Commentary | IT Matters

Measuring the Value of Warehouse Data

Tags: Logistics I.T., Warehousing, Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

Tadeusz Dyduch is Senior product manager, Apriso

In today’s highly global manufacturing and supply chain economy, it’s no surprise that manufacturers need to embrace better communication to manage cultural, geographic, and language differences so as to operate effectively. In the end, better communication means better efficiency, less waste, and higher customer satisfaction.

Complex, global economic issues have only increased the difficulty in overcoming the top challenges faced by logistics professionals: cost reduction, visibility, customer service, integration, and data management. While these are not new challenges, today there are new options on how to resolve them. More mature solutions now yield greater visibility, improved logistics execution, and faster access to consolidated data from across the company to ultimately understand operations with greater precision – resulting in reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction.

“Single Version of the Truth” Paradigm

Almost every warehouse management system (WMS) provides a way to streamline logistics operations coupled with some sort of reporting or analytics. But recent years have demonstrated that integration and data management challenges require more than just a few interfaces or consolidation layers. Current best practices say that to gain the best possible visibility and integration, people need to share the same data and have access to it quickly. Sounds like a reuse of the well-known ERP slogan of having a “single version of the truth,” but this has become particularly important when warehouse operations are mixed with value-added activities.

A single version of the truth is sometimes interpreted as using a reporting layer above distinct data sources, which really doesn’t address the bigger challenge of leveraging normalized data to make real-time decisions. As an example, think about the different units of measure or time stamps that various systems utilize when managing inventory. Unification attempts could lead to inaccuracies or inconsistencies – there is no precise or “right” way to synchronize or convert one into another. Running consolidated execution system – i.e. a single platform – addresses this challenge while dramatically reducing the cost and challenge of integration and data management. This approach enables accurate and real-time visibility and analytics, which can then be shared back to the operations execution staff through a feedback loop, which is particularly important in a dynamic environment.

Change or Die

Today it is imperative for businesses to adapt quickly to changing conditions. Logistics execution is no different. And, as order status updates are critical to improve customer satisfaction and order fulfillment, accuracy and real-time visibility to each of these actions have a two-pronged impact on both the customer’s and operation’s experience. That means not only must hardware and software be adaptable, but flexible rules must be seamlessly synchronized with business partners and internal workforces. It is in everyone’s own best interest to ensure each of these essential components can support change. One approach that is now being embraced by some vendors is to provide business process management and deployment tools to their suppliers. Immediate benefits include greater visibility to support greater agility – two objectives that are mutually beneficial to all.

Integrated Business Process Management and Big Data

Having the ability to analyze big data can accelerate business transformation. The ability to become a more dynamic, adaptable business hinges on the ability to know how to use the data towards the goal of evolving and automating your business processes; towards to transforming the next wave of manually-performed or unstructured processes to the next plateau of productivity and competitiveness. This is where the need to distill big data into salient knowledge via advanced search and analytics has become the next capability for gaining insight and navigating the forest of continuous process improvement.

In order for this to happen, modern companies have an underlying business process management capability in place. It is the blueprint for how a company works internally, as well as with external partners and customers. By creating a process-centric model for your business, and then integrating big data results, a company can deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. In other words, this process-based setup takes the information that has been analyzed and makes it actionable, which can then let the enterprise achieve its next level of agility.

What’s Next?

Companies need state-of-the-art technology to fine-tune operations and stay the course. This kind of innovation is not easy. But as the industry leaders in global markets begin leapfrogging their competitors, it will be clear that innovation is not just a buzzword. It will become a key to survival. More logistics and manufacturing professionals have come to realize that to reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction they need to have good, real-time insight, into their operations. To do this, they must have their data managed in a unified environment that can be adjusted as the pace of business change. Businesses adopting solutions that support such approaches are capable of setting significantly higher standards in customer service, while keeping or even improving their operating margins. This totally integrated approach is a sign of a new era for logistics and warehouse management professionals.