The prevalence of e-commerce and omnichannel retailing has helped sell warehouse management systems, says Troianello. “Back in the day, warehouses shipped pallets and maybe some cases, but with e-commerce the transaction volume has gone up because you are picking one piece at a time. Today’s orders may have one or two lines and you are shipping many small pieces. All that activity is difficult to handle with manual processes.”
When looking for a WMS, the first thing that customers ask for is visibility, says Troianello. Visibility probably does not represent the biggest benefit they will get from a warehouse system, he says, but it is their most immediate problem. “If you don’t know or can’t find what is in your warehouse, you will have customers ordering things you don’t have or you will order more from your vendor than you actually need,” he notes.
“Once companies get a WMS in place, they typically find that the greatest benefit is all the information they didn’t have before, which allows them to optimize their operations to a much greater degree than they expected,” Troianello says.
Cost always is a concern, particularly around implementation, but Troianello says there are many ways customers can control costs. “The number one way is to be involved in the project,” he says. “The biggest mistake I see customers make is failing to have power users available to spend time on the project and go to training. When the implementation is complete, you should have three, four or five experts on the system. That will reduce your costs.”
In terms of reducing ongoing costs, companies need to continuously look for ways to make improvements, he says. “People tend to overlook what is really an opportunity cost,” he says. “The system is working well, life is easier and they sit back on their laurels. When that happens they are missing ongoing opportunities every month and every quarter to improve processes in the warehouse. If you just sit back, then two or three or four years from now you will have given up 10 or 20 or 30 percent efficiency, because the business changed and you didn’t.”
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