The evolution of warehouse management

The evolution of warehouse management

Warehouse management has undergone a tremendous development from its beginnings until today. Whereas manual processes were once laboriously structured via analog media, today both the technology and the process view have fundamentally evolved

The figure shows an exemplary overview of the development stages from the simple electronic card index box to the highly integrated operational control of a modern warehouse management system. In this context, the enumeration of external requirements, technical possibilities and the resulting solutions should not be interpreted as a strictly sequential order. In individual systems, the development stages described were also passed through in a different order.

However, the development described is in any case associated with increasing mechanization of the process, which is directly dependent on the reliability of all hardware and software components involved. Therefore, safeguarding the critical components by redundant design is mandatory.

The following rules apply in warehouse management

  • All commercially relevant data and all inventories must be reliably protected against data loss.
  • Transaction data can then be kept volatile if
    • procedures exist for restarting after data loss (e.g., “lap of honor” on materials handling technology or physical clearing and re-keying).
    • the non-dynamic data components can be recovered by matching them with the superimposed system.

If individual technical components cannot be protected against failure due to an unavoidable “single point of failure” (= a failure of this component results in a failure of the entire system), a manual emergency sequence for operation with greatly reduced power must be provided if possible.

Important: Increasing technical reliability through redundancy in the components involved only makes sense up to a certain point, as each additional redundancy leads to an increase in complexity. However, limiting the complexity of a facility has also been proven to be a reliable means of increasing availability (known by the term “Russian engineering”, which can be interpreted positively).

Taking advantage of all the possibilities that exist today, modern warehouse management allows an increase in productivity (= daily output per employee) compared to a purely manual distribution by a factor of more than ten!

The development of a highly integrated logistics system indicated in the figure reaches a point at which the processes to be controlled are only manageable by installing a control center that clearly displays the current system status and thus gives people the opportunity to react to bottlenecks or errors in a timely manner.

Particular attention will be paid to:

  • the workload in the individual areas.
  • the work progress, i.e. the already processed scopes.

Since, with well-designed technology, the performance of the employees determines the throughput, appropriate personnel control (who works when and where?) can be used as a basis for ensuring that the performance in the individual areas is adapted to the current requirements.

After all, the operator of a complex warehouse needs a wide range of different statistics to allow him to assess the performance of man and machine.

For information on the planning, control, provision and optimization of processes along the value chain, see Logistics.

Image source: © Cirquedesprit – Fotolia.com

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