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WMS - Good to the last byte...(Part 2 - Process)

By Steve Simmerman | 05/21/2010 | 1:19 PM

 It was great seeing many of you at the recent WERC Conference in Anaheim this week.  Attendance was fantastic.  There were plenty of opportunities to network, learn and exchange ideas.  Thank you WERC and DC Velocity for putting on an excellent industry event!  We are all looking forward to WERC 2011 in Orlando - (www.werc.org).

Let’s pick up on our discussion about making your WMS good to the last byte. In this blog we'll talk about the process side of a WMS system. In our last blog entry we looked at the people side of a WMS – we hope we provided you some food for thought and caused you to take action with regard to the people aspect of your WMS.  At the WERC Conference, I attended a standing room only session given by Al Gagnon of enVista (www.envistacorp.com).  Al’s session was about Labor Management, but he talked about processes, standard operating procedures and how important it is to document them.  Obviously having well documented (and current) warehouse processes apply to both your WMS and LMS.  The amazing thing was when he asked the audience how many people actually had documented processes or SOP’s – only about half raised their hands.  Which begs the question – assuming you have documented processes, how current are they and how have they changed over the life of your WMS?  Do your current process documents and WMS processes align?  If not, how are you managing to have a consistent and quality WMS environment and work result?

Don Benson (http://www.wmssupport.com), my co-contributor on this series of blogs very accurately points out that “too many times, we are just too busy to take the time to systematically review and update our processes or SOP documents”.  As Don notes, “It’s certainly NOT easy, and we are all guilty of putting off tough jobs from time to time, but the payback from reviewing warehouse processes and looking for improvements, no matter how small, can be tremendous”.   Realizing some benefits is not as hard as you think. You can start out in one area, let’s say receiving.  Pull out your latest version of process documents and spend a little time on the floor observing and talking to your associates?  Has anything changed?  Are there things we should do slightly differently?  Does the WMS make your job easier or do you have to perform manual workarounds (worksheets, Post-It notes, spreadsheets, etc.) to get the job done.  If you don’t have process documents, you can start with simple sketches and process flows to start to define them, and see if your WMS information flows match the operations and material flow.  Don went on to say “that the people that do the work actually appreciate that a documented process exists, for several reasons”.  Don gives us some very good examples:

1.    demonstrates that someone, at some point in time (higher in the organization) really knew what the work of the task required

2.     suggests that the steps in the task have been thought through and were appropriate

3.     provides a foundation for standardization and minimizing the variation of performance and evaluation among those that do the work

4.     becomes a basis for discussion when requirements change (as they always do) or when new technology is considered (critical when considering a new WMS)

We’re guessing you may have some processes that are out of sync.  Perhaps a little review and fine tuning can help you make your WMS good to the last byte.  Who knows, you may have functionality buried inside your WMS that was forgotten or never turned on to begin with that may help you.  These are just a few simple ideas to help you improve your operations, save time and money.  Let us know what you have done with regard to process review…just like the WERC Conference, there are lots of us out there that would like to learn from your experience.

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About Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman is a Senior Director with JDA. Simmerman has more than 25 years of experience in the supply chain industry including software, consulting and material handling. He has focused his efforts on working with clients to achieve high performance supply chain results through partnerships and creative solutions. He is a member of CSCMP, WERC, and MHIA and is a regular contributor to several industry publications and events. Simmerman holds his undergraduate and MBA degrees from The University of Notre Dame.


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