A WMS helps smooth out lumpy inventory - and many other warehouse challenges

A WMS helps smooth out lumpy inventory - and many other warehouse challenges

15 April 2022

  • lumpy inventory

A new study sponsored by MHI and Deloitte reports that 80% of supply chain leaders have accelerated their digital transformation plans as a result of the pandemic. This corroborates earlier projections that the arrival of Covid-19 would have a big impact on the rate of automation adoption within the warehousing and logistics industries. We are seeing a rapid increase in technology adoption too.

The reason is very clear. Continued global supply chain disruption and shortages are causing havoc. In some cases, they are resulting in a new phenomenon – lumpy inventory management. 57% of the respondents said disruption and shortages were their biggest challenges, overtaking issues relating to talent and recruitment (54%) and satisfying customer demands (51%). These are still problematic, but now need addressing in the context of avoiding future supply chain disruptions.

This shortage is causing greater interest among companies looking to invest in technologies that not only improve agility and efficiency, but also reduce the need for repetitive, manual labour. The kind of routine activities that are automated using warehouse management system (WMS) software. It is one reason why Indigo’s QuickStart Programme, a rapid return on investment (ROI) WMS, has been so well received in the industry. QuickStart provides a fast track and scalable route to optimised, real-time warehouse operations and a more agile logistics function.

A WMS can also help to smooth out the inevitable disruption caused by international trade snarls and inventory shortages. Due to concerns about not having enough inventory, many warehouses are holding a lot more stock than they would usually. This is because procurement managers, concerned about not having enough raw materials or sales inventory, have bought up whatever they can, perhaps taking in unusual quantities. Or they may have sourced goods from alternative suppliers to avoid any availability gaps. This creates an abnormally ‘lumpy’ inbound inventory flow, with new SKUs and product attributes that need to be checked into the warehouse, put away safely and then managed through the onwards supply chain. That might be onto the production line or to an e-fulfilment operation.

This uncertainty increases the importance of having inventory management software capabilities within the WMS, with the ability to capture product and packaging attributes, put stock away efficiently and keep track of items for quality control purposes. There are a great many advantages to using a WMS.

Why is a WMS indispensable for inventory management?

1.     It helps track all materials and goods as they come in and go out of the warehouse, optimising every single warehouse process in real-time.

2.     It helps to create efficient systems and processes, to streamline how workers pick items, handle products and pack orders.

3.     It provides the ability to track all inventory at every stage, from entering the warehouse, being loaded onto shelves and racking, and when it finally leaves the warehouse, bound for the customer or a fulfilment centre.

4.     It provides a way to ensure orders are only accepted if the stock is available – when an order is taken, the WMS will flag if the item is in stock before a purchase is confirmed.

5.     It allows up to 30% more inventory to be stored in the same warehouse, because items can be slotted wherever there is space and the software will notify an operative where it is located. No more relying on people and their memories.

6.     A good WMS will help track best-selling items and provide suggestions for the most efficient way to organise the warehouse – so that those items can be picked and packed as quickly as possible.

The warehouse is always a challenging environment to work in with tight deadlines and strict SLAs to adhere to. There are always new obstacles to overcome, with lumpy inventory being the latest. Equipping your business with a WMS, integrated with an ERP system like Infor or Oracle, or an e-commerce website platform like Shopify or Magento is a key step in guaranteeing the long term agility of your logistics operation.