Tag Archives: does wms help?

Supply Chains Staying the Course in 2017

The overall outlook for supply chains in 2017 is quite rosy, but let’s identify some specific areas where the industry could or should be headed this year.

Staying the Course

First and foremost, I suspect that we won’t see any significant technological breakthroughs or paradigm shifts in 2017 that will disrupt current best practices in the supply chain. Instead, I’m certain that we’ll see a steady stream of developments that continue to improve existing efficiencies or reduce costs, in addition to a widespread push for vendors to demonstrate added value.

Consumer demands continue to drive technology adoption

E-commerce and the omni-channel experience will continue to capture buyer mindshare over more traditional brick-and-mortar retail models, which are suffering from over-capacity. We can expect long-term customer loyalty to be driven by the so-called unified experience or continuity of experience. Vendors able to consistently deliver perfect shipments will be able to capitalize on this trend. For companies in supply chain logistics, this will require ever-tighter carrier relationships and technologies, which will eventually include the emergence of autonomous commercial freight deliveries. These companies are also likely to deploy GPS-enabled tools that provide up-to-the-minute information about freight location, en route conditions (like temperature), and arrival time estimates.

3PL vendors benefit

These trends may help 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) providers gain significant market share, but may also force some industry consolidation. One differentiating factor will be analytics, and how data can be used to capture pick, pack and ship costs. There is a cost associated with managing warehousing and logistics internally versus outsourcing, so the ability of a company to evaluate the overhead for storing and retrieving inventory efficiently and accurately will remain key in delivering shipments profitably.

Hype, with a grain of salt

While autonomous vehicles and drones are certainly breakthrough technologies, numerous barriers need to be overcome before these become mainstream. These include regulations around safety (or perceived danger) and privacy, as they attempt to coexist with traditional modes of transportation. It is my view that the use of drones for shipping will be confined to very short-range hovers or stops based on battery limitations, FAA altitude restrictions, drone pilot certification and autonomous flight technologies, and clearances limited to line-of-sight flying.

Whatever 2017 brings, it is shaping up to be a busy, productive year in the world of logistics and supply chains. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

About the author

Eric Allais, President and CEO of Washington-based PathGuide Technologies, Inc., has over 30 years of experience in marketing, product management and sector analysis in the automated data collection industry, including warehouse management practices in wholesale distribution.

Interview with Douglas Hunter, chairman of PathGuide’s Latitude Advisory Board (LAB)

We recently spoke with Douglas Hunter, the newly elected chairman of PathGuide’s Latitude Advisory Board (LAB). Douglas is the operations manager at Eldorado Trading Company, and was the original implementation champion at Eldorado when Latitude WMS was first rolled out. He has been a part of the industry for many years, and shared some of his views and advice about getting the most out of Latitude.

PathGuide: What are some of the benefits or unique ways you use Latitude WMS?

Douglas: Latitude has provided a major improvement to our business in inventory management and in staff performance by increasing accountability and reducing manual steps. Previously, we used our ERP to manage all warehouse inventory operations, which did not give us data in real time or with much detail. Managing inventory and order processing was extremely labor-intensive due to the ERP’s inability to manage inventory in multiple locations, as well as the required time-consuming action of sorting and processing picks on paper.

The customization that we tend to describe as our “game changers” are the automation in order routing by customer type, carrier and FIFO, in a paperless pick environment. We can now manage inventory in real time in multiple locations, instead of our previous practice of using manual reference fields to know secondary or back-stock locations. The customization of the LMS Manifesting & Shipping System offered by PathGuide removed countless manual practices and allowed us to process more orders without adding additional stations or staff. Finally, the ability to add customized reports, alerts, and dashboards has helped us reduce email volume due to manual alerts, and has given us strong visibility down to the team or individual level for performance metrics.

PathGuide: Why did you join PathGuide’s Latitude Advisory Board (LAB)?

Douglas: For me, being a LAB member means having stronger insight into the growth of PathGuide’s products and vision plans. It also means having the ability to give feedback from an operational standpoint on areas in need of improvement or presenting ‘outside the box’ ideas that we identify in the day-to-day use of our WMS. The LAB gives power-users of Latitude the ability to brainstorm new concepts with PathGuide’s talented team, in order to continue enhancing an already great product.

PathGuide: What advice would you give to companies considering a WMS?

Douglas: Do an ROI plan with strategic growth goals and an analysis of your practices in order to identify the areas needing improvement. Far too often, the larger issues are obvious because they are the triggers for your organization’s search for a WMS in the first place. If you are struggling on where to start this analysis, review white papers on warehouse inefficiencies or visit a best-in-class facility to see processes that are stronger than those in your own operations. Examples of some areas to focus on are inventory accuracy, measuring productivity, pick path sequencing, and paper picking.

You should know what your company wants to achieve by adding a WMS to your operations. The benefits of adding Latitude WMS include warehousing visibility improvements and automation. From staff productivity visibility, real-time information on item storage in multiple locations, faster dock-to-stock in receiving, stronger order release control, a more accurate inventory, customizable manifesting features, or a product that will grow with your company, Latitude can enhance the capabilities of your business and increase your customer’s satisfaction through timely, accurate orders.

You would be hard-pressed to find a better customer service practice in any industry.

WES and WCS Are Good, But They’re No WMS

The three types of warehouse software (WMS, WES and WCS) are starting to overlap in functionality, at least that’s the thesis of an article I read earlier this month in DC Velocity. Titled “Blurred Lines: WMS vs. WCS vs. WES,” it argues that these three warehouse systems have developed to a point where many of their major functions overlap and it’s difficult for buyers to decide exactly what they need.

While WCS and WES have certainly come a long way in the past few years, a high-quality WMS is still the best option to track and control the movement and storage of materials within the warehouse.

A high-quality WMS will provide benefits in the following areas:

  • Order accuracy
  • Worker efficiency
  • Overall speed of orders
  • Reporting and KPIs
  • Individual employee metrics
  • Warehouse organization

While a WES will provide some functionality in voice picking, mobile scanner integration, inventory management and labor management, it was not designed to perform as a WMS and should not be used as a replacement. If you need a WMS, buy a WMS. Don’t expect a WCS or WES to deliver functionality that it was not designed for.

This sounds simple in theory, but it gets more complicated in practice because not every company shopping for software knows what it needs. Before researching a new warehouse system, companies evaluate current systems to identify both strengths and weaknesses. Next, they should identify what areas they want to improve. Finally, they should make a list of the functions that will help them achieve those goals. By approaching the buying process with a clear understanding of what each type of software can deliver, they can see the marketing pitch for what it is and stay focused on getting a solution that will best fit their needs.

About the Author: Eric Allais, president and CEO of PathGuide Technologies, Inc., has over 30 years of experience in marketing, product management and sector analysis in the automated data collection industry, including warehouse management practices in wholesale distribution. Contact him at eric@pathguide.com.

PathGuide’s Latitude WMS Travels the Globe

PathGuide recently discussed its business growth in Canada, but did you know that the sales boundaries for the Latitude warehouse management system stretch to other parts of the globe?

As an example, Latitude has been deployed in Panama since 2009.  It was selected for use by Rodelag S.A., a well-known retail chain with more than 500 employees that services the entire country. Rodelag has been a trusted name in Panama since 1950 when two prominent families, the Romeros and the La Guardias, joined forces to bring a Sears-like department store to the Chiriqui Province.  Today, Rodelag offers everything from motorbikes to clothing in branch storefronts found in small towns such as Chitre as well as in the capital of Panama City.

Panama is experiencing explosive economic growth.  Over the past decade, it has been one of the fastest growing economies worldwide, and dominates the growth of its neighbors in Central America.  Average annual growth was 7.2 percent between 2001 and 2013, more than double the regional average.  It’s estimated that its growth in 2015 will remain a respectable 6.2 percent.

Panama’s economic climate has enticed other retailers to enter the market.  So how does an older, stable company like Rodelag continue to remain relevant to its customers in such a fast-growing environment?  By adding technologies such as PathGuide’s Latitude Warehouse Management Software.  Latitude helped it re-engineer its warehouse and distribution operations, facilitating better customer service and more efficient inventory management.  The customer service element is particularly important in Panama, which does not have a long history of retail customer loyalty; for generations, residents have routinely shopped more than one retailer to compare prices.  A WMS such as Latitude helps Rodelag ensure that the most needed items are in stock at its facilities, engendering customer satisfaction and repeat sales.

How can a WMS benefit your warehouse?

You might be wondering, “What’s so great about a warehouse management system (WMS)?” Well, we’re about to show you.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GT4ABRPd3Pg]

See how PathGuide Technologies customer IRLY Distributors has used our WMS system to save money and increase business.