07 August 2017
How to drive growth and value with a warehouse management system
It’s no surprise that a high proportion of retailers
recognise the importance of effective warehouse management. In today’s digital
world, this management requirement often leads to investment in technology and
warehouse management systems (WMS).
When examining the role of technology in handling warehouse
management and supporting growth, a survey from Internet Retailing discovered that almost 60% of retailers are
using an in-house warehouse management system (WMS). What’s more, almost half
rate WMS as nine out of 10 in terms of importance to their business success.
At a basic level, the benefits of implementing or upgrading
an existing WMS include:
items at low stock levels are staged and put away first, reducing the impact of
out-of-stocks and inefficient fulfilment processes.
Storage: Know the
location of all items within the warehouse. Route operatives to the right
location, set up picks in the proper order to minimise travel time and increase
the number of orders they can pick each day.
error proofing and productivity in the picking process. Workers receive picks
on a rugged mobile device that routes them to the proper location. Scanning
items verifies that the right item at the right quantity is picked.
the accuracy of each order that is picked and reduce material costs by
determining the right sized shipping carton.
that each order is properly packaged and shipped to the right destination and
delivered on the right date.
But many warehouses, with a WMS or not, still experience
some key pain points, led by a fear of a loss of sales and reputation due to
having warehouse management processes that are not fit for purpose.
Although an effective WMS is key to achieving many
businesses goals, it’s often not placed as a priority. Budgets are also often
diverted to more customer facing improvements, such as marketing for example.
Although this can result in an upturn in sales, it will also
exacerbate any issues in the warehouse and lead to a struggle to keep up with
demand. This can hurt customer service, and become a major roadblock to
achieving long-term success.
Additionally, a quarter of retailers experience an increase
of more than 50% in order volume during peak periods, such as Christmas. So how
can we not only deal with intense pressure but also remain profitable?
Poor systems and the resulting fulfilment issues need to be
fixed as digital savvy customers have high expectations and are unlikely to
return if their order is not carried out in a satisfactory manner on the first
This also includes the handling of returns and exchanges, so
retailers need to ensure they can handle returns just as smoothly as other
orders. It’s incredibly easy to return an item and then take your business
elsewhere, so retailers need to do all they can to retain their customers by
demonstrating a well-oiled returns system.
The best online retailers have upped their game with many
offering next day or even same day delivery, some even offer a choice of
specific time slots. Orders are delivered correctly first time, every time, as any
problems often lead to end users complaining on social media and potentially
damaging the brand.
Younger shoppers in particular have become more demanding in
the digital age, with more convenience, longer hours, better loyalty schemes
and easier delivery options high on their list of priorities.
The latest WMS systems offer years of experience and
refinement in tackling these issues and many others. What’s more, they are
scalable for peak periods and overall business growth, and can also be tailored
to provide each retailer with a personalised solution that works for their own
warehouse environment and unique customer demands.
A well-implemented WMS can be the platform for growth that
many warehouse operators are looking for. It also helps businesses to create
sustainable growth, rather than throwing resources at problems and running into
issues at slower times of the year.
Many businesses also find that a WMS system drives more
efficient processes, meaning that they can often achieve much more without the
need to hire additional staff (and invest in training for new staff) or move to
larger locations. Technology today is helping businesses do more with less.
Freeing up space not only means that retailers will have to pay for additional
storage, but many are even offering excess warehouse space to other businesses.
An effective WMS will empower managers to make the critical
decisions to improve their business. Merging computer software, hardware and
all peripheral equipment together will improve operations, assist with
inventory management, help with control over the warehouse space, keep labour
costs down and reduce losses.
What’s more, one of the best reasons to make use of the
latest technology is increased customer service. By allowing the business to
better track, respond to and deliver goods to the end consumer a modern WMS
will increase satisfaction and likelihood of repeat business, all of which will
continue to drive future success.