We’re only human

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Picking the appropriate WMS system can ease the burden on retailers' hard pressed warehouse personnel, writes Jonathan Bellwood, CEO, Peoplevox.

Perhaps one New Year's resolution every retailer should consider making is recognising their warehouse operatives are human. After all, it is the pickers, packers and despatchers who ensure the right items are picked and shipped on time.

It's important to understand the importance of employee engagement as it aligns with retention and productivity for your business. It's not realistic to expect employees to be engaged if they're not happy in their work. Happy employees are not only more productive, they're less likely to be absent from work.

Look out for those early warning signs of stress in the warehouse. Where staff members are perhaps trying to cope with too much volume, not being sure where to put or find things, regularly missing targets and deadlines, or dealing with too many customer complaints. Similarly, working in a fog of misinformation, struggling to keep up with paperwork, feeling like they are letting down colleagues in sales, marketing or finance, are all symptoms of rising stress levels in the warehouse.

Optimising the layout of your warehouse can play a big part in reducing the pressure on operatives by saving their legs and time. So too can using a WMS system rather than soldiering on with paper and pen systems, or old warehouse IT software and handheld devices which were never intended for coping with the speed and complex nature of e-commerce retailing.

There is a whole host of technologies and products that can make it easier for your workforce to communicate and collaborate, but only you will know which technology can have the most positive impact on your business. And it's important to make sure that whatever systems and processes you bring in, you do so with your workforce in mind.

Equipping warehouse personnel with fit-for-purpose and mobile-friendly WMS systems offers the potential of delivering them, and the business. significant benefits. All concerned will know exactly what stock is available for sale. It will build dynamic picking routes to improve picker efficiency, and integrate with carrier platforms to ensure the total accuracy of shipping labels.

Furthermore, permanent staff will be able to handle much higher volumes and when temporary staff is needed they will only need minimal training to be up and working accurately. Customer complaints will become a thing of the past, helping your team to focus on improving the rest of the business. All in all, the warehouse team will become more productive, more engaged, and most importantly, happier at work.

The right WMS can help de-stress the warehouse by enabling a number of benefits including:

Business intelligence

You will be able to track and plan everything your business does, including employee performance. You will be able to see who is performing well and where improvements could be made. This will allow you to delegate the right responsibilities to the right people, making your workflow and workforce operate much more smoothly.

Live and historical data

Report on warehouse performance, perform year-on-year comparisons, and gain better insights into how your employees are coping as your business scales.

Optimised picking

The WMS will map optimum picking routes to avoid pickers unnecessarily crisscrossing the warehouse floor, thereby saving their legs and improving productivity by preventing them from searching for items that don't exist. It can also allow stock to be placed by operatives anywhere in the warehouse in any location and then remember where it is. One of the main problems with warehousing is if you try to store products in the same location all the time. Sometimes you'll have more stock than there's space for, at other times you'll have lower stock and wasted empty shelf space.

Filtering

With mobile access to the WMS, operatives will quickly see and filter all orders placed, enabling them to prioritise based on order type (e.g. single, multiple, batch) and delivery requirements. To help with picking accuracy and productivity, it is often beneficial to store dissimilar products together rather than, for example, putting all sizes of the same shade of hat on the same shelf, making them hard to differentiate.

Slicker despatch

With a WMS you will be able to display customised packing suggestions on-screen to staff at the packing bench to reduce decision-making for the operator and increase efficiency for despatch.

Order tracking

Being able to quickly and accurately track and trace individual orders will reduce stress for customer services personnel dealing with high levels of inbound customer enquiries. The WMS should be able to pinpoint who picked it, when, and which carrier is shipping it.

In the end, only you and those within your business will be able to decide if deploying a WMS can make your warehouse a happier and more productive place. It's therefore worthwhile beginning the process sooner than later, by informally asking employees what they think of the current systems and if there are any working practices that could make them happier.

Download the free Peoplevox's E-Commerce Buyer's Guide for more information http://www.peoplevox.co.uk/wms-buyers-guide/

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