2017 has been viewed as the year when many companies migrate to SaaS (Software as a service) WMS (Warehouse Management Software) platforms, which will help to change and improve the workflow in a number of crucial areas. Working in real-time offers a whole range of crucial advantages that improve both speed and operational efficiency. SaaS WMS systems are available on almost any device, and once in place, the impact can be seen almost immediately.
For those who have not yet come across, or looked into the benefits of these systems, we’ll provide a quick overview of what exactly they can add to your business.
A ringing bell that will catch most people’s attentions in the first instance. Instead of having to invest in specialised hosting equipment or waiting for dedicated code to be created for the system, SaaS WMS can be directly connected to your existing platform. Having dedicated IT experts employed within the staff is no longer a requirement, as technical support will be provided as one of the subscription features. The payment options place you in full control of how long you commit to any particular system, meaning that you only pay for however long you are using it.
Implementation and Scalability
A great advantage is that migrating your existing inventory system into a SaaS based platform should not incur any loss of data. It all comes down to choosing the right supplier who understands how your current process and network is configured. There are no requirements to roll out staff training on backing up the system, upgrades, recovery or dealing with system administration. The provider relieves you of that pressure as it is all hosted on their server. This also applies to the growth of data from ongoing use and for any new versions and updates that may occur.
Real-time Inventory and Tracking
It almost goes without saying that having instant visibility of your inventory allows you to react to demand fluctuations, without depleting your minimum stock levels; a perilous position you’d want to avoid at all costs. The barcodes on each product will also become a rich source of information, even after they have been picked and despatched for delivery. So in-turn, each time the barcode is scanned, the additional data will be registered, allowing you to access updates on the status of the product. You can go one-step further and incorporate the transportation GPS data to create real-time tracking information.
The pricing models found in using SaaS WMS means that small to medium sized business have instant access to the best technology around. This quickly puts them on a par with some of the largest companies in the world, and gives you a significant advantage over any immediate competitor that is using an outdated or less robust system. Working on a subscription based service, the package will cover 24 hour support, 7 days a week, maintenance, upgrades, ongoing product development and of course, security of your inventory data.
This is invaluable for warehouse managers who need to gain quick access to their warehouse inventory when they are away from the office. Because it is internet based, then the information can be reached at any time and from any location, provided there is an internet connection available. Should they be needed, this enables management to initiate quick changes even if there are not physically on the premises. This sort of flexibility is the ideal situation for any business, as it leaves no operational situation out of their control.
The implementation of Horizontal Carousel Storage Systems has increased significantly over the past few years, as warehouses that require solutions for parts delivery, high speed automated picking or sortation applications search for long-term answers. What these systems have enabled companies to do is improve speed of storage and retrieval of goods in a way that is both cost-effective and reliable without having to compromise.
How It Works
A Horizontal Carousel system is, in simple terms, a succession of wire bins and shelves attached to an oval track which rotates to deliver the requested inventory to each individual operator. To ensure complete operational efficiency, they are typically used in pods. A pod consists of at least two horizontal carousels used in a workstation that utilises software and pick-to-light technology. This means when the operator is picking from one carousel, the other is positioning itself ahead of the next pick, shortening operational downtime.
The reason horizontal carousels are used in conjunction with pick-to-light technology is that it allows the operator to be guided towards the exact location of the next pick. The light tree highlights where to pick from next and the exact quantity required.
This is particularly helpful when it comes to batch picking, which used in conjunction with inventory management software, enabling the operator to pick multiple orders simultaneously. For example, when the horizontal carousel displays a stockkeeping unit, the operator can select how many is needed for each order before distributing.
The reduction in search and travel time should mean lower labour expenses, improved order accuracy and maximisation of throughput. Incorporating the horizontal carousel software into an ERP or WCS system will also augment system flow.
Aside from the many operational benefits, one of the main reasons for its increased popularity is the systems adaptability. There are a variety of widths and heights available which allows it to be customised to suit a company’s specific requirements. The ability to double stack opens up the possibility of creating multiple picking zones on separate levels, if installed within mezzanine flooring. The shelves themselves can also be adjusted and there are a number of varying bin heights and widths to choose from.
This flexibility can be implemented to support seasonal periods where higher order quantities are typically more common. For example, if a pod of four horizontal carousels is currently operated by one operator, re-organising this into two double sets makes room for an additional worker. This can be done by simply dividing the pods via the software system, which will in-turn improve speed and of course efficiency.
These type of adjustments become particularly significant for growing organisations, as they can scale up to match customer demand. If they are moving to larger premises, rather than investing in an entirely new system, they can build on-top of the existing process, cutting out additional costs that can prove to be extremely expensive and time consuming.
Of course, this is only a general overview of how a horizontal carousel system works and while we have covered some of the advantages that can be gained, the list of associated benefits are extensive. Installation of the system can also help to increase storage space and allow for a broader and more versatile product range. Perhaps most importantly of all, it will transmit a real-time inventory which will prove invaluable in terms of optimising supply chain productivity.
Changing, or moving to, an automated system is a big step for any business, which means seeing a clear return on your investment is of paramount importance. A horizontal carousel system will not only offer a sustained and reliable service, but create significant improvements to any operation.
Improving efficiency during the manufacturing phase is a never-ending process, stretching back as far as the Industrial Revolution and beyond. Business owners continue to source ways to reduce costs, while maintaining sustainable selling margins in an increasingly competitive marketplace. There is a fear that the growth of automated systems will eventually lead to the replacement of workers on the production line. This is especially true for those working in smaller organisations. This does not have to be the case. The ideal scenario is that machines are used to work alongside and assist current employees, particularly on repetitive tasks that create fatigue.
The food industry in particular has long since been a champion of automated packaging, taking advantage of the exponential leaps in technology that have occurred over the past half a century or so. For businesses thinking of moving across to automated packaging there are two main options available, all of which can be adapted to suit the size and demands of your operation.
This is very much a collaborative process between workers and the machines during the manufacturing process. One of the great benefits of this way of working is the flexibility it offers. A skilled worker has the ability to think of and apply solutions beyond the remit of most machines that have been set to work within strict parameters. Instead of waiting for the machine to address or attempt to correct the issue, they can be solved without losing valuable downtime.
If a production line currently involves the manual strapping of over 50 packages a day, adding a semi-automated machine would lead to noticeable improvements. Not only would it create a faster process and allow for more packages to be strapped, but the consistency of the packaging finish would be a lot higher. Semi-automation also allows room for operators to make adjustments to the packaging if required, rather than leaving it entirely in the hands of the machine.
Much of the reason why the food and pharmaceutical industries have turned to full automation is because of the strict industry guidelines they must adhere to. A recent study found that humans were responsible for up to 80% of errors that occurred during manufacturing in these sectors. Aside the huge fines that can be imposed, employee safety is of paramount importance. Automated machinery completely removes this concern for both worker and employer.
As long as regular maintenance is performed, packaging-line automation is not only more reliable but can be adapted to work with a wider range of products. By increasing space within the production line, it will allow for businesses to adapt and grow incrementally, rather than making commitments to larger premises that would then have to be passed onto production costs. A fully automated packaging system will not only lead to a far higher throughput but also more consistency in terms of the packaging presentation.
Of course, budget will no doubt play a key part in deciding which of these solutions are more viable. Updating out-of-date equipment is crucial within any business and striking the right balance between investment and short and long-term return encompasses a number of considerations.
If there is uncertainty about shifting from a manual process straight into one that is fully automated, a good starting point for many is a slow transitional period. Not only will many of the benefits of automation quickly become apparent, but it allows for business owners to have more control about the changeover and to train the existing workforce at a manageable pace. Turning to automation offers a wide range of benefits and is far from as daunting or scary as it may first appear to be.