Sustainability & Warehouse Management

A more sustainable warehouse management system.

Yes, a warehouse management system is the best investment you can make if your business is dealing with complex warehouse operations. When choosing your WMS, you want to make sure it can handle the complexity of your orders, enable efficiency and allow for integration. One other important aspect is to choose a system that can scale as your business grows. Even if efficiency should be your number one priority there is another factor which is becoming increasingly important when it comes to choosing a WMS – sustainability. Now you might think warehouse management and sustainability? Can these two really work hand in hand? The answer is yes, and in this post, we will cover all the things you need to know about a more sustainable warehouse management.

 

Sustainable challenges in the warehouse.

As mentioned above, sustainability is not the first thing you think about when you hear warehouse management systems, and there are in fact a few challenges to consider when talking about more sustainable warehouse operations.

 

Order complexity

Direct customer deliveries via e-commerce channels in B2B as well as B2C environments have become a key factor for companies to fulfill customer requirements. However, this comes at a cost. There’s more work involved in picking, packing and shipping smaller consignments to individual customers, while load carriers are less likely to be re-used. This means more packaging material is consumed, which is expensive as goods become more disparate in nature right throughout the supply chain. 

 

Lead time conflicts

Optimizing the production process and supply chain has become increasingly important for companies to cut costs and improve customer service. It is also becoming more common that the entire or parts of the product assortment is sourced from low-cost countries, which leads to that many companies face long lead times for their supply of goods.

 

Inflations in returns

E-commerce has changed our lives completely, in terms of access to products, but it has also changed our behavior. Free-of-charge returns are a service very much appreciated by customers, but not as appreciated from a sustainability standpoint. The process of ordering three sizes and returning two creates a lot of unnecessary work and environmental impact.

 

Global cost competition

One of the lesser-known aspects of a sustainable WMS is the topic of ESG and social responsibility, and how sustainable WMS solutions can contribute to this. With the rise in global labor rates and environmental legislation, relocating manufacturing for some companies is getting tougher. This raises the possibility that more factories might need to relocate or hire guest workers. From a sustainable perspective, attracting well-paid workers to manufacturing with good conditions might seem like an obvious proposition, but unfortunately this is not the case for everyone. 

 

Regulatory compliance

When it comes to ensuring product safety, there is an increasingly stringent regulatory agenda. It’s clear that quality and customer integrity are at the top of a lot of organizations’ agendas, but many have struggled to keep up with changing certification standards and new product placements. For example, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure traceability such as knowing where products originated from and to enable supply chain integrity. This ensures that people and organizations don’t tamper with sensitive information and products in any way.

 

How to incorporate sustainability into the warehouse

Even though there are a few challenges when incorporating sustainability into the WMS, there’s also, thankfully, a lot of things you can do to incorporate a more sustainable practice into your warehouse. Below we list the five things you can start doing today.

 

Avoid Empty space

With a higher demand for delivery, big variations in order size, and competition there is important to consider the use of space when picking and packing to minimize the environmental impact of each order. A good warehouse management system will provide versatility to adapt shipping, picking, and packing to meet order profiles. 

 

No unnecessary moves

When trying to improve utilization in a warehouse, it makes sense to first look at operations where there is scope for building efficiencies ahead of the pick face. Terminal handling models like cross-docking or merge-in-transit are designed with this in mind. The idea is to bring inventory back ‘home’ after one or two orders have been processed and then keep them until they are dispatched out again.

With a warehouse management system like IMI WMS, you can perform replenishments with smart put-away rules, so that goods can be directed straight to pick locations. Direct replenishments will reduce overall travel and energy consumption. Packing during picking is another example of reducing product touches.

A smart way to avoid making unnecessary deliveries and returns is to allow your customers to change or cancel their orders. It is better to avoid any environmental as well as logistical waste arising from unwanted deliveries.

 

Eliminate errors and waste

With a good WMS you will benefit from better quality data and strict control over where your things are located, and how they can be identified. 

With configurable validations in different process steps, we can ensure that data is captured as needed to make each subsequent activity easier to perform. This way potential errors in handling and data input can be significantly reduced, as well as the overall quality of services as well.

One major idea behind Sustainable WMS is the idea of “re-use.” By allowing the reuse of old product labels on newly picked orders, this helps reduce material use, lowers costs, and eliminates stored inventory. Also, substantial resource savings can be achieved by providing both the means for scrap and end-of-life pick systems to be either returned as parts or re-manufactured back into processing equipment.

Well-designed user interactions

A good WMS integrates all the information that a worker requires for their given tasks into a single mobile app. All this information (e.g., location of parts, order information including up-to-date delays or late deliveries and so on) should be available in real time and updated immediately as soon as any change occurs.

By designing the right voice interactions, placing hands-free displays and scanners, and integrating the WMS with automation solutions that perform repetitive work prone to cause injuries or wear and tear, ergonomics and user safety can be built in.

 

Log for transparency

We can always minimize the risk of errors, but not avoid them. It is important that when they occur, they are logged correctly so that we can avoid unnecessary recurrences. It also makes it easier to analyze and improve processes, by comparing actual problems with product development.

 

Summary

Sustainability is clearly a part of the business from now on and no company can afford to skip out on it. The challenges we face from a warehouse perspective can’t be ignored, and it’s all about how your business continuously makes efforts to improve sustainability in your processes and welfare for your employees. With the challenges and solutions we’ve talked about in this blog post your business is definitely in for a good start. 

 

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