In today's fluid business environment, companies face the daunting task of anticipating future developments so that opportunities can be seized and action taken to negate the impact of possible threats, writes Steve Richmond, Director of Jungheinrich UK Ltd.'s Systems & Projects Division.
And anyone looking to 'future proof' a warehouse or intralogistics operation has to consider the role of the warehouse management system (WMS). Software is the heartbeat of any modern storage and handling solution – regardless of whether manual, semi-automated or fully-automated technology is employed – and the initial design and specification of the WMS will determine how flexible a facility will be going forward.
For example, if you currently operate a manual warehouse and employ conventional order picking technology, could your WMS adapt if you were suddenly faced with an upsurge of online orders which brought about a dramatic shift in your typical order profile?
Order processing profiles and picking requirements may change significantly. For example, a facility may suddenly be required to shift from a bulk or unit load-based operation by a customer-driven need to fulfill single item picks at a much higher frequency. But what if the WMS or flow controller couldn't accommodate this change?
Here are five tips for anyone charged with selecting a 'future proof' WMS.
- Recognise where the system's boundaries are – and ensure that they are flexible enough to move with your demands.
- Select robust software that has an established track record – rather than a system that has been developed uniquely for your use.
- Try to choose a suite that is feature rich – you may not need many of the built-in functions now but it is reassuring to know that they are there and can be switched on in the future should you require them.
- Be wary of ERP systems that boast WMS functionality – in many cases, the WMS is often very limited
- Ensure that your WMS allows for semi- or fully-automated materials handling systems to be introduced in the future.
Jungheinrich now offers a complete warehouse management system software suite to complement its comprehensive range of materials handling solutions.
In its standard form, the Jungheinrich WMS supports an extensive variety of functions as well as centralised master data management. The WMS controls and optimises a range of processes such as incoming and outgoing goods management and order picking.
The software supports the complete transparency of all processes through its extensive reporting features and individually configurable analysis options. It can be linked to numerous system environments using standard interfaces and can be adapted to fit with existing systems.
The system also offers a series of special functions and extensions for complex logistics processes or automated warehouse facilities. For instance, route management, hazardous substance storage, multi-client capability and material flow modules can be simply added as required.
Above all, our system is flexible - and flexibility is essential. If you do not have it in your WMS or flow control software your ability to adapt your business model is very limited and your chances of moving with the changing demands of your business will be greatly diminished.