The consistent availability of goods, perfectly tailored to the needs of consumers, is essential for smoothly functioning supply chains and entrepreneurial efficiency. In order to be able to plan which goods can be delivered when and to what extent, a thorough and transparent warehouse management becomes essential. In our latest blog article, we discuss the specific advantages of systems that are individually tailored to a company’s intralogistics as well as the question, which technologies support warehousing solutions. Further, we explain why optimized warehouse logistics can strengthen the supply chain in the long term.
- Warehousing solutions – Here’s why warehouse optimization is so important for SCM
- Optimized warehouse logistics: The advantages for companies
- Well-planned processes: How to successfully optimize the warehouse
- Technologies that support warehousing solutions
- Warehouse optimization – What are the obstacles?
- Conclusion: Warehousing solutions – Optimized warehouse logistics for long-term success
1. Warehousing solutions – Here’s why warehouse optimization is so important for supply chain management
Efficient, resilient and sustainable supply chains depend on many different factors. For processes to run as smoothly as possible, many steps and activities must be coordinated – from the procurement of raw materials to the delivery to end consumers. As a central location for the storage of raw materials, intermediate products and finished goods, the warehouse therefore plays an important role in supply chain management and forms a hub for the smooth flow of goods between suppliers and customers. Warehouse logistics is complex and multifaceted: the tasks include not only incoming and outgoing goods, but also storage, transportation within the warehouse, order picking and the management of goods. Finally, it must be ensured that the required quantity of goods is available at the right time. There are different types of warehouses for this purpose: Procurement warehouses or material warehouses are used to provide the goods required for production. In intermediate warehouses, goods are stored during the production process if they need to be stored temporarily between two stations. In the distribution warehouse, picking, packing and shipping take place after production in accordance with customer requirements.
The more effective the warehouse strategy is in terms of incoming and outgoing goods, picking, storage, packaging, shipping and inventory management, the more reliably delivery times and quantities can be met and inventory risks minimized. High availability and fast delivery of products ensure smooth processes in the supply chain – thus benefiting companies, suppliers and end consumers alike. Studies show that efficient warehouse management is increasingly becoming a focus point. Warehousing solutions are therefore an important part of supply chain management in order to monitor, plan and coordinate the flow of materials and inventories. Yet, what does optimized warehouse logistics entail and how can it be implemented?
2. Optimized warehouse logistics: The advantages for companies
Optimized warehouse logistics aims to make the required goods available at the right time, improve the efficiency of processes and achieve higher profitability. The clearer and more structured a warehouse is, the faster those responsible have access to the products and all relevant information relating to the movement of goods: If all goods are both precisely documented in the system and can be found immediately in the warehouse, time and cost efforts can be minimized. Companies benefit in multiple ways from optimized warehouse management as an integral part of SCM:
- Increased flexibility: Better inventory planning and control allows operations to remain agile and respond more quickly to changes in the market or disruptions in the supply chain. A rapid expansion or reduction of the warehouse is easier when there is a reliable overview of the inventory. Scalability enables managers to adapt their capacities agilely to longer delivery times or material bottlenecks.
- Efficient warehouse utilization: Digital tools can create the perfect utilization of space and the optimal placement of goods depending on their dimensions. Higher shelves or cross storage options, for example, offer a lot of storage space and are often more cost-effective than renting new larger spaces.
- Time savings through smart goods placement: Through targeted planning and a detailed overview of the assortment, companies can save a lot of time during daily operations. This already starts with the planning of where goods are placed. For example, by prioritizing components and materials that are needed frequently, they can be placed at the beginning of rows and aisles of shelves or in easily accessible areas. This means they can be reached quickly and there is no need to overcome long distances for transport. Goods that are needed less frequently, on the other hand, can be stored in areas that are correspondingly further away. A clear labeling of the storage areas and the goods also enables fast storage and retrieval processes.
- Reduced costs: Intelligent warehousing solutions result in capital not being tied up unnecessarily by superfluous goods or high rents for excessively large rooms. The duration of goods storage also has an impact on costs: The shorter the stay of goods and materials between receipt and delivery, the lower the storage and capital costs. Just-in-time deliveries to reduce minimum stock levels as well as certain time windows for standardized deliveries reduce the personnel required to receive goods, which can further reduce the associated costs.
- Increased transparency: Companies can monitor and track all movements of goods and products within the warehouse system. They receive real-time data on inventory levels, deliveries, orders and other logistics processes. Bottlenecks and delays can thus be identified at an early stage and losses reduced.
- More sustainability: Stocks and storage times of goods can be adjusted to actual demand and reduced if necessary, resulting in less waste of materials and resources and more sustainability. Detailed information about inventory and storage locations can avoid unnecessary transportation and warehouse movements. The use of appropriate technologies such as RFID tags or automated material flow systems can also increase the efficiency of warehouse processes.
Last but not least, companies also benefit from increased customer satisfaction and loyalty if they can reliably deliver their products at the agreed times.
3. Well-planned processes: How to successfully optimize the warehouse
The implementation of warehousing solutions takes place in several steps. The starting point is first to record the current status: Which materials are available and in what quantity? Which processes and tasks are necessary, how much time do they require in each case? This also includes administrative tasks such as creating and checking reports and delivery bills, quality control and meetings, the transport of goods within the company, empty runs of the means of transport without goods, and the loading and unloading of the freight cars.
The next step is to analyze and evaluate the current status: With the help of software solutions and innovative technologies, the data collected on the current status is used to identify optimization potential and automation options and to develop measures for new processes. This also includes the definition of specific goals to be achieved with the changeover. It is important to involve employees in the planning process. An intensive and transparent exchange reveals which problems and impairments they are confronted with in their daily work and where exactly processes can be optimized. The improvement measures are then implemented and regularly monitored to ensure that the warehouse goals are achieved.
4. These technologies support warehousing solutions
When optimizing warehouse logistics, the following applies: The more digitalized the warehouse is set up, the higher the transparency of the individual work processes. Data can thus be collected, processed and analyzed as seamlessly as possible. For example, if goods are put into or taken out of storage, the information is immediately sent to the system and the new stock is posted. Changes in storage locations are also documented there, which prevents long search times. The following technologies support optimized warehouse management:
- Warehouse Management Systems (WMS): These software systems manage the flow of goods, update inventory in the warehouse, pass on orders and provide analyses for decision-making. They can thus control and optimize all processes within a warehouse.
- Automated storage systems: They can stabilize and accelerate processes, reduce error rates and save resources in the form of personnel. Automated storage systems exist in the form of racking, carousel and shuttle systems. They are more expensive than manual systems, but they are also more accurate and efficient in terms of storing and retrieving goods.
- Robots: Autonomous mobile robots work independently and freely navigating in clearly defined areas, for example by automatically storing or retrieving products or collecting data and generating reports. Collaborating robots (cobots), on the other hand, work with humans and simplify work processes.
- Barcode and RFID technology: These are identification systems that can be used to accurately record and track inventory. RFID tags and barcodes are attached to the goods – this way, the flow of goods in the warehouse can be controlled and the inventory documented.
- Pick-by-Light and Pick-by-Voice systems: These systems are used for picking items and control processes using either light signals or voice commands.
There is also warehouse optimization software available in addition to autonomous, driverless transport systems and drones. Despite the numerous offerings, according to the Digitization Index of the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, the logistics industry is considered one of the least digitized industries in Germany, In order to minimize digital inhibition thresholds, all technologies used should live up to the credo “As simple as possible, as complex as necessary”.
5. Warehouse optimization – What are the obstacles?
Warehousing solutions increase the efficiency of work processes, save resources and ensure greater reliability in the supply chain – yet companies might also be facing some obstacles. For example, coordinating operations can be particularly challenging at first, as all systems are interdependent and many steps are required simultaneously: Reliable software solutions are key in this context, as incoming and outgoing goods, picking, and even transportation within the facility must be planned and controlled simultaneously. Additional costs for the implementation of new technologies or employee training can also seem challenging to companies at first. However, with good planning, these amortize in saved time, reduced personnel costs and more accurate procurement planning. Other challenges include necessary precautions with regard to data protection and security as well as regular maintenance and repair of warehouse optimization technologies.
6. Conclusion: Warehousing solutions – Optimized warehouse logistics for long-term success
The warehouse is an important hub in supply chain management. Only if companies know the exact quantities of goods and where they are stored in the warehouse, they can ensure that agreed delivery times are met and supply chains are not disrupted by bottlenecks or delays. Warehousing Solutions support companies in making their warehouse processes more efficient. With the right technology, all processes can be monitored and optimized in real time. That way, repetitive processes, as well as time, money and material resources can be cut down significantly: clear and traceable logistics result in highly efficient and an optimal use of the warehouse with a severely improved material flow. This improves customer satisfaction, increases the company’s competitiveness and strengthens the supply chain in the long term.