Running a warehouse or distribution operation requires an IT system to support the warehouse manager and the team. The system might be part of the overall business IT system or it might be a specialised warehouse management system, a WMS, that is connected to the business or host system.
Host Systems and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
Ultimately it is the host system / systems that oversees the warehouse system, controls the inbound and stock via purchasing and marketing and the outbound via a sales order system (SOP) and maybe a web SOP system governed by business rules over service levels etc. We help to identify / confirm what “Signals” need to pass between the Host and a Warehouse Management System and where for instance different functions / decisions should happen.
When assisting a business to identify their management system requirements we will get to understand all the host and physical processes. As a first task we will map all those activities so as to understand what a system needs to do, what instructions a user needs to undertake the various activities and what the responses and subsequent actions must be.
In order to identify the requirements we advise not just looking at today’s operation but at what it will be in the middle to long term. Decide on whether this includes a re-engineering of an existing site or procuring a new possibly larger site as either, or both may well require different processes than a current operation. Undertake the design / re-design of the warehouse layout and equipment and then confirm what the physical activities (procedures) and flows are going to be by constructing a high level process map for the entire operation and detailed process maps for every individual activity.
This identifies all the links between activities but also all decision points and potential responses. As importantly identify the high level map will aid in the identification of the volume of product that will be flowing from process to process.
Get this wrong and the WMS solution will not provide the operation with the desired efficiency and may undermine the confidence of the staff.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
This is a task that LPC would aim to bring their expertise into the process and to run in conjunction with clients and their operational staff, a series of workshops to complete SOPS for the following areas:
- Warehouse including Finished Goods. Returns and Empties
- Materials Handling
- Equipment Maintenance
- Gatehouse and Yard Activities
Warehouse Management Systems
A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is the management tool that is defined by the needs of the warehouse operation providing the operator with the tool kit and information to allow for the efficient operation of the warehouse and its activities within the supply chain.
The WMS ideally manages all the physical processes from receiving product through to despatching orders. In basic terms it manages four main and distinct functions: receipt, storage, picking and despatch of product. It therefore manages all activity from door to door and if required, and is specifically equipped to do so, manages from gate to gate, i.e. vehicles and product from point of arrival onto the site until they depart.
Other core features encompass areas such as: inventory management, lot or batch tracking, order processing functionality, product movement tracking, resource tracking and management, stock control, management information and reporting. Beyond these offerings, the application must interface to the business systems either directly or via middleware.
We have a great deal of experience in helping a business install a WMS into their operation. LPC are able to assist a business in identifying what is needed from a functional requirement and helping a business through the selection and purchasing processes and finally implementation.
Three of the steps required to successfully procuring and implementing a WMS are:
- Process Mapping
- A Functional Design Specification
- Standard Operating Procedures
Functional Design Specifications
As part of the procurement process a functional specification should have been produced against which suppliers will have quoted. Once the supplier has been selected the really detailed work begins.
A process begins to produce a Functional Design Specification (FDS). This is a document which sets out to confirm the functionality that is going to be provided by the system, how these interfaces to other systems will work and describes the interfaces to the users. We advise that to ensure that the team producing and signing off this document is carefully chosen. There should be input from operations as well as IT and other departments. External expertise, such as from LPC, helps to police (keep on track and within the parameters of the functional specification) the aspirations of the user and the understanding of the supplier
These are very much based on the FDS but include details outside the scope of the WMS. These include activities from the security booking in procedure to the warehouse and-the search and checking out process from the warehouse, to actions in the event of, for instance, an accident or a fire to a vehicle and MHE checking and maintenance. It will include elements such as what clothing and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has to be worn and in which parts of the facility and other safety oriented aspects such as vehicle and MHE routes and pedestrian routes.