Distribution centers are always on the lookout for ways to improve efficiency, cut labor costs, and boost accuracy. As a result, manual processes and manual labor are steadily being replaced by automation. According to MHI’s Annual Industry Report And Survey of 2019, yet another concern for considering automated material handling solutions at distribution centers is hiring the right workers for order handling and fulfillment processes. The shortage of skilled labor combined with other operational concerns is forcing distribution centers to consider automated warehouse software solutions to improve efficiency.
So what do DC operators look for in automated warehouse software solutions? They want a best-of-breed solution that combines advanced software solutions, MHEs (Material Handling Equipment), and other automation technologies to drive warehouse productivity.
Software solutions that are implemented in distribution centers enhance warehouse automation requirements. Additionally, automated storage and retrieval solutions for order picking and other key tasks improve distribution center efficiency and productivity considerably.
Enterprises are switching to WCS, WES, and/ or WMS software solutions. It is important to understand each solution to know about the benefits it offers to warehouses.
● WMS (Warehouse Management System) - WMS can be defined as a specialized software solution that controls the flow of inventory data, tracking inventory, managing orders, as well as order waving, when necessary. It can allocate inventory to a specific order, consolidate orders on a deck, create pack slips, as well as manage labor tasks and orders from receipt to shipping.
● WCS (Warehouse Control System) - WCS can be defined as a real-time, integrated software control system that can exchange communication and command processing functionalities in real-time. It can exchange discrete equipment signals to control the flow of items and cartons as they travel through different types of automated equipment such as conveyors, sorters, and so on. The WCS receives data inputs from the WMS and then directs the equipment to perform the predefined functions.
● WES (Warehouse Execution System) - WES can be defined as a distribution software solution that coordinates and executes manual and automated workflows in real-time. Based on the available labor and capacity, the WES performs workflow automation to tasks based on priority.
Material handling solutions enable the movement, storage, protection, and control of materials throughout the phases of manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, as well as consumption and disposal.
An automated material handling solution (MHS) improves the workflow fulfillment process and reduces the number of steps required to perform a task. By maximizing the product per trip, it reduces the time required during picking, putting away, and replenishment of products. Additionally, an MHS reduces layout congestion and overcrowding in the distribution center.
The following are the key benefits a material handling solution provides:
Automated material handling equipment enhances connectivity with the help of integrated high-quality machine-level communicating sensors. The intelligent automated processes of a material handling software allow a wide range of data to be accessed and mined from sensors embedded within the equipment. This process of data collection in real-time leverages the benefits offered by cloud-based data storage, analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning technologies.
Thus automating operations in a distribution center with the right software and material handling solution improves resource utilization as well as enables labor and cost optimization.
Automating warehouse operations can improve the effectiveness of warehouse operations in a multitude of ways. Below are a few tools that are widely used in distribution centers:
● Investing in automated software such as AS/RS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) - This is a computer-controlled system that automatically stores and retrieves products from pre-defined places within the warehouse.
● Warehouse Organizing - A sorting inventory software best solves the problem of organizing products systematically.
● ASN (Advance Ship Notices) - This software alerts the warehouse when the shipment is in transit so that the staff can plan well ahead.
● RFID Tags and Scanners - These tags can collect data about various operations and provide insights to improve material handling processes.
Sensor technologies and automated sortation solutions provide improved workflow and productivity to distribution centers as compared to traditional approaches. For a complete guide on how to improve warehouse automation, give us a call and talk to our experts today.
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