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Role of WMS in boosting supply chain efficiency

The primary function of a warehouse management system (WMS) is to monitor the transfer and storage of goods within a warehouse and to process the associated transactions, including shipping, receiving, picking and put-away. WMS is a database-driven computer program that helps boost warehouse productivity by controlling cutaways and keeping inventory accuracy by documenting warehouse transactions. WMS also helps stock guide and optimize based on real-time details on bin utilization status.

How WMS can enhance supply chain management

A supply chain involves the flow of goods and services, right from the raw materials to production work-in-progress, and until the delivery to the customer. In this chain, warehouse is an integral part that ensures operations to happen effectively from suppliers to the immediate customers. A free-flowing logistics supply chain is nearly impossible without a powerful warehouse management system, as it removes all the irregularities, delayed sourcing, inventory management, and many other factors hindering the chain.

  1. Provide a Centralized platform

A WMS software offers a streamlined platform to track, monitor, and manage all the functions across the supply chain and logistics. Departments such as storage, shipping, and distribution are all connected under one software, thus helping overcome the information gap and friction among vendors. This guarantees a continuous flow of goods, helping the businesses to grow exponentially.

  1. Inbound & Outbound Process Optimization

A resourceful WMS is equipped with tools that can help plan and develop process automation, establish high-performance indicators, and align the ongoing processes to gather real-time information. WMS software can help determine the effective use of labour and space to minimize the wastage of resources in the supply chain. This software helps in location management by identifying the best location to keep certain goods or products in a warehouse, thus bringing optimal workflow in a warehouse.

  1. Cut-down expenses of operation

A well-designed WMS software allows suppliers to plan more frequent cycle counts (either of single or multiple goods), which gives them consistency in business and accelerate shipments in order to meet customer demands. WMS also helps the warehouse to run more smoothly with limited human monitoring and giving directions in the supply chain operations. Overall, this not only increases the volume of delivery but also reduces time and cost.

  1. Accurate Inventory visibility

In a warehouse, keeping track of the exact level of inventory is very crucial. WMS steps in to collect all the relevant data through serial number tagging, barcoding, and RFID tagging of the available stock. Once the data is collected, it is transmitted to the central database for further processing that happens in real-time. The database then helps provide useful reports as per the requirement about the status of goods in the warehouse. This increased identification of goods improves forecasting and smart analytics helps businesses to predict the customer demand for a product, especially during specific times of the year – such as holidays. This helps a warehouse to stock enough goods and ensure meeting customer satisfaction.

  1. Transparent Reporting Tool

One of the major benefits of WMS in supply chain and logistics is its ability to detect issues sooner and respond to them immediately. When one of the suppliers is unable to fulfil orders on time, WMS informs all the related users in the chain, immediately after the information gets updated in the system. This helps business receive enough time to find an alternate vendor, without affecting the customer experience.

Thus overall, a well-equipped warehouse management system has a very positive boost on the supply chain logistics of a business. It improves the consistency of product quality, increases customer satisfaction and leads to a brand name of trusted player in the market. However, a business must keep in mind that WMS is not a quick-fix solution, rather, a long-term tool that will help manage the warehouse inventory based on collected data. A business that is ready to invest in WMS must be certain of its streamlining goals and the upcoming business benefits. Such systems not only require capital investment, but also running costs, and equal enthusiasm and involvement from the warehouse team for its smooth operation.

Machine Learning inside the four walls of your warehouse

Machine Learning (ML) can be defined as the scientific study of algorithms that a computer uses to complete predefined tasks without human intervention. Machine Learning relies on patterns, movements, and inferences of the objects in its provided tasks. While we already see the use of machine learning in our day-to-day activities like face detection, speech recognition, trading algorithms, and online streaming recommendations, etc., this technology can be used in modern-day warehouses to elevate automation and increase productivity as well. Machine learning not only helps in improving the efficiency of a warehouse but also in organizing as bulk work gets diverted to artificial intelligence, warehouse staff can focus their energy on product quality and customer experience. Let’s take a look at how machine learning can revolutionize the modern-day warehouse experience.

Practical applications in the core areas

In warehouse management, machine learning can help alternate traditional planning and optimization tools which rely on certain process modelling or engineering. For instance, consider labour management systems that are based on engineered laboured standards. An Electronic Line Shafting (ELS) based system is explicitly programmed to calculate the expected work completion times for a given task using a pre-defined set of numbers and variables. ELS requires a huge upfront investment and measurements to come up with values used in the model. Machine learning, on the other hand, can help simplify this task by analysing streams of minute operational data, without the need for upfront engineering and numbers. The data can arrive through a number of sources such as mobile devices and automation systems, even WCS.

Receiving a new product in a warehouse can also be simplified with the help of machine learning. Machine learning can help analyse the current location of items in a warehouse, and when new shipments arrive, can match them to the correct location. This reduces the time consumption, reduces mistakes, and increase the efficiency of operations. ML can also help direct manual workers to the shortest route to reach a specific point in the warehouse, thereby saving time. Picking, another task is the highest visibility task in a warehouse, and machine learning can optimize it in a number of ways. As per a report by Adaptalift, order picking forms as much as 55% of operating costs within a warehouse, as compared to shipping and storage, and even has a direct impact on customer satisfaction levels. ML can help reduce the number of steps in the picking process, thus reducing the margin of error and damages. Whilst picking multiple orders, ML can help analyse the orders in the system and arrange the direct path, while simultaneously separating orders.

Inventory management is another aspect of the modern warehouse which needs a careful tendering to achieve efficiencies in supply chain. A lot of time and investment goes into improving the optimization techniques to make this process as smooth as possible. Machine learning can step in at this point and help improve inventory optimization, especially companies with multiple warehouses. ML can take into account multiple independent variables that could cause errors or delays in managing inventory, and provide appropriate suggestions and solutions to manage stock efficiently.

Another important factor that can contribute to making a warehouse more efficient is the use of the Internet of Things inside a warehouse. Implementation of sensors, RFID tags, device-to-device communication, and other forms of connectivity can help manage daily tasks easily. Machine learning can run the data collected by the IoT sensors and can help increase the life of machinery such as conveyor belts, shuttles, navigation-driven mobile robots, and even understand wear-and-tear by AGVs and other smaller delivery bots.

As a final word…

While in a current warehouse, we might see robots working alongside humans, machine learning can help propel the importance of the accuracy of robots and completely eliminate the need for human presence. A future warehouse, powered by machine learning, will be fully-automated, and an error-free space which will complete all its tasks and projects on-time with a one hundred percent accuracy.

The rise of automation in 3PL industry

How you sell matters, what is your process matters but how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more. Selling is the most exciting part of a business. But what happens when a customer places an order? It has to reach the right person, at the right place and at the right time. And here come the 3rd party logistics providers in the picture to ease the above task. With the changing supply chain dynamics, the 3PL suppliers have geared up to become the catalyst in the chain to ensure accurate and timely order fulfilment.

To become the real catalyst in the process the industry has set to make moves towards advancing their operations through technical innovations such as automation and advanced software solutions. With the emerging ecommerce sector, 3 PL industry has to undergo several operational shifts in order to meet the ever-surging demand. It is changing the shape of e-commerce product distribution by providing a range of flexible storage and distribution services to its customers.

 

An amalgamation of 3PL and automation

1) Pick-Pack-Ship:

A 3PL company is more than simply a partner in the value chain for a company. It organizes the whole process of order fulfilment and owns it end to it till the last-mile delivery. Vast item selections, omnichannel order fulfilment, same-day shipping options, and advanced order tracking have all become necessities to compete for business. And this is where automation becomes an inevitable choice for 3PL providers. Solutions such as automated picking technologies and automated storage & retrieval system act as a catalyst in the operation.

2) Brains in Motion:

3PL partners use intelligent software to process the entire order fulfilment in cohesion and coordination. Automation fulfils this requirement of 3PLs and boosts the efficiency at every stage, be it picking, kitting or assembly operation.

3) Store-in-the-Hump:

3PL companies facilitate inventory management and handling peak season demands. AI-powered solutions in 3rd party logistics inventory management allow for systematic storage and retrieval of warehouse material, streamlined inventory management, and facilitation of order fulfillment.

4) Space No bar:

With many 3PLs serving different customers, space optimization is essential when housing so many SKU varieties in a single warehouse. Automation in 3PL can augment warehouse height utilization, unlocking higher storage capacity thus delivering more value for the same floor space.

5) Returns are welcomed:

Returns handling accounts for almost 30% of the purchase price in an ecommerce business. The modular features of a robust software solution ensure effortless handling of returns via proper data integration across all systems thus enhancing supply chain & inventory management, with positive ripples spreading to deliver enhanced customer experience and satisfaction.

In recent years, the 3PL industry has expanded at an unprecedented rate with an increase in revenue of 21.6 percent between 2017-2019. This unrelenting growth is attributed to the aspirations of retailers to stay competitive and meet increasing consumer expectations for on-time and accurate deliveries. They are tapping 3PL providers to augment their order fulfilment capabilities. The global 3PL market is projected to reach over $1,100 Billion by 2024 as a wide range of industries turn to these providers to handle various levels of warehousing, order picking, packing, transportation, and shipping operations.

Some of the 3PL players still deter to adopt automation into their system. Unpredictability in ROI is one of the top reasons for keeping this contention. Also, there are uncertainties around the investment option in a rigid automation solution for a customer today that might not even be in the warehouse tomorrow. The new-age automation is breaking all these fallacies and emerging out as the unanimous choice for all the 3rd party logistics providers. Automated warehouses and distribution solutions have become flexible and scalable enough to deal with the dynamics of business in today’s era and ensure smooth material handling to achieve unmatched efficiency in the warehouse.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality, to change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” and technology in building these new models every day for every industry!