehouse automation. Businesses must consider how much time to allocate for employee training, and how they can go about making their team members advocates for the new technology. Schedules must also allow for some hiccups during go-live – another reason why it’s critical to work with a supply chain technology provider that acts as a partner beyond implementation.
If you missed a Warehouse Technology Excellence Master Class or want to replay a session that piqued your interest, check it out here. Collateral downloads can be found by selecting the “Watch on Demand Button.”
You can also revisit our earlier Master Classes:
Sign up for upcoming Master Classes
The next series on Workforce Efficiencies and Safety will address how the latest technologies and automation can help you meet warehouse safety standards. Take a look at the lineup:
- Sept. 8 – Going beyond picking: how can voice create efficiencies
- Sept. 10 – Digital Twins: Simulating efficiencies in your warehouse
- Sept. 15 – Hands-free warehouses: how voice and vision improve safety
- Sept. 17 – How robots can increase safety in your warehouse
- Sept. 22 – Adding automation to improve safety and increase productivity
Get more details and sign up here.