Warehouse Software - what can it add to manual operations?

As consumer demand for convenient, fast home delivery escalates the impact of warehouse operations on overall customer satisfaction should not be ignored.  There are many options to consider when reviewing operational capability and efficiency, particularly for those with fully manual operations.  In the first of 2 articles we look at warehouse software and the contribution it can make to a manual system.

 1. Is warehouse software only for large operations with lots of automation?

Not always – Software can add a great deal to manual operations, through its ability to join up separate processes, improve security, reduce errors and speed everything up.  For example, the drawn out process of matching a product to an order, designing and printing the correct label and notifying a carrier can be transformed with a simple application to link and automate these processes. 

2. Does it really contribute much to your operation?

Three main benefits which are very quickly realised are: 

(see point 1).

3. Is it complicated and problematic to install and integrate?

It doesn’t need to be and you should expect your supplier to implement the following processes, so that it isn’t.

User Requirement Specification (URS) – where you and your supplier work out the overall requirements of the system.  It’s an important stage that puts the detail around the original project objectives and is then used as the corner stone to create the Functional Design Specification (FDS).

 FDS – This is the technical response to the URS and it clearly and accurately describes the essential technical requirements for services, including the criteria to test against when signing the project off. 

Spending time on this has an immediate ROI as it helps to avoid duplication and inconsistencies and allows for accurate estimates of time and resources.  

Check if your supplier’s software has a standard, modern API as this makes it much quicker to set programmes up and to get data in and out of the system. (Application Programming Interface).  However if you don’t want to use their API, you can request a bespoke program, although this will be more expensive.

4. Is the software likely to go out of date quickly and will it need replacing?

Not if you take a licensed product.  It might seem like additional cost, however licensed software gives you much more protection and peace of mind.    

 5. What happens when you need to make changes to support your growth?

Ideally look for a software suite with a scalable modular structure as this will let you add on what you need at the right time for your business. 

Check out your supplier – experienced suppliers will have warehouse operations experience and a more likely to understand your likely growth pattern.  They should help you think about what’s going to add the most value.

6. What insight to my operation should I get?

Your software set up should automatically log all actions.  The real benefit of this is that the raw data can be used to create relevant reports for your business.  These can range from year on year comparisons to real time analytics where the data is up to the second providing accurate information there and then.

Reporting requirements are worth considering early on when you go through the URS and FDS.

7. How much training is needed before it can be used?

Look for a supplier that provides a good, clear graphical user interface, which will simplify all the complicated activity going on with warehouse data. 

Task based processes work well at operator level as they limit the options at each stage minimizing the opportunity to do something wrong. 

A strong visual element e.g. use of colour to indicate success/problems helps reinforce this and improve user acceptance and performance. 

Imio one 

Conveyor Networks imio one software provides labelling, print management and packing functions that are perfect for supporting retail and ecommerce manual operations.  For further information click here.  imio one is part of our imio warehouse software suite.  A licensed software package that is wholly owned and developed by Conveyor Networks and is in use by customers such as WH Smith, QVC, Debenhams and Gameseek.  For further information about imio software click here.