by Simon Kulczycki
Warehouse Management (WM) software is deployed in many business environments and industries – from simple warehouses for raw materials to complex, high-volume and automated distribution facilities.
It’s widely adopted, and forms the backbone of the logistics and supply chain industry.
But it has been around for 25 years. Not only has technology changed dramatically in that time, but the digitally disrupted world in which we now live and work bears little resemblance to operations in the early nineties.
This altered landscape needs a new modus operandi.
Step forward SAP Extended Warehouse Management, or SAP EWM. The name itself is perhaps a misnomer; far from being an extension or add-on to what was previously available, EWM has been designed from the bottom up and reflects that supply chain management (SCM) is increasingly regarded as a science, such is the vital role it plays in almost every business operation.
EWM is a high-speed system that makes most warehouse-related tasks easier and more efficient. It can be configured to the specific needs of each organisation and deployed over several locations.
Let’s look at what this means in practice.
A previous blog post looked at EWM’s sophisticated picking processes, but it’s worth reiterating because they have brought about a warehouse transformation.
Imagine a timelapse video of the standard warehouse as pickers go about their daily activity. The same person will be seen going to the same stock bin several times during the day, while crossing paths with other pickers, and retracing their steps on many occasions. Seen in fast forward it’s clearly not an efficient way to work, but it is dictated because WM shows all the orders that need to be picked for on one day as a block of work that is difficult to break down. (While this can be resolved with additional middleware, this leads to extra costs, plus potential integration issues.)
In contrast, EWM uses algorithms to work out the most efficient way to complete as many tasks as possible; pickers are allocated one area of the warehouse and only undertake activities in that section. This eliminates the sight of warehouse staff constantly treading the same path as they each pick for the individual task for which they are responsible.
EWM needs minimal integration with the back office; on completion of a task pickers are automatically fed the next one, allowing them to focus on the job, rather than continually refer back for their next activity.
It’s not hard to see how this adds up to significant efficiency savings over the course of a week, a month, a year. Simply changing the system can potentially increase the number of picks completed by 20%.
Warehouse operators can also take advantage of EWM’s powerful analytics to monitor activity in real-time. This opens up the opportunity to resolve any issues as they occur, as well as pay bonuses for tasks completed to drive a further increase in the number of deliveries they are able to fulfil.
Further time savings are up for grabs when it comes to selecting items from the stock bin.
Typically warehouse systems are set to require several scans (such as barcode, product label and bin location) for each product as it is selected. But some items may only need one of these readings – any additional scans take more time, the significance of which becomes clear when one considers there may be 160,000 picks a day. Enhanced radio frequency (RF) capabilities in EWM make it easy for warehouse operators to alter the system settings to require only one scan.
Warehouse production processes often need to change temporarily. For example, a retailer might change the price on a particular product for a limited period, which requires new price stickers to be placed on every item. While the WM can organise the work, it is not set up to do so, and the functionality is limited. EWM however both enables the activity and calculates the cost of the additional resource required to undertake it; this allows the distributor to bill the retailer accordingly.
Fast, slow and medium-moving stock is processed with EWM’s slotting and rearrangement facility. For example, on 25 December many items that have, in the run-up to Christmas, been classed as fast-moving change overnight to the slow category. Highlighting them in the EWM results in the system automatically making the decision on what to do with these products and feeding this into the labour management module. (With WM manual tasks have to be created to handle this activity.)
No middleware required
EWM is a complete system that enables organisations to operate state-of-the-art warehouses without the need for middleware. This simplifies operations and leads to cost savings because additional applications don’t have to be bought and installed separately. For example, Material Flow System (MFS) tools (the benefits of which we’ve covered in a previous blog) are embedded in SAP EWM. These control automation and provide full warehouse visibility so processes can be dynamically streamlined and optimised.
It is difficult to convey in one short piece the benefits that SAP EWM brings to warehouse operations. To find out more about how it could transform your business contact Rocket Consulting.
• SAP EWM is very, very fast.
• SAP EWM is agile; it can be deployed over several locations, and easily changed to meet the needs of each warehouse.
• SAP EWM provides powerful and sophisticated analytics.
• SAP EWM is not a ‘bolt-on’. It is a new set of tools designed to futureproof current supply chain technology and grow with your business.