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ROI And Warehouse Management Systems

Nov 2, 2007
A WMS combines desktop and mobile computers, various software modules and peripheral interfaces to completely manage a warehouse or yard. Warehouse management systems are able to locate inventory, allow for configurable management parameters and coordinate the shipping and receiving of inventory. As expected, how complex the WMS needs to be is related to how complex the warehouse is that it will serve.

For smaller operations, an inventory locator and counting module with a basic shipping-receiving module may be all that's needed. Sometimes, in fact, a WMS may not be necessary at all. Because the expertise of information technology (IT) professionals is often required to operate fully functional WMS systems, implementing a WMS is the right move only if the cost decrease offsets the costs of ownership.

For large warehouse operations with multiple buildings, stockyards or even product-specific issues such as shelf-life considerations, a comprehensive WMS solution providing complex modules is vital. Benefits include increased accuracy, increased productivity and substantial cost savings for a rapid return on investment (ROI) when implementing a WMS. In addition, a WMS typically reduces inventory quantities overall, and the costs associated with labor especially when used in concert with associated data collection systems and picking systems.

A warehouse management system also gives you the ability to add automation tools that can significantly improve the productivity of your warehouse workers. For example, adding voice picking to a WMS can significantly increase accuracy and error rates approaching zero are the norm. These facts are made evident by the return on investment findings from the early adopters of voice picking technology. Return on Investment for voice picking applications is measured in months, not years.

RFID is another WMS add-on that can produce a return on investment in under 18 months. The first place to find a rapid return on RFID investment is in the area of asset tracking. All warehouses use assets such as totes, carts, and pallets to move their inventory. When rigid passive tags are used to monitor these assets, the cost of the RFID system can be quickly recovered by reducing the loss of these assets.

RFID can also be used at the case level with disposable passive RFID tags but realizing an ROI can be more difficult unless the RFID equipment can be integrated into a multimodal system. Multimodal mobile computing starts with a handheld computer that is capable of using multiple peripherals simultaneously. Devices such as those manufactured by Intermec and Symbol (Motorola) are examples of rugged mobile devices with numerous available peripherals. Such peripherals include radio frequency identification (RFID), global positioning systems (GPS), barcode scanners, Bluetooth technology, Voice technology such as CTG's Vulcan Voice, database connectivity and more. When coupled with software applications capable of multimodal input and output, the result can be a very powerful cost reducing system.

To streamline your warehouse, consider implementing a multimodal WMS system or simply add multimodal functionality to your existing proprietary WMS system. Use the RFID equipment to detect check-digit locations, to track cases, pallets, totes, PC's and carts. Use a voice component to guide the worker and to accept work acknowledgments and use the bar code scanner for long series of alphanumeric data such as serial numbers and UPC codes. Up front consulting and design may be required for a multimodal system, but such a system will save your facility time and resources long-term by providing a multi-functional solution and the right tool for each task.
About the Author
For voice picking and warehouse management systems and solutions visit CTGLogisticsSolutions.com.
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