While overcoming the challenges faced by warehouse managers stands to improve the cost-effectiveness and profitability of warehouse operations, the issue extends much further than that.
Customer engagement and operational excellence need to go well beyond cost reduction to make the supply chain a source of customer value. And in today’s customer-centric landscape, providing value to the end consumer and exceeding their service expectations is essential for businesses looking to future-proof their operations. You need to delight your customers. Overcoming the barriers limiting supply chain performance is key to achieving this.
Here are five of the top warehousing challenges you should look to overcome in order to future-proof your warehouse operations.
5 top challenges faced by warehouse managers limiting operational performance
1. Not getting the right data at the right time
We are in a world where data is all around us and easily accessible. In operations, we are data rich due to the technology we have at our disposal: RF guns, tablets, visual control boards, applications on different platforms, WMS etc. However, data is like oil: the collection of it is the easy part. The element that adds the value is its refinement.
Getting the right data to provide the right level of information at the right time is currently one of warehousing’s biggest challenges. To address this, we are working on a ‘control tower’ concept, which gathers data from internal and external inputs and uses AI to display the relevant information. It then goes one step further, actually making decisions and carrying out actions based on the data it collects. For example, if poor weather impacts certain shipping lines, it will re-prioritise the work required to pick that day in the operation.
2. Limited resourcing
Due to unemployment being low, and now impacts from Brexit, quality resource is at a premium. This has resulted in reduced flexibility and presents a real challenge when demand fluctuates at short notice. We believe this is a real focus on automation and industry 4.0 technology. Operations are investing in goods to man technology, such as Eiratech, which could revolutionise our processes.
3. Space limitations
Companies will always try and protect availability to their customers. The common approach is to increase inventory, which causes space issues for 3PL providers. When space becomes an issue, it also impacts pick face optimisation and warehouse utilisation. We are developing our own programme, which provides a 3D thermal map of the warehouse based on speed of product. It also triggers the moves required to self-maintain the optimum layout when an operative is near that location.
4. Full end-to-end supply chain visibility
Warehouse operations are often in the middle of the supply chain. Therefore there are a great deal of external factors that can have a direct impact on the operation that are out of our control. Getting visibility of these factors would enable the operation to be able to react and here lies the challenge. How do we predict customers’ sales and therefore predict the volume spikes, or the weather, which may impact both inbound and outbound networks? Artificial intelligence can play a huge part in this and give operations a level of visibility not yet achieved.
5. Adapting to industry 4.0 technology
Another challenge is keeping up with the pace of technology. Some operations are currently implementing RF and seeing this as a development. However, handsfree and vision picking available now in the market is not developing at the required pace.
Overcoming warehousing challenges to deliver smarter supply chains
While overcoming these challenges stands to improve the cost-effectiveness and profitability of warehouse operations, the issue extends much further than that. As an early pioneer of the adaptation of lean thinking to warehousing and distribution, we recognise that these warehousing challenges represent limitations to aspects of operations that will become fundamental to the supply chains of tomorrow.
As a leader in supply chain management, we offer a variety of commercial solutions to overcome the specific barriers limiting your warehouse operations, including the provision of supply chain systems and consultancy support to help people in your organisation realise the benefits of addressing these challenges now.
As customer expectations rise and emerging technology continues to transform the way supply chains are implemented and managed, it is more and more important that those in control of the UK’s supply chains address these key limitations if they want to continue to remain a competitive presence. For many businesses, that process starts with warehousing.