In the previous article we discussed the issue of which warehouse operations exert the greatest influence on how customers evaluate the work of the warehouse and that of our shop. We concluded that, depending on the mode of warehouse work, each of the warehouse operations may be of key significance. Before we start discussing the warehouse operations in detail, it is worth mentioning the significance of Warehouse Management Systems in supporting them. Furthermore, we should also discuss whether it is possible to organise an effective warehouse for our online shop without a Warehouse Management System.
What, though, is a Warehouse Management System?
A Warehouse Management System (and there are many of them) is intended to maintain order in the warehouse and to support the warehousemen in all the activities that they conduct. Warehouse Management Systems usually utilise the warehouse terminals and EAN code (bar code) readers, even though the available quantity of the warehouse equipment is huge and constantly increases.
What exactly does a Warehouse Management System do?
Remember where each product is stored in the warehouse.
- Automatically recognise locations and products scanned by a warehouseman, hence maintaining the whole warehouse documentation (registering each movement of the stored goods).
- Show how to find appropriate locations (racks, shelves in the warehouse).
- Verify whether a warehouseman collects the required goods from the locations.
- Verify whether an order being executed includes all the required products for that order.
In short, they release the warehousemen from the need to remember and write down everything that they do and everything that takes place in the warehouse. Thanks to the integration with the sales systems, they eliminate the need to execute orders on the basis of printouts, cards, notes etc. The process of order execution by a warehouseman is a natural continuation of the sales processes, and so may be effectively verified by the Sales Department.
Does this mean that nowadays the warehouse has no opportunities to work fast and effectively without the support of Warehouse Management Systems? Not necessarily. Everything depends on the scale of the sales, the size of the warehouse and the experience of the warehousemen.
If our online shop executes relatively small numbers of orders per day (e.g. less than 100), we may achieve a highly efficient warehouse without investing huge sums of money in Warehouse Management Systems. Problems begin to arise when we see increased numbers of orders, higher levels of stock or huge rotations of warehouse staff.
In such situations, the advantages relating to implementing a Warehouse Management System become clearer as Warehouse Management Systems, like any information management system, become better than people when it comes to remembering many apparently small details (e.g. where any of several hundreds of products are) or when activities must all be done in exactly the same manner (e.g. the manner of packing the ordered goods). It is also very important when we have to immediately calculate which route should be selected in order to collect the goods from five different warehouse shelves as quickly as possible.
The main task of a Warehouse Management System is…
…supporting warehousemen in situations requiring reliable memory, consistency or complicated calculations. However, we must always bear in mind that no Warehouse Management System, even the best and the most expensive one, will create an effective warehouse for our online shop on its own. In this case, a strong team of warehousemen and reasonable procedures regarding the performance of each warehouse operation are required. This always means we need a human being.