Article • Sales Tip
Integrating Technology Beyond the Office
Written By Jim Heilborn, INDEAL • February 16, 2022
It’s fairly common to think about integrating technology inside the office. Progressive dealers and manufacturers, however, know the importance of also integrating technology throughout the organization, including the warehouse, delivery, and project management. The use of technology in operations helps reduce costs, enhances delivery systems, and improves quality for both the dealer and the customer…even dealers who outsource their labor.
One of the greatest benefits of technology integration in operations is the ability to improve efficiency and productivity…and also keep up or stay ahead of the competition.
The purpose of technology in operations is to replace repetitive tasks with automated systems in order to reduce or eliminate labor-intensive or time-consuming tasks.
WMS – Warehouse Management Systems
A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software solution. Its primary function is to streamline and unify the tasks and processes associated with operating a warehouse and its associated services.
A WMS is sometimes provided as part of an integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite of business applications. For example, Core and Team Design offer some of these functions in their programs.
Basically, warehouse management involves the processes involved in running the daily operations of a warehouse, often including delivery and installation. This may include receiving and shipping, warehouse space allocation, scheduling of labor and deliveries, asset management/inventory, and project management. WMS’s can integrate these varied activities, so they work together seamlessly to increase productivity and reduce costs.
When evaluating a WMS, it’s often helpful to keep your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) in mind and see how they help your company reach its goals.
I’ve listed some areas where KPIs can be helped by a WMS… there could be more…it depends on each company’s business model.
- On-time and In-full Delivery
- P.O.D. (Proofs of Delivery)
- Time in Transit
- Inventory and Asset Management
- Project Management
- Process Cycle-time Improvement
- Increased Customer Satisfaction
Inventory Management vs. Warehouse Management
It’s important to understand that there is a difference between inventory management and warehouse management. Inventory management is centered on efficiently and effectively ordering, storing, moving, and picking the materials needed to make products or fulfill orders. It can also be receiving and shipping of new products. In addition, it can be about receiving and maintaining customer-owned products (customer storage). Programs such as SnapTracker and Asset Winn Management Systems are good examples.
Warehouse management, on the other hand, is a broader term that includes other aspects of warehouse operations, such as warehouse organization and design, labor allocation, order fulfillment, warehouse monitoring, installation, project management, and reporting. It very often includes an inventory module.
As previously written, the right WMS should align with the operations team’s KPIs. It should also help them attain departmental goals and objectives.
General warehouse management is typically comprised of six primary processes. Each process can influence the efficiency of the next. These are:
Receiving – Check-in and log incoming items. Verify that you’re receiving the right quantity, in the right condition, at the right time.
Put-away – Move items from the receiving dock to their correct storage locations.
Storage – Safely store and logically arrange inventory to enable fast and accurate picking. Space allocation.
Picking – Collect the items needed to fulfill sales orders.
Packing – Prepare the picked items for shipment. They must be safely packed into the correct packaging with an accurate packing slip.
Shipping – Send out the finalized sales orders, ensuring that they are on the right vehicle, at the right time, with the correct documentation, so customers receive their orders on time.
In the office furniture industry, several more processes must be considered:
Reporting – Creating an inventory list of available products that includes condition, location, and costs.
Errors and Omissions – Tracking mistakes that may hold up job completion and payment.
Delivery Scheduling for Installation – Ensuring the product to be installed is onsite JIT.
Project Management – Tracking acknowledgments and the progress of installations all the way through, from punch list to final sign-off.
Selecting the Right WMS – It is important to keep in mind that a WMS is not meant to turn things around overnight. Implementation of a WMS will require an investment of both time and money upfront.
There are plenty of websites marketing WMS’s, and they give you pages and pages about their features, advantages, and benefits. To save you some time, however, here is a list I’ve compiled to help you justify the investment and assist with your own selection process.
- ROI – Will the system help create the desired efficiencies, productivity, and cost savings to justify the investment?
- Does the WMS address the needs of your business?
- Is the WMS compatible with your other technology?
- What level of training and customer support can the WMS vendor offer?
- Does the WMS have experience in the furniture industry?
- Is your business large enough to take advantage of the features?
- Do you have the staff to handle the WMS?
- Does the WMS provide the right reporting features?
- Is the WMS upgradable? What are the associated costs? Maintenance costs?
- Is the WMS an on-site or cloud-based service?
- Will the WMS require specific hardware?
There are lots of questions you will need to have answered before making an investment in a WMS. Finally, however, here are five reasons I found to consider further investigation:
- Inventory Control and Management
- Improved Customer Service and Tracking
- Greater Productivity
- Return on Investment
- Improved Communication
Jim Heilborn is INDEAL’s Training and Development Consultant specializing in the office furniture/products industry, working nationwide with dealers, manufacturers, and service providers. Jim has been associated with INDEAL since 2011, focused on training and dealer development. Jim can be reached at email@example.com.
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