In the first blog of this series we looked at definitions of SCM, Food Supply Chain and discussed some key ideas. In the second part, we discussed current trends for SCM Software in the IT Marketplace. In this third part of the series we will be looking at WMS systems and their future.
WMS benefits in Food & Beverage Industry
Increased velocity and throughput is key driver for food & beverage industry to use a WMS system. Growing companies are often hindered by manual and paper based processes. WMS resolves such issues and brings about other benefits like improving the traceability of the products which is quite important for checking the freshness of food & beverage, improvement in inventory accuracy and visibility, integration with automation systems for increased throughput, integration with workforce systems to improve labor productivity and better space utilization in a distribution center. (1)
e-Commerce and Omni Channel explosion
e-Commerce and Omni-Channel retailing are responsible for growing demand of warehouse automation. Number of customers are using smartphones or computers to purchase products online in every sector from electronics to food. While the trend of purchasing grocery online may still be catching up in west, this sector is having a full-explosion in east, particularly China, South Korea and Japan, where there is huge population urban centers and very high demand. Personalized promotions, favorite products, not having to wait in queues, mobile wallet payment and home delivery are some of the factors which drive the consumers. Amazon is an example of global player in this market, even though in China TMall.com & JD.com are the leaders in this sector.
Researches have shown that online grocery shoppers tend to buy more often and spend more. (2) This new demand in online shopping is causing a rapid change in warehouse automation and warehouse systems.
New requirements for WMS systems
Some of the new features implemented by WMS providers focus on integration with automated systems like conveyor belts, better visualization and traceability for managers, high usage of mobile applications and enabling BYOD in a warehouse, and integration with IoT devices like temperature monitors.
From WMS to WCS
Often during holiday times and end of the year sales distribution centers should deal with 6 ~ 10 times the normal demand for products. Globally, companies are seeking ways to maximize throughput, enhancing order accuracy using automated materials handling equipment, high-speed conveyor systems, and robotic applications. Innovative supply chain solutions in today’s next-generation warehouse include pick/put-to-light, auto-guided vehicles for storage and retrieval, voice-directed technology, wearables, radio frequency identification scanning, and robotic applications.
Next generation warehouse operations are linked to integration of material handling equipment, inventory optimization tools, robots and visualization reports. A new trend in software applications is the concept of warehouse control systems (WCS). The WCS enables a DC’s software to interface with its materials handling equipment, order retrieval systems, and distribution technology.