REPORT: Choosing a warehouse management system
When seeking to lower costs and streamline operations, the implementation of a WMS solution can pay dividends.
If chosen correctly, a warehouse management solution (WMS) will save time and money, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction, streamlining operations and boosting customer confidence. Not employing a good WMS can lead to an uphill battle to retain customers and missed opportunities to optimise employee efficiency.
Simply put, the goal of a warehouse management system is to provide the information necessary to efficiently control the movement of materials within a warehouse, meaning the key to keeping inventory moving and shipments on schedule is choosing the best WMS for your business.
“The core of WMS is inventory management,” confirmed Abhishek Ajay Shah, director of operations and business development at RSA Logistics.
“It means we don’t have to go through stacks of paperwork about products – the data and records are available electronically and we can find the historical track record of everything that has come through the facility. It acts as a strong supporting tool for a lot of our stakeholders, whether it’s Dubai Customs, the Chamber of Commerce, our customers, our suppliers, or anybody. It is the heart of our information bank.”
Strong warehouse management systems allow warehouse staff to operate at the highest level of efficiency. Indeed, Shah describes it as “the backbone of operations” for the third party logistics industry, providing a transparent view of warehouse activity.
“Having a good warehouse management system is as key as having the right people to operate it; you need to give people the right tools to be able to perform the services your clients require. Every company’s goal, besides being profitable, is to be high on customer service. We do not want our customers to even think about leaving us purely because they are so comfortable with us.”
RSA Logistics improved its WMS based on discussions with customers that uncovered a need to deliver greater access to information about their products stored in the third party logistics provider’s warehouses. As a result, RSA creating a web portal in its WMS.
Shah elaborated: “Customers can go online and extract information in the format they want. Our customers have enjoyed this and now we’re in the process of rolling this out into mobile applications so they can get their information on the go as well.
All this stems from information that we input into the WMS – we’ve taken that product and further enhanced an add-on to it to make it more usable to team members and customers. A big part of customer service is the transparency and availability of information. We have drastically reduced customer service complaints over the last 18 months by introducing this technological enhancement.”
Also describing an efficient WMS as “the backbone of a successful logistics network”, Shailen Shukla, head of Jumbo Logistics, said the right WHM is integral in helping companies stay ahead of the competition.
Speaking from personal experience, he revealed: “Our WMS software not only keeps the supply chain system well-oiled, it helps us to achieve high levels of accuracy when it comes to gauging the customer’s requirement by offering real-time updates on when and where the products are in demand.”
Besides looking at the results a new WMS could yield, it’s important to carefully consider the practicalities for day-to-day operation because implementing new software can often create challenges.
Shah advises looking at the presence of a particular WMS in the market to avoid high training costs. He noted that recruiting “an existing pool of trained users rather than trying to implement something brand new that people in the market do not have experience using” is clearly more beneficial.
He added: “You should always check what the local support level is of the company supplying it because they need to be able to get a team to your site for user acceptance training (UAT) and have the relevant technical knowledge to respond in time to any sort of crisis.”
Shukla believes that the ideal solution “changes the operational focus of an organisation from ‘This is how we’ve always done it’ to ‘What is the best way to do it?’ while maximising results with the minimum time and labour investment.
He commented: “A proven WMS with local support should streamline the logistics processes by offering end-to-end transactional solutions, easy and convenient usability, adaptability to other software systems, and ultimately, good returns on investment.
“It allows for warehouse design functionality that customises workflow and uses logic to ensure that inventory is allocated to the correct location within each facility. It establishes correct bin slotting to maximise warehouse space utilisation and accounts for seasonal inventory variance.”
He continued: “One of the key performance indicators of our WMS inventory tracking is the ability to use advanced tracking systems, such as auto ID data capture (AIDC), barcode scanners, or radio-frequency identification (RFID) that ensures the correct logging of inventory and easily locates it when it is to be moved.
“In addition, our WMS software solution helps optimise the utilisation of warehouse space in real time so that warehouse managers can track and trace every stock keeping unit (SKU), resulting in accurate order fulfilment.
The software that offers the EAN (European Article Number, but now renamed International Article Number) long range barcode scanning system used with the help of hand held Wi-Fi connected scanning devices results in efficient customer deliveries, leading to improved client relationships which further lead to incremental sales.”
The regional market for WMS has enjoyed healthy growth over the past 18 months, echoing that of the fast-growing logistics industry, and no doubt influenced by the worldwide increase in goods movement, as well as the improved integration with other components of the supply chain. The WMS market offers robust solutions to companies looking to improve their supply chain.
“Given the importance of its role in one of the largest industries in the region, the WMS market does have the potential to grow phenomenally in the coming years,” Shukla asserted. “The logistics business in the UAE alone is estimated to be worth $10.06billion by 2015, according to [consultants] Frost & Sullivan. That offers a lot of promise for stakeholders that support the billion-dollar industry.
“As an extension to Jumbo’s Distribution business, Jumbo Logistics has seen phenomenal organic growth over the last year. With more brands and products looking to enter the region, the focus is on who can deliver the best services when it comes to connecting the brand with the consumer. Our investment in a superlative WMS system has certainly helped us offer this differentiator to customers, through solutions that are logical and effective.”
A WMS is of utmost importance for modern businesses to achieve a streamlined, effective and efficient supply chain, enabling organisations to streamline end-to-end warehouse operations by improving the inventory accuracy and traceability, better resource management, storage space optimisation, which leads to improved customer services.
Jumbo Logistics has found that its WMS has proved its worth during peak shopping seasons, such as the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS), when retailers see the maximum footfall in-store. Shukla said that as the company brings products from over 35 global technology brands to retailers in the UAE, it is under a great deal of pressure to meet consumer demand.
“Understandably, our systematic and efficient WMS plays a pivotal role in ensuring that we are able to clearly chart out the stock flows of our retail customers. From previous DSS seasons, we have noticed that the consumer frenzy is particularly high during the first and last week of the season, triggering at least a 10 percent hike in demand. To meet this spike, Jumbo Logistics increases the milk runs from 800 trips per month to 900 trips, which averages to about 40 milk runs per day with 600 tp 800 daily customer touch-points.
“Another key trend during DSS is of bundled offers, where customers get additional products or accessories free with most purchases. This also requires specialised support such as selecting, sorting and bundling the appropriate items from the inventory. We are able to bundle products on-site, thereby streamlining the process for retailers. At the end of the day, an efficient logistics network supports Dubai retailers’ profitability during DSS.”