After what seems like a lifetime, high street shops like Next, IKEA, Shoe Locker, John Lewis and Primark, have finally reopened. Some, Primark being an obvious example, had not offered online shopping during the lockdowns and now there is a huge amount of pent-up demand for their products. Other shops that are also likely to see a lot of interest – because their offerings do not lend themselves as well to e-commerce shopping – include independent fashion boutiques, large item homeware stores, carpet showrooms, kitchen, bathroom, tile, and glazing showrooms plus of course, the much-missed charity shops.
Warehouses operated by these businesses are likely to be experiencing two key challenges now, says Eric Carter, Solutions SArchitect at Indigo Software. Firstly, many will be extra full, as a result of the long closures over the winter. Where new stocks have been arriving by the container load, it may not have been feasible to cancel or postpone delivery of supplier orders. Secondly, retail analysts are reporting unprecedented consumer demand, which points to the need to ‘over stock’ to take full advantage of sales opportunities.
Using a Warehouse Management System (WMS) can help your retail business get ready for the boom times to come as we emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic. One particular benefit is the potential to get a better grip on inventory management. Here are 5 ways a WMS will help improve stock management in an extra full warehouse as retailers gear up for high street re-opening.
Dynamic location assignments
Sounds obvious but when a warehouse is carrying excess inventory, space is at a premium. In particular, the way a warehouse might usually be organised, e.g. around fixed locations for set product lines, might no longer be feasible or efficient. Instead, dynamic location assignment using a WMS will allow all stock to be placed wherever there is a suitable space, rather than sticking to a set location. This means you can potentially store up to 30% stock within the same total area.
Effective put away processes
In addition to maximising space utilisation, another important part of good stock management is ensuring that physical movement of products, e.g. during put away, is minimised. There are multiple ways a WMS can do this, for instance, by monitoring pick frequency trends according to a set of rules and advising where stock should be placed in the warehouse or whether items need special storage considerations. If incoming stocks need special handling instructions this can also be flagged up in put away instructions.
If a product quality issue arises, it will be vital that affected products in a batch or lot can be quickly and accurately recalled as necessary. Using a WMS, it’s possible to create reports detailing lot / batch / expiry date information that confirms to compliance requirements and also allows for detailed trend analysis. At any point in time, a WMS will provide a full trail of what has happened to every element of stock during its entire lifecycle, providing extensive traceability management options. The audit trail covers the entire supply chain, right down to the source and provenance of the original raw ingredients at the SKU, UPC and lot level, limiting the impact of inventory wastage.
Pick route optimisation and planning
In large, full warehouses, travelling between locations to pick stock orders can take up a lot of time. A WMS can minimise this by automatically sequencing the order in which stock items are displayed for picking according to the shortest route to be travelled. This feature helps to maintain high efficiency levels, especially when the warehouse is holding excess stock. Goods are picked more quickly, potentially using fewer resources and this is important when demand from retail outlets is exceptionally high, since there will be a higher volume of replenishment orders to complete.
Perpetual inventory (PI) stock counting
Warehouses holding excess inventory need to undertake regular stock counts. By introducing a PI or cyclical counting process supported by a WMS, warehouse managers can eliminate the need to undertake routine stock counts because inventory checks are done automatically, each time an item is picked for an order. A further benefit is that shrinkage (or stock losses through theft) can be minimised. Every stock movement is accurately recorded with an electronic audit trail and discrepancies are immediately apparent.