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Software automation can help tackle the ‘Amazon effect’

23 July 2019

The Amazon effect has changed retail and its supply chains, meaning ever faster responsiveness is a priority. SnapFulfil MD Tony Dobson argues investment in software automation can help.

The traditional WMS has long been unwieldy, but using cloud-based WMS software, means every aspect of the process can be automated, streamlined and made intuitive for floor staff and management.

A best-of-breed Tier 1 system has flexibility at its core, isn’t difficult to reconfigure and delivers cutting edge and responsive solutions at a fraction of the cost of traditional installations. Plus it can be up and running within a matter of weeks for almost instant ROI – and this includes the writing of interfaces with any in-house order and carrier management systems.

Faster processing

Many customers have moved from a third party system to cloud-based WMS and tangibly improved their processing, e.g. eCommerce orders that might have taken two-three days to process are now actioned within hours of receipt, giving customers a 24 hour order-to-delivery service. These systems can also cope with distributed order managing, waveless and priority based order processing. 

Goods-in

Decisions are automated in a way that makes all parts of the process more streamlined. This means during the goods-in process there’s no need for workers to memorise a labyrinth of locations or a compendium of codes and rules. It allows your labour to scan cases for failsafe identification and validation too and supports default units of measure for receiving. As an added benefit, tying receipts back to purchase orders will allow processes to be completed around over/under/ partial receiving.

Structured cycle counting will automatically result in stock and capacity numbers being performed concurrently with other warehousing tasks - ensuring that the auditing process takes place with maximum efficiency and minimum disruption to your operation.

An advanced WMS paired with hand held devices will also tell your staff exactly what to do and where to go, which provides complete certainty on how every item should be handled and stored and instant visibility of your inventory. Optimising inventory management is the root of efficiency throughout any successful operation – and by prioritising it across all processes you’ll find that errors will drop while productivity (and, ultimately, revenue) begins to rise.

Reverse logistics

Managing a strong reverse logistics operation also requires a healthy set of technology driven automated procedures and systems that capture and evaluate increasingly important data sets from every step in the process. Data analysis and the associated process improvements ensure that customer satisfaction goals are met, that warehouse workers are performing at the highest levels of efficiency, and that you maintain compliance across the entire supply chain. 

Additionally, by automating and recording the QC verification and validation of every order, a modern warehouse management system can significantly boost the speed and accuracy of your packing and shipping processes, without adding labour. Consider also built–in remote monitoring and continuous improvement tools, because the best WMS software will identify trends and allow for automation when it comes to establishing KPIs.

So, the rapid advance of supply chain execution software in just the last five years has allowed warehouse managers to completely rethink their operations from the ground up, particularly when it comes to put-away. Even the most complex process for receiving, tracking and moving goods through the warehouse can be constantly analysed and refined – and this high level of visibility and control is essential to meet the rapidly evolving demands of the modern consumer.

Make the leap?

However, before you invest in a WMS, gather a list of problems you’ve found in your specific location, labour and tracking pillars by observing processes – and make sure that any software you implement addresses these issues properly and allows for the all-important close tracking of data.

Does it allow for carrying out all key warehouse processes simultaneously too – goods-in, goods-out, replenishment & auditing – and is it user-friendly for any warehouse operative but at the same time functionally sophisticated?

Only then can you confidently make the automated leap that will allow your growing company to expand warehouse operations efficiently, while handling higher volumes and more complex requirements with ease.

 
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