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A WMS can support a sustainability strategy because of the way it enables greater data accuracy and operational efficiency.

One of the early justifications for WMSs was to deliver a paperless warehouse to increase data accuracy, improve productivity and maximise efficiency.

Other advantages derive from the way in which the WMS enables or supports processes that help to deliver sustainability.

Reducing the distance covered by delivery vehicles can be achieved by maximising the load, greater routing efficiency and reducing the number of returns.

Most WMSs support load-assembly tasks that ensure maximum utilisation of space on the vehicle.

The latest applications are better at ensuring orders are picked and assembled in the correct sequence for optimum loading, routing and delivery.

Interfacing with route planning and scheduling applications ensures much of this can be achieved automatically while working to user-defined parameters and priorities.

Good WMSs deliver higher stock accuracy to ensure more deliveries are fulfilled correctly first time to reduce the need for returns or additional shipments that involve additional movements.

Improving fulfilment accuracy by just a small fraction can have a significant impact on these processes.

While conventional WMSs typically offered order-accuracy percentages in the high nineties, newer technologies such as barcoding, voice-directed picking and RFID provide close to 100 per cent levels of accuracy.

Interfacing the WMS with other business systems such as order processing and invoicing also helps to eliminate the potential for errors that lead to incomplete or incorrect deliveries.

The WMS can also help deliver more sustainable operations inside the warehouse.

The latest applications incorporate analytical and reporting tools that allow users to set many operational parameters and priorities to optimise stock management and order-picking operations.

For example, when the WMS is configured to minimise the picking route, the aim may be to improve productivity but the WMS could also minimise the energy consumption of the warehouse trucks.

This may compromise overall efficiency because the shortest route may not always be the most productive or responsive to customer requirements.

Analytical tools in the latest WMSs help to identify previously unseen patterns in warehouse operations.

Although there may be good reasons to keep similar items close together in the warehouse, it could make more sense to use customer-facing parameters to group them.

For example, reorganising storage so that all fast-moving items are together and at the ends of aisles or at the front of the warehouse can minimise potential pick-paths.

WMSs with facilities to plan and schedule volumes can support a green strategy by aligning resources to requirements.

WMSs have always supported the optimum utilisation of space in the warehouse.

Cold stores, for example, often utilise mobile racking to maximise bulk-storage capacities in a smaller cube space.

This minimises the overall energy footprint of the building in terms of refrigeration and lighting but can pose challenges in terms of load-handling flexibility.

The WMS ideally enables different priorities to be set in real time, which supports the kind of flexibility required to support dynamic-handling environments.

The best WMSs should support any operation.

Simulation and modelling techniques, supported by the WMS, can help operators decide the optimum configuration for their proposed warehouse before they commission the building or install racking.

Chess Logistics Technology

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