UKWA’s latest survey of 100 UK warehousing and logistics operators has revealed that warehousing is set to reach breaking point in the next couple of weeks, as a result of the disruption created by COVID-19. Problems have arisen because demand for goods has changed as a result of the lockdown. Goods deemed as non-essential are not selling as expected, whilst new inventory continues to arrive at UK ports. 90% of survey respondents confirmed that they were already totally full, suggesting that there is just 10% pallet space availability still left within UK warehouses.
As DCs continue to fill up, third-party storage services will be needed to cope with the overflow. UKWA is estimating there is additional storage capacity of around 1.5 million pallet spaces available nationwide among 3PLs, which is likely to fill up in the next 2-3 weeks. The situation is becoming so urgent, UKWA has set up a special COVID-19 Emergency Space Register on its website (UKWA.org.uk), so that available space can be identified and shared on a weekly basis.
One of the benefits of using a warehouse management system (WMS) to manage DC or warehouse operations is that it enables up to 30% more inventory to be stored in the same space, whilst still being able to operate efficiently. This additional space is achieved by being able to store inventory in a more flexible way and having a means to improve general all round efficiencies.
How does a WMS improve space utilisation?
Here are 3 key ways that a WMS helps a warehouse find extra space when it really matters:
Putaway management and location assignments
Most warehouses have pre-defined locations for inventory which can be inefficient, but they rely this arrangement to ensure inventory can be identified quickly. Using a WMS means locations can be dynamically assigned, so stock gets stored wherever there is a gap, taking into account the frequency that items are picked and any special storage considerations. The system records each location used and will notify pickers of exactly where items can be found.
Perpetual inventory (PI) stock counting
One of the most transformative benefits of using a WMS is the ability to introduce a daily PI or cyclical counting process. This does away with the need for routine stock counts to keep track of inventory and saves a huge amount of time. Perpetual inventory counting is the most effective way to maintain high inventory accuracy and minimise shrinkage, plus the warehouse can continue running as normal. Using a PI counting module within a WMS means all stock movements can be accurately recorded with an electronic audit trail and discrepancies are immediately apparent.
Shelf life management and stock rotation
Having excess inventory can make stock rotation more challenging. Using a WMS ensures that items are carefully managed to minimise wastage. This extends beyond the obvious perishable raw materials to also include colour ranges and packaging items, which can in turn also impair finished product quality if they are past their recommended use by date. A WMS makes this easy by automatically reminding operatives of which lots to pick first, based on first in first out principles.
Eric Carter, Solutions Architect at Indigo Software – www.indigo.co.uk