Even if you happen to have a relatively small warehouse and highly experienced warehouse keepers, it is not humanly possible for them to pick orders with 100% efficiency and without making any errors. While picking items from the order, they may end up needing to go back, or be unable to find the goods in question as they are stored too high up on the shelves. All of these problems can be solved by warehouse management systems (WMS), which guide the warehouse keepers in the most efficient way possible. In addition, they allow picking multiple orders simultaneously.
In order for a warehouse keeper to be 100% efficient, he or she would have to draw the positions of all order items and plan their route before picking every single order so as to finish removing the goods from stock as quickly as possible. Supposing they somehow know from memory the exact position of each item (which is, all by itself, virtually impossible), a task like that would be impossible to solve, or else would take too much time.
In practice, this often leads to what people sometimes refer to as ‚mushroom hunting‘. The warehouse keeper walks around the whole warehouse, picking one item at a time based on how they are listed in the order. As such, the warehouse keeper ends up treading hundreds of meters completely in vain, moving from one end of the warehouse to the other and sometimes even finding it impossible to pick the goods, if the goods in question are stored too high up or are too heavy.
Introducing a WMS system into your warehouse is bound to change all of the above. Thanks to clearly marked warehouse positions, the system knows the current status of the warehouse as well as where to store the incoming goods the moment they are received. The warehouse keeper is then guided to these positions. Thanks to this, the barcode reader contains an accurate plan of the warehouse with all the items and their positions.
During the order picking process, the WMS instantly generates the most efficient route for removing all items from stock. All that the warehouse keeper needs to do is follow the barcode reader‘s instructions; there is no need for them to memorize anything and they just let themselves be guided through the warehouse. The order is picked in the shortest time possible, the number of steps that need to be taken are kept to an absolute minimum and there is virtually no risk of order picking errors. The WMS also allows picking multiple orders simultaneously, which increases the overall efficiency even further.
From the point of view of the WMS, the warehouse position is more than just a generic slot with a number – it is also possible to enter information such as the height or the load bearing capacity of the shelf, or the distance of the shelf from the shipping dock. During the receiving process, the WMS can then suggest placing the heavy items in lower positions, the bestselling items close to the shipping dock, and so on. If an item from the order is impossible to pick because it is too high up or too heavy, the WMS will anticipate this by sending in a warehouse keeper equipped with a forklift.
The WMS can also be set up to give precedence to picking goods closest to their best before dates or from a specific batch, or alternatively to follow a picking strategy of your choice (such as FIFO). By doing so, you relieve your warehouse keepers of yet another onerous responsibility and delegate it to the information system, which is faster and more accurate. This ultimately leads to fewer complaints and a higher level of satisfaction among your end customers.
Thanks to the WMS, the warehouse works like a well-oiled machine, where each warehouse keeper knows what to do at any given moment. What is more, they do not even need to be familiar with the layout of the warehouse; all they need to do is follow the barcode reader‘s instructions, which facilitates the hiring and the training of new employees.
A warehouse management system jumpstarts the efficiency of the warehouse the moment it is launched, but the efficiency improves even further over time. For instance, your data will show you which goods are the bestsellers or which ones tend to be sold together. You can then reorganize the warehouse positions to place the goods which are frequently purchased together in close proximity to each other.
Furthermore, most warehouse management systems are open systems and as such can be connected with other information systems or applications. Connecting them with an ERP or an accounting software is almost a given, plus our LOKiA WMS solution can be connected with Inventoro. The system which uses the WMS data to predict future orders calculates the optimal inventory and directly suggests goods to be ordered, which can drastically cut down on your inventory without putting you at a risk of goods shortages.
All in all, WMS systems are a perfect addition to any warehouse, perhaps except for the tiniest warehouses offering just a couple of dozens or even fewer items. They increase the efficiency of labor, save time, help train new warehouse keepers and improve the quality of services provided for end customers by reducing the risk of complaints or order picking errors. Additionally, the cloud-based option requires a minimum initial investment, which is paid back within a couple of months.