Expert Insight: Guest Contribution

by Pär Wetterlöf, Vice President Product Management, CDC Supply Chain

  January 17 , 2008  

Using Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) to Support High Performance in Distribution – and Change


In Today's Dynamic Environment, WMS Flexibility is an Imperative; You Must Plan for Change

Wetterlof Says:
The WMS must make it possible to start simple and increase complexity as you learn to master – e.g., start labor management using best path templates and refine into individual labor standards.

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Many organizations today are recognizing that increasing efficiency within the supply chain is essential to ensuring ongoing growth and profitability. For many companies, business success means offering greater ranges of products to an ever increasing supply chain. It means handling order fulfillment of multiple brands to multiple locations in multiple countries and enhancing the relationship with customers to ensure loyalty and retained business.

This is certainly the case when designing the layout and processes of your warehouse operation. There is always one thing you should bet on - you will have to change it. It might take a couple of months or years, but sooner or later it will happen.

The company decides to merge a sister division with a different set of products to gain economy of scale. This will require higher throughput capacity, but often also new processes. Let’s say you were running pre-distributed transit flows through a cross-dock facility. Now you might need to make last minute decisions on whether to cross-dock or hold products for picking on demand, or the competitive situation enforces a higher degree of new product introductions, meaning less predictive demand. You need to support constant re-slotting, based on a mix of forecasts and patterns, but also frequent promotional activities that demand dynamic allocation of space and resources.

What is your starting point? You might have or plan for a brand new highly automated facility, with streamlined design and processes. Or you prefer a manually operated facility that relies heavily on the performance of skilled labor. In either case, there are a number of things that you should demand from your WMS solution in order to support change and the ability to handle this Multi-X factor in a sustainable, high-performance environment.

1. It must be possible to start simple and increase complexity as you learn to master – e.g., start labor management using best path templates and refine into individual labor standards.

2. It should be possible to mix and match automated and manual processes with full transparency and control.

3. It needs to connect the operation inside the four walls to a supply chain view on vendor performance and customer commitments to adapt the operation dynamically.

4. It should not take coding efforts to change processes and business logic.

Our core philosophy is to be the Customer-Driven Company. In our CDC Supply Chain solutions, we have integrated support for user-defined workflows and rules, along with supply chain level extensions like yard and workforce management, continuous slotting, and dynamic cross-dock decisions - alll to allow perpetual change and process improvement.

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