Warehouse Management: Right Time, Right Place in Retailing

There’s an evolution from the existing physical and technical warehouse management infrastructure to capabilities offering multiple methods to store, pick, and process orders. Dan Grimm, solution strategist at JDA, sees progress in a number of areas of warehouse management systems (WMS), including value-added services (VAS), food safety, the use of voice, and mobile tech­nology. A VAS (and food safety) example Grimm provides is capturing temperature in the nose, middle, and tail of a trailer to be sure it’s in the range for refrigerated or frozen food, and indi­cating whether products can go to the store, require more testing, or are rejected. This means standard methods are followed. One warehouse trend is the use of voice to replace paper and RF (radio frequency) technology, giving retailers better productivity.

Mobility, Grimm notes, has given warehouse supervisors the abilities to do their job and be on the floor. “The new mobile technology lets them have real-time visibility, make changes from a tablet device, and be on the floor with employees, all at once.” Trends he anticipates are omnichannel fulfillment and multiple methods to store, pick, and process orders; warehouse optimiza­tion by having better visibility of demand within the network; and in-store logistics in which retailers adapt WMS to be used in stores.

Eric Lamphier, a senior director at Manhattan Associates, says labor management (LM) issues have been addressed by his firm by embedding an LM module inside the WMS solution and making the module part of every conversation, including sales, implementation, support, and upgrades. Food retailers’ “pioneer­ing efforts in this area have paid off. Our focal point has been tablet capabilities delivered via a hybrid mobile app that provides distri­bution center managers with real-time data about the operation.”

Reducing total cost of ownership is an ongoing chal­lenge, according to Lamphier, who says Manhattan Associ­ates is continuing to advance its Management Center module, which handles installation, cloning, monitoring, patching, and synchronization for all platform solutions. “These capabilities have been shown to lower implementation times and costs so our customers can realize benefits more rapidly.”

Lamphier notes that E-commerce order-fulfillment expec­tations, approaches, and standard operating procedures have evolved rapidly over the past decade and require sophisticated, nonstop integration between warehouse management and the Enterprise Order Management suite. “We expect the future to be full of these projects as investments go mainstream, and upgrade and replacement cycles transpire.”

At HighJump, territory manager Roger Falkenstein says online firms meet the E-commerce challenge by turning the store environment into a distribution center, resulting in such new requirements as supporting consumer-grade devices, dis­playing product images to help locate mixed-SKU item loca­tions, enabling workflows for item substitutions, handling variable-weight and -temperature items, and fostering interac­tion between store associates and customers to manage special needs, exceptions, and various delivery methods. “We’ve taken our traditional warehouse platform and built applications to support store requirements and to drive efficiency, control, and visibility throughout the in-store fulfillment process.”

A remaining challenge, as Falkenstein sees it, is the train­ing of high-turnover staff. Driving efficiency is a priority, and grocers are looking for user-friendly tools to train employees quickly. “HighJump’s philosophy is to have simple instructions, “directing users step by step with optimized workflows and minimized walk times. This helps keep the learning curve low and labor costs at a profitable level.”

Source: Barry Berman, Joel R Evans, Patrali Chatterjee (2017), Retail Management: A Strategic Approach, Pearson; 13th edition.

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