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Out with the old? Not so fast…

03 March 2017

Retailers need not abandon legacy systems to cope with the move to Omnichannel. Instead they can mix process driven solutions to boost efficiency, says Sébastien Sliski, general manager of Supply Chain Solutions, Zetes.

The current speed of change within the industry means that overhauling an entire WMS isn’t necessarily cost effective or a good use of time. Optimisation of processes is key for retailers who want to stay competitive and this includes using differing order picking solutions in order to fulfil increasingly complex orders within a single warehouse.

Today, a truly Omnichannel experience is in high demand among consumers and in response, retailers are having to be innovative; finding more efficient and cost effective ways of fulfilling orders that are more complex than the traditional warehouse and WMS are used to handling.

It is a far cry from the one size fits all solution which saw the warehouse push stock to the store. Complicated orders and delivering to different types of store mean a single warehouse can now be undertaking picking operations in 3 or 4 different ways.

In order to adopt this new way of working retailers may first try looking at upgrading the WMS to accommodate and this can be a time consuming and costly process – in most cases, by the time they’ve adopted the ‘new’ technology they already need to be using something else whether it’s Voice Picking, Pick-to-light or Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Take a retailer who has chosen to invest in an automated warehouse, for example. Before a retailer commits there are things that can be looked at to build ‘best of class’ picking operations and these can include voice for those orders with limited travel time, but also, pick to light (which is good for slow moving orders). A single warehouse could also have pick-to-cart and vision technology to do things that historically may have been done with handheld devices. Creating advanced functionalities within legacy WMS solutions with a pick and mix of 3 or 4 process driven solutions allows retailers to unlock agility within their supply chain. Ultimately, meaning that if a more efficient technology became available tomorrow they would be capable of introducing it without overhauling their entire WMS.

Technology itself is very rarely agile; when it comes to staying competitive retailers need to review where small efficiencies can be made to allow them to be successful in fulfilling a customer’s order. If the investment is made in the beginning and flexible processes are created, introducing new and innovative technology should be easy. It is all well and good wanting to use the latest technology but, what’s great for today isn’t always going to be good for tomorrow.