Increasing agility and resilience is top of mind for virtually all warehouse and distribution center (DC) operators and managers. Particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting supply chain disruptions, the ability to quickly respond and adapt in the face of volatile supply chains, spiking customer demand, and labor shortages has become crucial to business success.
To achieve resilient operations, many companies are making radical adjustments, like implementing highly automated systems and advanced technology, streamlining processes, automating workflows, and more. Yet all too often their efforts are stymied by existing warehouse management systems, which frequently require expensive and time-consuming custom development to enable these advanced technologies.
Research from Peerless Research Group for Modern Materials Handling magazine, the “2022 Materials Handling Technology Study,” found that:
“When adopting materials handling software, 39% of respondents say compatibility with existing systems is a major roadblock, while 38% point to integration with existing software applications. Other obstacles to implementation success include the total cost of ownership of such systems (37%); compatibility with host or legacy systems (36%); the lack of resources to implement, manage, and maintain such systems (35%); and substantiating ROI (30%).”
The reluctance to implement new warehouse automation software is understandable, given the investment required—and especially considering the innate limitations of legacy systems architecture. However, best-in-class modern software platforms enable more streamlined and continual automation of processes and workflows within warehouse operations.
What makes this possible? There are several key software characteristics, programming methodologies, and functional approaches to consider when comparing your options. These include:
- Architecture – Software with microservice architecture offers faster, easier, and more predictable upgrades. This ensures the ability to take advantage of the latest productivity features without requiring the entire system to be redeployed. Integrations with new or existing material handling equipment and automated systems are much easier to execute and less likely to “break” entire operational processes.
- Security – Software that leverages cluster-based security to control unauthorized access—via built-in encryption to secure operational data and transmissions—is inherently less vulnerable to internal or external breaches. This significantly reduces the risk of downtime due to malicious activity.
- Reliability – Also reducing the risk of downtime and ensuring higher productivity, software that can automatically self-correct and auto-restore when a fault or error is encountered—as well as enabling manual intervention when self-recovery is not possible—offers greater reliability.
- Integration – Warehouse automation software vendors who are committed to the development of standardized messaging and to interfacing with those from other suppliers are leading the way to smoother more seamless integrations.
- Hosting – In addition to cost, there are different degrees of risk, reliability, and adaptation between on-premises and cloud deployment options that can be leveraged.
By choosing a warehouse automation software solution with these five key characteristics, your operation can gain greater agility and resiliency in the face of ongoing supply chain disruptions, workforce challenges, and increasing customer expectations. Further, with software that enables enhanced visibility and control—through seamless, automated, productivity-boosting adjustments, and continuous upgrades to equipment, processes, and workflows—you will achieve a faster return on investment and lower total cost of ownership.
A recently released Vanderlande white paper, “Key Considerations to Evaluate Warehouse Automation Software,” offers a more in-depth discussion of the key warehouse automation software features and characteristics to examine when shopping the options. Consider it a checklist of key warehouse automation software characteristics, programming methodologies, and functional approaches to evaluate on your way to investing in your operational success.