Is your warehouse management system (WMS) an untapped goldmine of new ways to increase efficiency? Most companies simply aren’t aware that there’s an extensive list of features just waiting to be unlocked in their WMS. Whether you went live with your system last week or three years ago, chances are there’s functionality that can be enabled to achieve greater labor, efficiency, and cost savings—you just need to know where to look. Even if you’re not having major issues, small process changes can make a big difference in how your team completes tasks every day. Don’t let parts of your WMS turn into ‘shelfware’ that locks best-of-breed methodologies away from your organization.
Learn What’s Happening on the Floor
The first step in evaluating your operations is to understand the ins and outs of activity and how the WMS is helping or hindering tasks. Management doesn’t always know exactly what’s happening on the warehouse floor. It’s time to find out.
This is about investigating why productivity isn’t where it was expected to be as you mapped out the implementation months or years ago. Sometimes this is because there’s a culture of “This is how we’ve always done it.” After a go-live there may be resistance to a new system, particularly if workers find it actually takes them longer to complete tasks with the new technology. For example, perhaps the receiving process requires more data input than before. If this is the case, find out whether adjustments need to be made. Perhaps it’s a situation where the new steps may take a little longer on the front end but the additional data being collected improves another part of the operations.
Sometimes you’ll notice differences in how long it takes each person to complete a task. It’s important to get to the bottom of why person A does something faster than person B. While this may mean one worker is simply slower than others and needs training or coaching, it could also point to the need for a process change.
Talk to workers to understand exactly how they complete tasks. Make a culture of continuous improvement by incenting and rewarding their suggestions. Make sure the communication loop is open between the workforce and leadership. For example, if the RF scanners are hard to operate or respond slowly as they’re being used, this is an example of a small problem that can become a large one. Instead of spending a lot of time walking around looking for help, workers may get frustrated or try to fix the problem themselves. Encourage feedback to speed problem identification and resolution. In this common situation, there may not be enough coverage for the RF signal to reach scanners effectively, which is something that should be addressed.
Identify Areas Where You Can Improve Cost Control
Now that you’ve gotten input from workers, it’s time to look into processes in more detail. It’s easy for costs to rise over time if they’re not monitored. This can be due to increases in labor, raw materials, and energy being used. Below are areas where you can generate measurable improvement, often by enabling WMS functionality that’s in your system but not enabled for your workforce.
Find the Opportunities You’ve Been Missing
The fact is, it’s a competitive world when it comes to supply chain operations. Your competitors are probably making improvements in how their warehouses run, and you need to as well. 4SIGHT experts have years of experience in identifying areas where small changes can have a big impact on your efficiency and your costs.