tED Magazine Article - Under One Roof

Advice from true warehouse experts

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44 the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTOR • Mar. 13 www.tEDmag.com business Electrical distributors want inventory management solu- tions that address basic requirements with superior functionality as well as flexibility sufficient to adapt to a variety of business practices. In short, they want it all. To satisfy that tall order, the solutions mar- ketplace now offers warehouse management systems (WMSs) that encompass just about all the features, flexibility, adaptivity, and func- tionality a wholesale distributor could possibly desire. "Electrical dis- tributors are looking for a system that combines core need func tional - ity with great flexibility," explained Eric Allais, CEO, PathGuide Tech - nologies (pathguide.com). "Top distributors leverage their supply chain for competitive advantage and create business practices and workflows that service their customers in the best way possible. "It does a company no good to be boxed in by an off-the-shelf software system that forces modifications to its established routines just to suit the solution," Allais continued. "Distribu - tors want it the other way around; they need a product that marries best prac- tice warehouse management with must-have flexibility for rapid adapta- tion to changing needs. " A best-of-breed WMS will also inte- grate seamlessly with other systems both in and outside the warehouse while keeping the entire enterprise on track. Its marriage with material han- dling systems such as conveyors and carousels clearly illustrates this princi- ple, but just as useful are the bridges built from the WMS to finance and accounting—as it is via these portals that orders find their way to the ware- house and ultimately to customers. THE MERITS OF METRICS Experts advise distributors in the market for warehouse automation to also shop for a provider that can outfit the opera- tion with a WMS that offers more than just the basics. These days, it's easy to negotiate the purchase of a WMS in which extras such as labor manage- ment and voice picking come packaged with everything else. Fully de ployed, such a system is not only an efficiency enhancer, but also a window to the company's operations. Using performance monitoring or metrics, for example, a distributor can track the key performance indicators of individual warehouse functions down to the level of the personnel charged with carrying them out. How many lines does a given warehouse employee cur- rently pick on an average day? How does his or her picking throughput compare with that of employees in other branches? With metrics, practices contributing to success or counterproductivity mani- fest like blips on a radar screen, inviting encouragement or swift corrective ac - tion. In fact, Allais describes metrics as a "logistics engine for capturing competi- tive ad vantage." Under one roof Today's feature-rich WMSs not only track events occurring within the warehouse, but also link to systems beyond its walls. by D. Douglas Graham © STEPHEN MORRIS/ISTOCKPHOTO

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