The warehouse is a fundamental part of the supply chain, but for it to work efficiently, it requires a delicate balance of supply, demand and stock control solutions. We caught up with Dave Hughes at wholesale software specialist, Business Computer Projects Ltd (BCP), to discuss the latest challenges in warehouse management and what can be done to overcome them.
“Efficiency has long been a buzzword associated with warehouse management, however it’s no longer just about getting as much out the door as quickly as possible” says Dave. “For true efficiency, wholesalers need to also reduce the resources that are required to achieve their business goals and avoid creating unnecessary waste. All whilst ensuring excellent customer service.”
In today’s technologically advanced world it would be simple to assume that this is easy to achieve, however Dave explains: “Implementing software to reduce manual processing is one step, however, a warehouse management system (WMS) that doesn’t include suitable functionality for a wholesale business will not be as efficient in the long-term.”
Picking has long been seen as the area in the warehouse where the most efficiency can be gained through technology. Voice Directed Warehouse Management remains one of the most cost-effective ways to achieve this according to Dave, because it is scalable to meet the needs of any business operating a warehouse, large or small.
Voice WMS increases efficiency, Dave explains, because instructions and responses do not require staff’s eyes or hands. Picking accuracy increases to 99.99% by eliminating the need for keyboard entry and typing errors. He continues: “What’s great about the Accord Voice WMS, is that it’s not only for picking. Its real-time functionality means that it can be used throughout the entire warehouse, from receiving, put-away, picking and distribution. Not only does this increase efficiency throughout all warehouse processes, but reduces the stress and hassle of dealing with multiple technology suppliers and maintenance contracts.”
Sustainability is a huge topic of conversation across all industries at the moment and Dave explains how efficient warehouse management, can also help businesses reduce their impact on the environment: “For food and drink wholesalers, the trend for fresh products continues to be popular as consumers demand healthier and environmentally-friendly options. Unfortunately, this creates a pressure on wholesalers to monitor date controlled products and ensure food waste is at an absolute minimum.”
He continues: “Millions of tonnes of fresh food is wasted through the supply chain every year, but this is where a Voice enabled WMS can be an asset. Its real-time functionality makes it quicker and easier to cross-reference goods received with purchase orders. This means staff can identify any discrepancies immediately and picking can be optimised to use correct shelf-life products. Not only does this help wholesalers meet their customer’s needs and reduce fines, but also provides wholesalers the opportunity to redistribute short shelf-life products to other customers who could still use them.”
Sustainability isn’t only about the environment and reducing waste, it’s also about reducing negative and social impacts on employees and society. “There is a real drive towards increasing awareness about mental health at the moment” explains Dave. “Maintaining the high levels of service demanded by customers can be a pressure on staff. Order fulfilment is obviously key to customer satisfaction, but businesses need to be conscious that it’s not at the cost of employee well-being. Creating undesirable working conditions can lead to poor performance, more errors and absences.”
When labour availability and costs continue to be a major concern in the warehouse, maximising staff productivity remains essential. Dave says that technology such as Labour Management systems can help, these can improve staff productivity, as well as reduce costs by automating time-consuming manual tasks so staff can be deployed more efficiently elsewhere.
“A Labour Management System gives managers full visibility of the workforce so workloads can be scheduled to meet targets, performance levels can be tracked and staff levels adjusted.” He continues: “Businesses can see improved employee morale and increased productivity through more streamlined management processes with a labour management system.”
Dave concludes: “It’s clear to see that warehouse efficiency, and customer satisfaction, remains reliant on technology, especially with the rise of automation and robotics. At BCP we are passionate about helping wholesalers maximise their business potential through innovative solutions and will be continuing to develop systems that help wholesalers meet the ongoing challenges they face.”