WAREHOUSE SOLUTIONS PARTNERS – CHOOSING THE RIGHT TEAM
The Nuts & Bolts and the Bits and Bytes
Steve Hunyar – Chief Solutions Office/EDGE
You’re considering upgrading your warehouse operations and looking at possibly purchasing new equipment, optimizing product movement, and/or investing in software. If you’re moving forward with one or more of these options, doesn’t it make sense to take a good look at everything? You don’t want to invest time and money only to find that you’ve created one or more bottlenecks in your warehouse flow that could have been resolved by looking at the big picture.
Every operation is different. Every industry is different. Every building is different. Business dynamics change with time, with seasons, with product, with consumer buying habits, and with manufacturing changes. When considering all of these factors, making changes to your warehouse and supply chain operations is a substantial undertaking. You should contemplate engaging with the right supply chain solutions partners. You’ll need a qualified team to help you with those changes; a team which has an unbiased professional approach and years of combined experience in the warehousing and supply chain management/execution industries.
I am not trying to be cliché, but it’s important to partner with the right people who understand the amount of analysis and the integration effort required to collaborate with you on this important undertaking. It’s a team effort that requires ALL hands on deck. It also necessitates a good look into everything from your software, your existing material handling equipment, and into the product flows and process in your warehouse. While your software is the heartbeat of your warehouse operation, you should be looking at where the blood flows and the health of the overall areas of the warehouse body. As a result, who do you bring to the operating table?
I highly recommend you find a local Material Handling Equipment Supplier/Integrator (MHI), who specializes in solutions not just warehouse equipment. The MHI should be your one-stop shop that will provide everything you need from shelving and racking, conveyor and automated solutions, to Inventory or Warehouse Management System (WMS) software. In order to ensure your installation and implementation goes smoothly, the MHI’s services should include extensive design capability and dedicated project management. They should also have a full understanding of the WMS software that not only drives your supply chain, but also integrates with all types of warehouse equipment, conveyor, and automation where necessary. Both the MHI and WMS provider should have a track record of working together on numerous projects.
In terms of warehouse processes, be sure you choose an MHI that understands how to optimize warehouse product flows and how best to equip you with the proper solutions to improve your overall operations, as well as, the individual areas within your storage/distribution system. For example, it doesn’t do you much good if your MHI specialist knows everything there is to know about racking/shelving, but isn’t looking at the 40,000 foot level of everything else required to optimize your order fulfillment capabilities and overall warehouse and supply chain flows.
The MHI should also have a keen understanding of the integrateability of the equipment they provide with the WMS software. For example, let’s say your MHI is recommending a Vertical Lift Module (VLM) as part of the redesign of your warehouse. Do they just sell VLMs or do they fully understand the integration issues that come with tying the VLM in with your WMS, and ultimately into your entire operation?
Another example is conveyor. Your MHI should fully understand the processes and software that drive and move product throughout the entire warehouse and how it integrates to the WMS. Conveyor systems are almost always custom as every warehouse layout is different. You do not want a new conveyor system that contains bottlenecks which immediately begin to hamstring your order fulfillment.
The goal is for you to work with a vendor who can bring all the appropriate solutions to the table for the redesign and installation efforts, in order that all your expectations are fulfilled. The bottom line is that your MHI needs to specialize in supply chain execution with extensive knowledge of not just the nuts & bolts, but also bits & bytes.
The proper MHI team will provide analysis through Discovery, warehouse design, the equipment itself, and the appropriate constructs of project management and integration services required to deliver and integrate your new system into your business operations. A system that will dramatically improve your operations while being flexible enough to expand with you at the pace you need.
Pardon the pun, but don’t short your stock. A thorough investment with the right team will ensure your warehouse management and supply chain execution will be made easier in both the short and long term. Like everything you do in life, the best people will generally provide the best solutions that drive the best possible outcome.