Understanding the Role Software Plays in Intelligent Storage Solutions
Without software driving the technology, automated storage solutions would be merely motorized shelving. Software enables the system to automate the picking process. In this way, the system is directing the operator versus the operator directing the system.
The software makes it easier to optimize employees for picking. The equipment drives what may be an untrained operator in a very systematic way to fulfill orders while increasing pick accuracy.
Gain an understanding of how hardware and various software options can work together to create greater operational efficiencies. After reading, you will know the various warehouse software options available and how to close system gaps.
Optimizing the workforce is not all the software can do!
The software in intelligent storage solutions can track processes, such as who performed what task, when a task was performed, how accurately a function was executed, and how long it took. High level tracking allows for continuous auditing of the process and design improvements. Identifying where processes may lack efficiency or where employees may require additional training can result in improvements across the warehouse.
Moreover, the software can also integrate multiple systems together to create a fluid and dynamic automated process. At a minimum, there are typically two layers of software in these systems.
The first layer involves the machine control which drives the physical machine to perform. Next, there is the Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and/or Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) layer. This layer interfaces between the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and the automated equipment.
When organizations do not have a WMS or WCS system, there can be a major gap when printed pick tickets will need to be completed. While some ERP and WMS modules support paperless picking, often these processes are manual and data entry intensive. While you may eliminate the paper, you are not eliminating the inefficiencies associated with it
Consider two examples of how White was able to close process gaps:
GAP ISSUE #1
An organization had a top customer that often placed orders that needed to be shipped within the hour, but they did not have software to automate priority orders within their picking processes.
As a result, there was no way to ensure high priority orders were placed before less urgent orders—unless a specific person was assigned to the high priority order, taking them away from another job and rendering them less efficient overall.
We applied software to drive this organization’s processes so they could prioritize orders without taking a picker away from another job. Utilizing this software creates more efficient picking, closes fulfillment gaps, and allows one order to be fulfilled immediately without delaying existing orders and diminishing overall productivity.
For organizations using a paper-based ordering system, the benefits of intelligent software are obvious. For those users who already have a software system for inventory management, the benefits to using a system approach can also be enhanced. Ideally, using software in tandem with WMS and/or WCS systems is the preferred approach.
GAP ISSUE #2
An organization needed a specific application designed to improve warehouse picking efficiency and accuracy. This organization was using a manual, time-consuming, and labor-intensive paper picking process. With so many hands involved in the process, there were countless redundant manual data entry processes for mistakes to occur and inefficiencies to grow.
From the initial design, we knew that we had to apply a software system to drive the application and reduce the number of people involved. Our software was configured to automatically prioritize orders and uncover the most efficient picking paths, which included pick scenarios such as batch and cluster picking that were far more efficient than discreet order picking. Picking errors were addressed and efficiencies increased.
Graduating to an intelligent storage system
The optimum use of software is to effectively manage and drive warehouse processes. The more you can tie the layers of a warehouse operation together and automate them, the greater the accuracy, speed, and throughput you will see in your facility.
All parties in the process – from software provider, hardware provider, internal IT, and warehouse personnel – need to be brought into the system design process, as well as the implementation of the software solution.
This will ensure all relevant areas ca be addressed and highlighted in the process so everyone is playing their role in the integration of an optimal software solution. In many cases, companies are able to take advantage of technologies that are already on-site. Integrating those technologies into an automated system is one of the smartest decisions you can make.