An effective warehouse management strategy is key to staying competitive and meeting consumers’ expectations in the omnichannel world. Knowing the available inventory and assets only in is inefficient and lacks value, but when applied across an entire supply chain network, inventory visibility propagates . To understand this paradox, warehouse managers need to understand the pitfalls of omnichannel warehouse management and how to develop a winning strategy.
As explained by , many retailers continue to fall short in developing effective warehouse management tactics that benefit omnichannel supply chains. Although the main issue lies in the lack of visibility into assets and inventory in warehouses, distribution centers, and stores, an important part of the problem can also be found in transportation management. After all, inventory in transit is still inventory, and lack of insight and visibility into all inventory and its respective costs, even while being transported, contributes to problems in
As a result, stores and regional warehouses end up overstocked or understocked, and carrying costs soar. Meanwhile, consumers may not be able to get products as quickly as they would with the advanced transportation network of Amazon. Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) must work to improve both warehouse and transportation management to gain inventory control indicative of effective warehouse management.
Unlocking the secrets to in an omnichannel world is a complex task, but technology can simplify this challenge. It is key to an effective warehouse management strategy and brings disparate systems together. Fortunately, modern warehouse management technologies, including a cloud-based warehouse management system, can be integrated with existing systems faster and easier than in any other time in history, allowing SMBs to stay .
Several of these practices, reports , include:
Aside from gaining visibility into existing systems, warehouse managers must take advantage of all resources to develop an effective warehouse management strategy for an omnichannel supply chain. As explains, companies wanting to experience faster-than-average growth into omnichannel, especially those with zero or limited systems and processes built for managing omnichannel order fulfillment, may need to outsource their warehouse management.
Across retail, the push to get more products to more consumers in less time is growing. Today, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of individual warehouse management systems (WMSs) available, but how do you reap the real-world features within this innovative type of systems? How do you know utilizing a WMS in your company is really working to benefit your enterprise?
In addition, companies must manage warehouses, distribution centers and the store-as-a-distribution center and meet an ever-growing demand for seamless, . Instead of trying to isolate every factor, follow these steps, reports , to help you get the most out of your investment in a Warehouse Management System.
Supply chain complexity is still a forgotten factor when shopping for a WMS. As explained consider the size, set up and number of warehouses in your supply chain. In addition, create reasonable growth projections, and include peak requirements to meet sudden surges in demand. Understanding these factors and characteristics of your supply chain will help you identify the best WMS solution for your company.
While you may want to select and deploy a Warehouse Management System immediately, it is important to not jump the proverbial gun. Take time when , and let the industry experts help you find a solution that suits your unique needs. However, avoid the temptation to procrastinate. In other words, get started looking for a system, and if you find one that does not meet your initial needs, ask questions. If it still is not up to par, move on to the next vendor or system.
Another way to take advantage of the experience and knowledge of experts in WMS is to hire one. Interview possible candidates to help manage the selection, upgrading and implementation process, and do not forget that some companies, like third-party integrators (3PIs), can help manage the entire application integration, testing and deployment process for you.
Utilizing a WMS today is about more than just managing warehouse inventory. Modern technologies and systems can handle automated processes, including picking and shipping, which ensures right-time, right-place and right-cost delivery, explains . Yet, as few as 65 percent of companies utilizing do not take full advantage of its functions. Some functions rely on the use of “sister systems,” powered by like companies and designed to work as one warehouse management platform. This is an exceptional benefit to companies seeking greater use of waveless picking and order streaming or meeting the growing demands of e-commerce.
Modern technologies and WMSs utilize the latest technologies to optimize your warehouse and improve your overall supply chain. As explained by Adam Robinson via Thomasholmes, one of the newest technologies reshaping traditional warehouse management is machine-to-machine (M2M) learning, including using the , in which systems consider data gathered by other systems to make changes automatically, recommend best practices and maintain profitability.
M2M learning technology lies at the heart of both robotics and voice-tasking technologies, so the options are limitless. However, you still need to use these primary steps to select the right WMS and reap a positive return.
Maintaining scalability and efficiency in an omnichannel-driven world is difficult at best. Warehouse managers face constant pressure to move more products, reduce damage, improve order cycle times, boost employee morale, and more. Legacy systems traditionally used for are inefficient in the modern era; even systems in the 5- to 10-year age range. Warehouse managers can work to gain executive-level support by making the right business case for a modern warehouse management system.
Warehouse managers have grown accustomed to older systems containing enormous stores of consumer, supplier, and supply chain partner information. Migrating data to new systems without researching prospective systems or taking care in planning could result in catastrophic loss and damage to a company’s database. Such losses may act as a reset to marketing, , and demand forecasting, forcing the company to ure new systems and enter data from the ground up. However, today’s systems have greater capability and compatibility with newer systems through cloud-computing technology.
built on the principles of flexibility, scalability, and automation. Since they’re designed to allow for rapid expansion and changes, warehouse managers can focus on the here and now, rather than on the what if scenarios. Furthermore, today’s warehouse management technologies have a significantly shorter implementation timeline. As a result, a full-scale migration can take place in the background, and automated testing ensures a smooth data migration. Simultaneously, an optimized system uration can be used as a template for moving massive amounts of data to the new system. Instead of risking the loss of data, warehouse managers can put stakeholders’ worries to bed, while boosting productivity, says
When it comes time to garnering support to investing in a modern warehouse management system, supply chain executives should focus on the key benefits that will be provided by the system. Benefits must focus on effects on warehouse operations and product cycles, as well as the following:
By creating a logical, well-thought-out business case for implementing a modern warehouse management system, you can garner stakeholder support, streamline operability, and take advantage of the benefits a modern system will provide. Since everything depends on your ability to present a business case with a high return on investment, fill out the form below so that you may get started with your new system selection and implementation today.
Omni-channel sales strategies have become essential to companies trying to keep up with Amazon and major retailers. Unfortunately, a lack of understanding in omnichannel supply chains has also led many companies to experience extreme issues in delivering on their promises. In addition, some may feel that growing into a seamless omnichannel sales strategy is impossible without supply chain technology hiccups, but that is not true. Meanwhile, more companies are turning to entities outside of the company, like third-party logistics or integrators (3PLs and 3PIs) to manage , reports . In fact, third-party companies already have the first step in the bag, and you need to understand why.
Omni-channel supply chains are built on having multiple touchpoints per order, ranging from online to brick-and-mortar sales. This naturally creates a large pool of data, and 3PIs have the technology to leverage this data to build and improve omnichannel supply chains. Moreover, third parties can define market trends with greater precision and accuracy than companies that are just starting down the path toward omnichannel sales. Essentially, this lends itself to intelligent fulfillment.
Intelligent fulfillment means every order and sale should operate like an algorithm or flowchart, explains . If the customer uses online and in-store shopping to make a purchase, shipping and pickup options should include A, B and C. If only online shopping is used, shipping options may include B or D. Now, intelligent fulfillment relies on the collaboration between all departments to create a seamless . As a result, companies should eliminate organizational and technological silos within the company.
When systems communicate, they create inventory data, but actual inventory can be turned into to understand the flow of products. This can include utilizing additive manufacturing, like 3D printing, to bring the manufacturing process closer to customers and reduce the amount of physical space needed to store inventory. This data can be further refined to increase cross-training programs among employees, asserts or it may be used to improve real-time inventory visibility across all segments of the omnichannel supply chain.
Inventory management is only as good as its level of visibility and optimization. Poor slotting programs or disparate systems can still contribute data to the system. Unfortunately, this data may lead to continued inaccuracies and issues within supply chain technology. Therefore, companies should leverage data gathered through the previous steps through analytics systems and integration between systems.
This information should be clean as well. In other words, systems need to distinguish the “good” data from “bad” data. For this reason, many companies are and analytics to ensure they have the right metrics and data tools to continuously improve omnichannel supply chain technologies.
Omni-channel supply chain technology can expose problems in new or upcoming companies entering the omnichannel space. However, companies that follow these steps to bring systems together and leverage the technology and expertise of proven companies, like Veridian Solutions, can successfully move their supply chains into the next wave of omnichannel sales. Ultimately, the omnichannel supply chain is like a living, breathing thing, and it needs to be cared for properly.
The wrong increases carrying costs and makes it impossible to stay competitive. Common obstacles encountered when it comes to effective include having poor visibility into fast-moving versus slow-moving product, extensive travel times between bin locations, and lost revenue due to poor labor productivity. However, warehouse managers can overcome these obstacles by considering the main issues affecting omnichannel retail supply chains and implementing these key tips to break down barriers to efficiency.
As explained by , the fastest-moving products account for only 20% of inventory. In addition, consumers’ preferences are in a constant state of flux, and Amazon offers everything from A to Z, literally. Figuring out how to combine all existing channels into an omnichannel supply chain is a nightmare, requiring advanced systems, integration, and unyielding accuracy. Meanwhile, reslotting of the warehouse and changes to the inventory management program will recur, so retail warehouse managers must have a few tricks up their sleeves to stay competitive and keep costs under control.
Some of the best tips to enhancing retail, reports , include the following:
As explains, ongoing process improvement and stock optimization ensure efficient inventory control. Instead of trying to micromanage inventory control and hope for the best, warehouse managers should use these tips to streamline operations and enhance visibility in the warehouse. An optimized inventory is the end result, producing a better flow and more efficient means of managing inventory. Of course, outsourcing some of the process, especially when implementing new systems or technology can help.
Retailers are evolving, and supply chains must evolve with them. The application of primarily focuses on the collaboration between suppliers, or vendors, and distributors. To understand this relationship, we have to consider its driving forces, how it affects , and what it means for warehousing capabilities and capacity.
Keeping up with customers’ demands has natural implications for business-to-business sellers, including manufacturers. Key applications of omnichannel in manufacturing include increasing end-to-end visibility in material availability; however, many companies overlook ways to , thus they are unable to push operations beyond availability and reliability of supplies, reports . Manufacturers still using disjointed processes and operating in functional silos are unable to keep up with demand.
Manufacturers must fully embrace the best practices of omnichannel to ensure their buyers, including resellers, retailers, distribution centers, and warehouses, have access to stock. Since customers rarely interact directly with manufacturers, it is up to the retailers to pass information along to manufacturers. This relationship can be expanded further using drop-shipping, as described by , leaving manufacturers to navigate the shipping process to get stock directly to consumers, eliminating middle-land warehouse managers. The same challenges exist in trying to move products closer to consumers, ensuring all shipping options are available, including parcel, LTL, full truckload, and even white glove service, when applicable.
The world of retail has changed, moving from being sales-rep-centric to being web-channel-centric, but that does not mean that retailers should focus exclusively , reports . Instead, retailers must make the internet an integral part of all interactions, including the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and automated technologies to improve inventory management processes.
Aligning expectations and best practices for omnichannel in manufacturing and warehouse helps companies achieving several key goals of successful , including:
As the world moves closer to an omnichannel shopping standard, retailers will continue to roll out new improvements and personalized features to make shopping more enjoyable and tailored to each consumer. Therefore, manufacturers must follow the natural progression by partnering with retailers in greater endeavors and collaboration to move products faster, at lower costs, and through all possible channels. Even if your suppliers and manufacturers have not yet required improvements benefiting omnichannel in manufacturing, this is going to happen soon.
Spurred by the record-breaking growth of e-commerce and rising labor costs, robots can have a very positive impact in distribution centers when implemented correctly.
E-commerce defines the state of global supply chains today. As Amazon continues to push toward dominance of all sales channels, more companies must tap into the power of automation to fulfill more orders. As explained by , e-commerce retail sales have grown at 15% annually, doubling in size since 2012. To meet rising demand, supply chain executives must begin considering new ways to increase the capacity of their existing facilities.
Distribution center robots are a force in the Amazon powerhouse, reports the When Amazon purchased Kiva robots, distribution center robots became the new “shiny object turned real-world effective object” of e-commerce fulfillment. Robotics provides a boost to distribution centers and warehouse managers seeking ways to increase capacity and improve efficiency in critical areas. Implementing robotics might sound easy, but it does require standardized systems and integration of existing systems. Anyone who has worked in a knows that exceptions arise constantly. Each exception must be carefully designed, developed, and tested to ensure that the robot, the warehouse management system (WMS), and the physical situation all stay in sync.
Another major problem for businesses looking to embrace the use of robotics goes back to basic economics; its impact on jobs. While robotics have resulted in some job loss, the case studies of Amazon, as noted by , reveal that Amazon has added more than 80,000 jobs since they began adding Kiva robots to their distribution centers. The robots take care of arduous and repetitive tasks, leaving the people to work on more mentally challenging tasks. The net result is very efficient distribution centers that can fulfill Amazon customers’ orders quickly and cost-effectively. It’s a winning equation that has enabled Amazon to become the leader in the rapidly-growing e-commerce sector.
Formerly Kiva robots, are no longer for sale to third parties, but that does not mean a company cannot take advantage of other robotics manufacturers. To leverage the benefits of robotics in the distribution center, managers should follow these best practices:
Successful implementation of distribution center robots should mirror the guiding principles behind the founding of Kiva Robotics, as shown by resulting in faster fulfillment, more efficient replenishment strategies, decreased order inaccuracies, on-demand scalability, unrelenting product organization, and robust profitability.
Humans, robots, and all systems, including the , should work in tandem and share information. If your organization is considering implementing distribution center robots, turn to the experts and leverage their expertise to answer your questions to help you navigate the process of robot vendor choice, integration of systems, and implementation of new software necessary to work at peak efficiency.
New warehouse management technology, like analytics, machine-to-machine learning, and automated systems, pushes the limits of standard operations to create best-in-class distribution centers.
The days of using a small, standalone (WMS) are ending, and distribution centers must turn to newer, more advanced warehouse management technology to meet rising demand for an omnichannel world.
While e-commerce grows, some distribution centers may be apt to continue using old technologies for several reasons, including:
Unfortunately, the age of cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) has turned most of the arguments upside-down so that companies can realize the benefits of new warehouse management technology without the significant risks, notes transforming distribution center options into technology-driven facilities.
Implementing new technology is a complicated process, but it can be simplified as follows:
The distribution centers of the future will be vibrant with robotics, automated technologies, and advanced analytics driving day-to-day decisions, but many distribution centers are already implementing such processes to create best-in-class facilities. These facilities rely on the continuous flow of information, automated identification and data capture (AIDC) systems, , wearables, cloud-based systems, and mobile distribution center dashboards. Understanding these technologies will provide a strong foundation for the future of distribution center management and promote lean warehouse practices.
Amazon has reigned supreme in e-commerce for years, but Walmart is well on its way to making the e-commerce giant a little nervous. Amazon acquired Whole Foods and dropped the price of Prime Pantry through Prime Perks. Amazon began looking into brick-and-mortar storefronts, hoping to capture a new slice of the omnichannel pie. Walmart has a different approach, and in several ways, Walmart is positioning itself to best through an innovative, omnichannel return strategy. To understand the true scope of this accomplishment, supply chain leaders need to understand the precursor steps Walmart has taken.
Walmart announced the closure of 63 Sam’s Club locations, shortly after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. An alarm for some, this move seemed to lack reasoning and failed to balance Walmart’s need to become a more significant player in the e-commerce space. in the e-commerce sales lineup, preceded by Amazon at number one and Apple at number two, Walmart needed to redefine its order fulfillment footprint. As explained by , Walmart now has announced plans to repurpose 10 of Sam’s Club closing locations into e-commerce fulfillment. With an being conducive to fulfillment, it would not be surprising to see additional stores make a similar conversion.
Walmart projects a 40-percent growth in online sales throughout 2018, paired with a 3-percent net growth, as to the left, reports .
To meet the surging demand, Walmart needs to perfect its existing pickup locations for orders processed via ship-to-store. Instead of increasing brick-and-mortar locations, the company is pushing toward remodeling of existing stores to accommodate employee-shoppers fulfilling online orders and in-store customers. According to 2018 will be a record-breaking year for scaled-back brick-and-mortar openings, opening as few as 15 Supercenters and 10 Neighborhood Markets stores.
Walmart has also worked to expand the service offering of its Scan and Go app. While the Sam’s Club version of the app has been deployed nationwide, its Walmart store counterpart continues to permeate markets at a gradual pace, reports . Initially tested in 25 stores, the app is set for expansion in 100 more stores in 2018. Right now, similar apps, including the sister app at Sam’s Club, requires a person to check a customer’s receipt for complete purchases. Walmart plans to turn this notion upside-down, utilizing computer vision to track and charge purchases, eliminating the need for scanning and human-verification process, says .
Walmart’s new services set the stage for record-breaking online growth, but with such growth, Walmart must revisit its returns strategy. Developing a new omnichannel return strategy is not just a new concept, but it relies on the company’s , the Walmart app. Termed Mobile Express Returns, the program launched in November, and it allows consumers to get a QR code for a return before visiting a brick-and-mortar store. Scanning the code at a dedicated QR lane allows for and encourages consumers to make another purchase in the store itself, but that is not all the new returns strategy offers.
Some products, like shampoo, cleaning supplies, and cosmetics, can pose a safety and health risk when returned due to contamination. To further encourage the growth of the new omnichannel return strategy, customers do not even have to make a physical return, leaving the used product at home and still receiving an immediate refund. Walmart has also taken the initiative to prevent consumers from abusing the non-physical returns aspect through new technology tracking shopping habits and returns patterns.
While Amazon continues its march toward e-commerce growth, Walmart is making noise in true omnichannel fashion, especially with the new omnichannel return strategy. Walmart heralds the age of a new omnichannel empire, but it also brings risk to other retailers, struggling to keep up with Amazon and Walmart’s previous services.
To ensure your company stays in stride with the newest e-commerce and omnichannel advancements from these behemoths, re-evaluate your existing omnichannel strategy. Consider implementing newer systems and technologies as well.
Intelligent supply chain management can reduce costs, improve profitability, and enable competitive advantage for your organization.
From the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BiTA) to the use of the internet of Things, explains , intelligent supply chain management is changing the game for traditional warehouses, retailers, consumers, and employees alike. Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more mainstream, and machine-aided purchases, such as voice ordering thru voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, are beginning to permeate everyday households. The time is ripe for investment in intelligent supply chain technologies, but supply chain executives must first understand the key components and implementation challenges of intelligent supply chain management.
The typical problems in attaining a truly intelligent supply chain reflect the issues present when making any investment decision. Supply chain executives express concerns over costs, disruptions to productivity, time delays, and impact on data. However, newer systems have inherent capabilities, making these concerns seem irrelevant.
The technologies powering intelligent supply chain systems demand connected systems, integral to the . The intuitive nature of new technologies is intimidating. If machines can learn, what is to stop them from disrupting overall operations? This is where advanced algorithms come into play, enabling continuous improvement through embedded intelligence without disrupting operations, says
A small note: Although not yet widely in use, blockchain is starting to become an everyday name in more circles than just the Bitcoin craze. Some applications of Blockchain technology that supply chain managers will see shortly is the ability to track line-item movements, purchases, and transactions in supply chains, resulting in 100% end-to-end visibility. Since blockchain is built on traceability, it ensures maximum compliance with regulations and helps keep costs low.
Intelligent supply chain management means merely using data, lots of it, to make better decisions, use more advanced technology, and gain actionable insights into operations, says Intelligent supply chain management requires a connection between anything and everything in the warehouse, distribution center, storefront, and e-commerce portal. All points must have the ability to exchange information and reroute orders as needed to ensure customers have what they want at any location and at any time.
If you want to begin moving your organization toward intelligent supply chain management, now is the time to act.
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