As Manhattan Associates rolls out its new unified cloud-native Warehouse Management System, MHD explores the challenges to effective warehouse management and the benefits of the global leader’s latest offering.
Over the last two decades, the growth of connected consumers and a fast and free fulfilment economy has fundamentally changed the dynamics of supply chains all over the world.
While new businesses with unique warehouse management needs are not a product of COVID-19, the virus has forced companies to re-evaluate the systems they have in place, and this is especially so for their Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). Upgrading existing WMS technologies, even in normal times, is a challenging and drawn-out process, given individual business’s unique needs and the implementation process that must meet those needs. But global WMS technology group Manhattan Associates has been working on a game-changing technology for more than a decade to create a holistic and unified WMS.
“Today’s supply chain leaders need actionable insights across their entire operation from a single, intuitive application. They need augmented intelligence from AI and machine learning to navigate skyrocketing volumes and decreasing commitment windows,” says Raghav Sibal, Managing Director Australia & New Zealand at Manhattan Associates. “And they also need to creatively engage their labour force and interconnect their automation to ensure maximum efficiency for humans and machines.”
A NEW SOLUTION FOR A NEW ERA
To connect the two sectors, Manhattan Associates has created a unified supply chain execution tool: Manhattan Active Warehouse Management (WM). This device combines all demand, supply, labour, slotting and automation into a precision instrument of efficiency across every facility in the business network, regardless of physical size, velocity or volume.
Manhattan Active WM is cloud-based and version-less, which means businesses need never buy another WMS. Instead, Manhattan Active WM offers organisations continuous access to new capabilities and solutions to meet their customers’ needs. All system and software maintenance are ongoing and seamless, freeing up businesses to focus even more energy on serving their customers.
It also improves customer service by strategically grouping items together for fulfilment and continuously updating placement recommendations based on new trends and data.
“This technology can transform what a distribution facility is capable of by an order of magnitude,” Raghav says. “The incorporation of gamified associate experiences and the re-engineered flexibility of slotting, picking, packing and sorting have unshackled order streaming and will unlock its full potential for real-time orchestration of simultaneous wholesale, retail and direct fulfilment. This will significantly increase the potential for picking efficiency and overall throughput.”
OPTIMISING PRODUCT SLOTTING
Manhattan Associate’s new technology automatically determines the best locations for inventory to increase workforce efficiency, shorten order fulfilment cycles, and maximise throughput
For Raghav, warehouse operations are just like real estate. “Location makes all the difference,” he says. “It directly affects productivity, worker safety and order accuracy. You want fast-moving items situated in the most accessible locations, heavy items placed to minimise damage, and total storage capacity optimised.”
“With the challenges of smaller orders, SKU proliferation, volatile demand and shorter order cycle times, warehouse spaces must be constantly fine-tuned. As distribution operations adapt to requirements driven by digital commerce, optimised slotting becomes more critical to controlling costs and meeting customer expectations,” Raghav says.
ENGAGING YOUR MODERN WORKFORCE
Raghav says labour management approaches must evolve together with a new generation of workers and labour market conditions. With labour shortages, the rise of digital native and gig economies, and the impact of COVID-19, companies need new tools to get the most out of their workforce without treating workers one-dimensionally. “Measuring success has to expand beyond common standards for evaluating productivity to understand how we can motivate and engage employees on a human level,” Raghav says.
Manhattan Active WM features employee-engagement technologies that prioritise and optimise metrics like recognition, feedback, happiness, personal growth, satisfaction, wellness, ambassadorship, relationships with managers and co-workers, as well as alignment with the company.
To cultivate these attributes, team leaders need more than just raw performance data assessing worker productivity. Manhattan Active WM’s technology facilitates more holistic feedback and employee engagement. “Similar to the real-time performance data we experience using fitness apps, this new employee engagement technology fills an important void in the need for immediate and constant feedback for employees in a large and complex operations environment,” says Raghav.
REIMAGINING OUTBOUND AND RETURNS PROCESSES
Manhattan’s new technology allows for greater efficiency on the warehouse floor. Picking is no longer limited by pick type, order type or the processes that follow downstream. Instead, picks are organised around priority and precisely sequenced to minimise travel. Different pick types can now be chained together to minimise the distance and travel time between locations.
“Outbound sortation can automatically, or manually, direct inventory to the optimal packing area using our intuitive graphical pack station options,” Raghav says. “Based on configurable rules, outbound put-away intelligently directs completed licence plate numbers to the correct pickup or drop-off location, or directly to a consolidation area on an outbound dock where items are loaded right onto the correct truck.”
Manhattan Active WM also streamlines returns processes, returning merchandise to sellable condition as quickly as possible. Its modern returns processing interface supports multiple initiation workflows and rapid inventory disposition to drive faster inventory recovery and more rapid customer credits.
UNIFIED AND ADAPTIVE PLANNING
Order Streaming technology allows Manhattan Active WM to continuously plan, learn and replan every task and resource simultaneously across retail, wholesale and direct fulfilment workflows.
“As soon as orders arrive, they are streamed individually or sorted into wave-like collections depending on the urgency, type of fulfilment and customer needs,” says Raghav. “Rather than flooding the floor with work all at once, our Order Streaming ensures the right resource where sufficient capacity is quickly identified, so orders get to the dock ahead of the carrier cut-off times and promised service commitments. Order Streaming also maximises a business’s delivery truck utilisation by constantly adding applicable new orders to open shipments right up until transport departure.”
Order Streaming allows for delays in final task construction and assignment, including travel and pick paths, until the work is ready to be assigned. Picking efficiency is maximised through advanced task optimisation, scheduling, and the ability to build hybrid picking carts so that individual and bulk picks for retailers can be done simultaneously.
The suite of facilities in Manhattan Active WM makes it ideally suited to the problems facing supply chains today, says Raghav.
“Distribution centres today are under pressure like never before, with heightened customer expectations and shortening delivery windows,” Raghav says. “Our cloud-based Manhattan Active WM is version-less, and so offers the industry continuous access to new capabilities and solutions to key operational pain-points.”
For more information on Manhattan Associates, click here.