In order to truly make a difference in your warehouse efficiency, you first have to understand how efficiency and productivity work together. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they actually represent two different ways of measuring your warehouse output.
In general, it is easiest to start by measuring productivity. Productivity is expressed in terms of the quantity of work being done. Your WMS tracks the number of items being put away per hour and the number of line items picked. This is a purely quantitative look at how much work your employees are getting done in a given time period.
By contrast, warehouse efficiency is a little more difficult to nail down. Efficiency is a measure of several different factors that can add or detract from your overall output. This includes accuracy, quality and waste. A warehouse is only efficient if the products going out the door actually meet the needs of the customer and don't come back. They must also go out the door with a minimal amount of waste in labor and materials along the way.
Where Productivity and Efficiency Intersect
It is impossible to have a warehouse that is 100% efficient, or 100% productive. You will find that when you start rushing your employees, they tend to make more errors. This leads to a reduction in efficiency even as your productivity rises. On the other hand, a 100% waste and error free environment requires your employees to slow down and often leads to longer shipping times. The goal of any WMS is to balance these two factors to achieve the best possible results. When you allow the system software to eliminate as many errors as possible, and route your employees in a way that reduces waste, it is possible to get your warehouse in the 90th percentile for shipment deadlines and accuracy without severely limiting your productivity.
With the help of the right tools, you will see a boost in both warehouse productivity and warehouse efficiency. It is important to keep in mind that your WMS gives you an infinite variety of ways to dispatch orders so that you can drive productivity up without losing out on accuracy or waste. The system is a balancing machine that takes each new order and inventory change into account while adjusting movements throughout your warehouse on an individual basis. The WMS can do this task continuously on a scale that you could never hope to match manually.