In highly competitive industries, having an accurate accounting of inventory can make or break a brand. Warehouse management systems (WMS) can track deliveries, current product, incoming inventory, stock placement, and work processes to enable leaner and more profitable operations. They are key to reaching a zero-error warehouse.
Mining that data leads to a more efficient supply chain and less overall waste. In fact, better inventory tracking can reduce a company’s inventory holding costs, which generally fall between 20 to 30 percent of the total cost of inventory.
Dig Into the Data
With detailed information, a cloud-based WMS gives operators information about which products are moving and where. Companies can use that data to spot broad trends and market-specific fads. With advanced data analytics, companies can predict inventory needs based on real-time or past fulfillment data categorized by product, location, or date; that takes the guesswork out of inventory orders, reducing overstock and potential waste.
Analytics can also be used to help companies organize warehouses. Grouping together commonly purchased items or placing high-volume merchandise in easy-to-access positions expedites order fulfillment. Automating error-prone manual processes improves cycle time. Data-driven insights can lead to adjustments in staffing levels, workflow, and productivity. Leveraging data from other management systems, like resource planning and fleet management systems, can further streamline operations throughout the organization.
High-Flying Inventory Trackers
To ensure the WMS has the most up-to-date information, some companies are using drones to take inventory. Verity has created an automated self-flying fleet with an integrated software system that allows drones to hover at predetermined locations to check stock. Verity claims its drone-based inventory system is 99.9 percent accurate and delivers a return on investment in less than 12 months.
The drones use AI and computer vision to scan barcodes and confirm pallet contents and positions, then upload the information to the WMS. Employees can review digital images to reconcile anomalies within the system. Advanced analytics allow operators to dig into inventory details to glean otherwise hidden information.
Netherlands-based logistics company DSV piloted the Verity drone system and found it reduced the time needed to count inventory by half. DSV has since deployed drones in warehouses across Europe and expects to spend about 80 percent less time taking inventory.
Warehouse management systems are the key link between the supply chain and the customer. With a growing demand for goods and services and high customer expectations, the importance of advanced data analytics cannot be overstated. They provide actionable insights and informed decision-making to optimize operations, bringing companies one step closer to the zero-error warehouse.
Image credit: Hitachi Vantara