Warehouse management systems run machine learning software to maintain a warehouse or distribution center (or a fleet of them). Any industry can use these systems.
A good warehouse or distribution center management system accelerates the entire inventory management and shipping process. The warehouse receives inventory, records it accurately, stores it for easy retrieval, and prepares for deliveries. The management system also ensures safe storage of inventory in the case of hazardous or flammable items.
Warehouse management systems also track productivity and integrate with other business software so that all processes run smoothly.
In addition to inventory data (SKUs, RFIDs, etc.), a good WMS also needs the following: warehouse location and type, employee numbers and productivity rates, and customer orders. Also useful are historical transaction and promotional campaign data.
To run an effective WMS, businesses need delivery location and road quality data. Season data or calendar data is also useful, to prepare for holiday or seasonal shopping trends.
Useful external data includes ERP (enterprise resource planning) and TMS (transportation management system) software. Warehouse management software may be included as part of a larger company ERP software, but if not, it would be good to integrate the WMS with the invoice, order, and inventory management systems of the company.
One of the greatest challenges of this case is scale: while there are many options to purchase WMS if a business cannot build one custom, these software solutions do not always grow with the company as it does. As well, continuously changing software systems is costly and increases the likelihood of employee error in using it.
Another issue is customer expectations of near-immediate delivery and exceptional service. While WMS software makes delivery as fast as possible, they leave no room for errors or unexpected problems like stolen packages; industry giants can issue full refunds or send replacement items, but small businesses cannot always eat the cost.
Finally, the industry is moving toward replacing human employees with robots. While large companies work to make the process of integrating robots—especially different kinds of robots—into one software system, it remains difficult and very time-consuming.
DHL Supply Chain and Blue Yonder Inc. over the past year have been collaborating on Robotics Hub, a software platform designed to more quickly integrate robotics systems into warehouse operations.
The platform is currently online at one location near Madrid, where it has already reduced integration time for new robot systems by 60%, said Markus Voss, DHL Supply Chain’s global chief information officer and chief operating officer.
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