The problem for large organizations stems from the diversity of the distribution center itself, ranging from the giant one with perhaps hundreds of operators inside to the small facilities with only a handful of pickers.
Warehouse management systems typically have been geared to just one size facility, the large, the small or something in between, but without the ability to scale from one size to another.
That has changed, Reichert says, and those looking to invest in a WMS should speak with those companies who have successfully scaled across warehouses of different dimensions and diverse product lines. That will surely help you in enlisting executive mandate for a single rollout across your organization.
Scalability is a significant development in an industry has not seen anything revolutionary taking place inside the four walls of the distribution center the way the consumer market has with such things as the iPod, Reichert says. "We've seen small increments in efficiencies, but nothing radical."
Along those lines, another development of note is the transition from a text-based environment to one that's become quite visual. "It changes the paradigm on how these operations work," says Reichert.
Traditionally, information was given to operators in text form. They read it, then searched for the proper bin or whatever and acted, one hoped, according to the written instructions. "Today, we're taking an image and matching it with what's in front of the operator."
The result? Traditionally, efficiency in the DC was boosted by decreasing time or incorporating multiple tasks. It's the same today, but the visual element makes those tasks easier, Reichert says. Moreover, it further reduces inaccuracies. This is of paramount importance in, say, a distribution facility for a healthcare provider. There may be tens of thousands of SKUs in this high-volume, low-order environment. It's critical to pick not only the right quantity of the designated item but of the right measure.
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