Warehousing has lagged other business areas in adopting advanced decision support capabilities, but this is no longer acceptable or sustainable. Warehouses now need more sophisticated tools to deal with the complexities of the modern supply chain.
Modern-day warehouses are complex due to additional constraints from labor shortages, lack of warehouse space and increased order volume. This new level of complexity drives the need to add sophisticated planning and scheduling tools to address constraint-based issues within the warehouse.
Today’s WMS applications remain functionally siloed and fail to optimize end-to-end processes. At most sites, to get around these siloed shortcomings, there are numerous manual “spreadsheet” steps, tribal knowledge processes, or python scripts developed to extend existing capabilities and enable operators to do their jobs effectively.
To provide the value that executives are looking for without the traditional cost of WMS upgrades or projects, a new category of “WMS accelerator” software is emerging. WMS accelerators exist to look across all the fragmented operations at a distribution center (or campus of distribution centers) and optimize labor, touches, and inventory to drive efficiency.
WMS accelerators pull in data from warehouse management, yard management, order management, visibility and production systems to provide a single, unified view of operations. They then take all that data and apply digital twin technology to predict what will happen. This technology takes in the current state from all systems and shipment and order information, and plays the future forward based on known constraints such as labor, inventory and task times.
Playing forward warehouse operations identifies process bottlenecks but doesn’t resolve them. To do that effectively, WMS accelerators create a prescriptive plan to ensure that demand is met while respecting all the existing constraints inside the building, taking into account labor availability, inventory availability, task sequences and more. This process creates optimal schedules for everybody involved in the operation.
These solutions adapt and rebalance activities based on what actually happens inside of a warehouse in near-real time. It’s important to balance labor with what needs to be done to fill orders on time. Big distribution centers have hundreds of inbounds and outbounds each day. Managing all these activities can’t be done on paper or in the WMS.
Practically speaking, WMS accelerators rearrange picking schedules, change dock times (while still meeting the carrier pick-up time), create transfers, schedule just-in-time replenishments and much more, to ensure that all shipments are made without inventory cuts. A WMS accelerator enables all crews to work off of one single playbook, with much of the scheduling adaptive to changes and, most importantly, automated.
WMS accelerator technology is revolutionizing how warehouse operations are run, while simultaneously pulling the warehouse software landscape out of the dark ages and into the 21st century. With implementation times on the scale of weeks to months, WMS accelerators are quickly becoming a household name for consumer goods, grocery and direct-to-customer organizations.
Keith Moore is chief product officer with AutoScheduler.AI.
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