WMS evolves to meet today's challenging business requirements.

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) have been around for over a decade and are well-entrenched as the workhorses of the warehouse. However, industry experts say that the industry is in the midst of a new cycle that is seeing major changes occurring...


Part of the solution involved constructing a distribution center in Spalding, Lincolnshire, UK, which rolled all of its DC activities into one structure. The company also approached Manhattan Associates about providing a new WMS. In addition to installing its Warehouse Management for Open Systems, Manhattan replaced the company's paper-based system with a paperless RF-driven operation that would be managed directly by the WMS.

Workers at the facility are also using LXE MX2 hand-held and truck-mounted scanners. The LXE mobile computers incorporate bar code scanning technology for accurate inventory identification and are used for a variety of tasks including order picking and stock control. The information from the PDAs is integrated with the WMS and provides real-time data communications within the operation.

The WMS handles the huge amount of orders that run through the system-which often provide less than a day between ordering and subsequent distribution-by running the order fulfillment process on a perpetual seven-day cycle.

It is also flexible enough to be able to ramp up for massive demand peaks in the summer and Christmas.

"Our operation runs around the clock and with our new warehouse management system, anyone can see what is happening in the business and that information is in real time," says Terry Moore, logistics general manager for Geest.
Slotting Optimization

"Slotting optimization is one of the trends we see going on in the warehouse space. Some of the advanced modules, like slotting optimization, make sure you get the right items in the right slot," explains Manhattan Associates' Gillies.

Spartan Stores Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, distributes food to 450 independent retail groceries as well as its own retail locations throughout Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

Because of the incredible volume of inventory flowing through its distribution centers, the company needs to keep tight control over its distribution system. With this in mind, Spartan is currently rolling out a warehouse management system in its Grand Rapids distribution center.

"We're using the WMS for two primary purposes right now," notes Lochlan R. McKinnon, director of supply chain support for Spartan. "The first is for the day-to-day slotting activities."

Spartan's freshware warehouse in Grand Rapids, contains several different rooms in it-grocery, general merchandise and fresh commodities-each of these are managed separately within the system.

"The way we structure it is that the inventory control supervisors in each building are responsible for the installation of the WMS and maintaining the rules that actually drive it," says McKinnon.

Through the WMS' slotting optimization software, the system allows the supervisors to evaluate where things are slotted in the warehouse by providing them with an evaluation of all the items in the DC, analyzing the velocity of each of them and then forecasting their movements.

The WMS then provides a score for each time, anywhere from "good" down to "poor." It then recommends locations for the items, allowing Spartan to re-profile the warehouse.

Using the system, Spartan's inventory control supervisors go through their inventory on a daily basis and decide where they want to slot new items as they come in or where they want to move existing items, thereby keeping the optimum slotting order for their areas.

Thanks to its WMS, Spartan has optimized its picking and replenishment activities.

"We save on selection time and the distance our pickers must travel when we're running the orders everyday, because we have product in the right slots now," McKinnon says.

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