Designing the most efficient warehouse possible requires analyzing all processes that go into every operation. When a bulk order is received by a facility's staff, there's much more that needs to be done besides logging it in a system and moving it where it needs to go. Warehouses that know how to inspect shipments, move them to the best location for stocking and use the data at their disposal with a warehouse management system have the ability to speed up this crucial process. That speed will result in more accurate fulfillment, higher productivity and ultimately better warehouse performance across the board.
How technology changes warehouse processes
With the continued growth of omni-channel retail, warehouse operations span an intricate web of fine-tuned processes and protocols. Thanks to modern cloud WMS solutions, even the most complex system for receiving, tracking and preparing goods in the warehouse can be constantly analyzed and refined. This high level of visibility and control is essential to meet the demands of the modern consumer.
"A WMS allows warehouses to think beyond the basics of put-away processes."
Without a doubt, the pressure is on every retailer to perform in the warehouse. But by optimizing key processes like put-away procedures, it's possible to quickly move shipments to storage locations that make the most sense depending on a number of factors, and then ensure they can be broken down and prepared for fulfillment.
The right tools for the job
The first priority for great put-away procedures is having the right tools on hand. Barcode or RF scanners connected wirelessly to a central WMS allow floor staff to scan shipments as soon as they leave the truck, logging them in the system from the beginning. As Multi Channel Merchant explained, WMS-enabled scanners can then use pre-defined rules and workflows to tell employees exactly where a specific item needs to go. These rules can be optimized by taking the size, shape and handling details of the shipment into account.
|If warehouses can maximize space utilization, put-away becomes significantly faster.|
In a busy warehouse, of course, figuring out these details ahead of time is easier said than done. That's why most warehouse process design experts recommend laying out the put-away area based on balancing space and resource limitations with forecasted demand or backlog. This data is readily accessible from a cloud WMS and can be accessed from any mobile device. Then, managers can decide which technique would make the most sense for put-away. Some of the most common include:
- Staging product from the receiving area
- Organizing items based on purchase order, part number or put-away zone
- Moving shipments directly from the loading area to the picking and packing area
That final option is the most efficient in most cases, but also the most challenging without the proper system in place. The faster warehouse staff can move items from the delivery truck to their ultimate fulfillment destination, the more likely customers will receive their orders within the increasingly narrow timeframes for which they pay a premium. But this kind of speed too often comes at the price of order accuracy, or can lead to staff that is too stressed and managers who are too busy to look beyond the short term.
As Modern Materials Handling noted, the rapid advance of WMS 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. A WMS enabled with a barcode scanner enables instant visibility as well as complete certainty on how a certain item should be handled and stored. Making the leap to a SaaS WMS now will also allow growing companies to expand their warehouse operations easily, handling higher order volumes with more challenging specifications with ease.