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How to Properly Evaluate Your Warehouse Management System (WMS)

October 15, 2015

warehouse-management-system

What Does a Warehouse Management System Do?

A medium-sized chain of convenience stores once asked me to take a look at their Warehouse Management System (WMS) to see if it was time for an upgrade. After documenting all the functions it performed, we discovered that none of them could be described as serving warehouse activities. The system had lots of good purchasing functions—but offered nothing to support the actual warehouse.

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Warehousing Optimization: Standards, Data and Time

July 28, 2015

warehouse operations

When it comes to warehousing operations, there are many ways to approach a continuous improvement project. You can automate, you can reorganize. You can employ a consultant. Three of the constant factors are time, standards, and data. Here are some insights on each of these important areas:

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WCS vs. WMS: Complimentary Roles

March 16, 2014

sortation system

A warehouse control system (WCS) directs “real-time” activities within warehouses and distribution centers. They act as a traffic regulator for warehousing activities, with the mission of running material handling systems (and in some instances, the activities of workers). A good WCS system provides a broad, yet consistent interface for material handling systems like conveyors, carousels, palletizers, sorters, etc. On the other hand, a warehouse management system (WMS) is more focused on broader activities, people, and processes, such as shipments and orders. WMS usually doesn’t reach downstream into the automated equipment itself. A WMS is more about controlling human interactions to fulfill or receive product.

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Benchmarking Warehouse Performance…What do You Measure, and How?

November 8, 2007

For about $110 (or half that if you’re a WERC member) you can buy the Warehousing Education and Research Council Manager’s Guide For Benchmarking. The book details different kinds of benchmarking, why you should benchmark, how to pick appropriate metrics & measurements, and analyze your company’s performance. It’s also got techniques for communicating to get the results you need. The group’s website describes it like this:

“As competition grows for dollars, time and resources, the demand to improve performance takes on greater importance. WERC developed this Guide to Benchmarking to help you unleash the power of benchmarking for your organization. You’ll read about the different kinds of benchmarking, why it’s important to benchmark, how to choose the right metrics, how to analyze your company’s performance, and techniques for communicating to get the results you need. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll learn how to develop a benchmarking strategy specifically for your operation.”

It’s a relatively short, 44-page read. It’s appealing to me because we stress performance measurement at Cisco-Eagle, and the metrics are perhaps the most difficult aspect of that. Get them defined correctly and everything else should fall into place.

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WMS on demand – is it for you?

October 29, 2007

You’re probably familiar with the software on demand movement. Hosted, web-driven software has been deployed to good success, particularly in fields like customer relationship management (CRM), with SalesForce.com being the most famous. It’s good because smaller companies can utilize software that might have been out of reach in the past. You can quickly get a handful of seats and cut the service off, if it isn’t to your liking. It doesn’t require a large IT staff, doesn’t require hardware, or much in-house expertise to use these packages.

The last few years, WMS (warehouse management) software has started to trickle down from gigantic enterprises to mid-size and even small companies because the standard products have gotten better, requiring less customization and less (or easier) integration with back office, inventory, or enterprise systems. Now, it’s taken the next step — toward WMS on Demand. WMS software provider SmartTurn has introduced an on-demand product in the WMS space.

The company’s website claims that its package, which is hosted on SmartTurn’s servers, can handle purchasing, receiving/putaway, inventory control, order fulfillment, shipping, and mobile computing. SmartTurn offers demo versions and a free trial. Since its launch, SmartTurn has garnered more than 50 customer sites, spanning multiple industries including Warehousing, Beverage Distribution, Manufacturing, Retail, Medical Supplies & Devices, and Importers. The appeal is easy to understand: WMS without many of the things people hate about WMS — the increased IT load, the management of technical issues, the servers. In essence, all you have to have is a web browser.

The basic thing to remember when you automate is that automation isn’t really a solution. It’s a way to express processes in a systematic manner.

“By putting in an automated system, you become accurate,” said David Marshall, President and Chief Operating Officer of RobRoy, Inc. His company has implemented WMS, and stuck as closely as it could to standardized software rather than customization. “But you just get bad information faster if bad information is what you already have. An automated system won’t solve that problem. You have to solve a problem, then automate the solution.”

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