How "real-time" is the data you use to manage your warehouse?
Not sure? Consider these questions to find out:
- Is your inventory sitting around collecting dust?
- Are you picking with pick-lists and paper?
- Do you manually update your database every time a change is made?
- Is it unclear who is doing their job efficiently and who is slacking off?
- Are the changes made to your processes usually only initiated once a crisis has occurred?
The issues above are typical of many warehouses, so if you answered "yes" to any them, it's probably time to embrace the power of real-time analysis and modern warehouse management software.
The Power of Real-Time Analytics in the Warehouse
Let's try another Q&A. See if you can quickly answer any of these questions:
- What were your highest velocity items in the last year?
- Which of your workers was least efficient in the last quarter?
- How long does it take for an order to be received and put away? Has that number changed in the past month?
- How long did an average pick take in the last week?
- What is the accuracy rate of your order picking and shipping in the last month?
These are important questions that can be difficult to answer without the help of real-time analysis. Of course, you could stand out on the warehouse floor with a stop watch and time your workers. You could go through the inventory system and figure out which products are the best sellers. You could access the customer service system and manually add up the average number of send backs and complaints received from clients in the past month. But those would definitely not be very efficient uses of your time.
How Can Real-Time Analytics Help?
In the world of business analytics, "real-time" refers to a near zero latency in data gathering and analysis. This means if a warehouse worker picks a product off of a shelf, that information is simultaneously communicated to the warehouse management software (WMS). When someone is cycle counting on a given product, the inventory numbers are updated immediately. The WMS tracks while the worker is completing the job how long the worker took to pick an order and how accurate the picks for that order were.
The power of real-time analysis comes from being able to see what is going on in the moment... and that is a powerful tool for improving operational efficiency and keeping excess costs to a minimum.
How Does Real-Time Analysis Work?
The key to real-time analysis is warehouse management software and automation, with the software serving as the hub of operations. It is constantly collecting and organizing data.
For example:A worker goes out on a pick run. He has a handheld scanner/input device that he uses to identify which location and bin he is picking from and how many items he is pulling from that bin. As soon as he scans the first barcode, the WMS is updated.
Then, depending on the WMS system in place and your unique preference settings, the WMS will either tell the picker the quantity to pick, or the worker will tell the WMS that he has picked a certain quantity. Either way, the WMS is instantly updated.
Since information is constantly being collected and organized, some of the more flexible WMS systems are able to force compliance by making sure the picker is picking the correct item from the correct location. If a mistake is made, the WMS will prevent processes from moving forward until the error has been rectified.
In addition, real-time data collection allows the WMS to collect any detailed information you'd like – for example, the time a worker arrived at a bin location and the time he left that location.
Automated WMS Real-Time Analysis is the Solution
Real-time analysis is the most effective way for answering warehouse efficiency questions and correcting operational issues without taking up an exorbitant amount of your time in the process. It allows you to identify and correct errors and issues right away, even as they are occurring, and address them before they get any worse.