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Unlock Efficiency by Orchestrating Man and Machine

By Eric Lamphier,
Unlocking Efficiency by Orchestrating Man and Machine

As we covered in a previous article, demand for labor in warehouses has never been higher. At the same time, investment in automation and robotics is increasing every year. Both man and machine are critical factors in the distribution center (DC). But what’s the best way to help orchestrate their activities to maximize throughput?

Traditionally, the warehouse control systems (WCS) – which include a warehouse execution system (WES) – was solely focused on managing advanced automation, while a warehouse management system (WMS) managed the rest of DC activities, including labor allocations. No solution holistically organized all assets across the warehouse and as a result, the separation between man and machine led to operational inefficiencies. The good news: it’s now possible to implement a WMS, complete with an embedded, vendor-agnostic WES, that coordinates both your workforce and your automation to get the best from both.

More complete operational control

WCSs are purposely designed to be limited in scope, focusing purely on the equipment aspect in a warehouse. Conversely, a WMS has always been a holistic technology. It’s built to coordinate warehouse resources from orders and inventory to people and equipment. Advanced solutions today are finally able to consider both man and machine to orchestrate fulfillment.

WMS has other advantages as well. It’s the only technology with command and control of all work, including tasks outside of fulfillment like receiving and inspection of product, yard management, value-added services and more. Incorporating a vendor-agnostic WES is critical because it allows you to seamlessly integrate any automation or robotics technology – meaning you can capitalize on any innovation as it emerges.

In the end, a WCS offers a close-up view of one part of your operational picture. But the best WMS technology can coordinate humans’ actions and workflows with robotics’ consistency to make it all work together.

The capacity to learn

In addition to better orchestration, the right WMS also uses machine learning to improve processes. Using artificial intelligence, the system creates a baseline by predicting how long tasks should take. As work is executed, it analyzes the results. Then armed with real data, the WMS couples advanced orchestration logic with real-time awareness of capacity to optimize operations.

The resulting improvements lead to reduced dwell time, shorter order cycle times and more accurate allocation of work. Meaning you can on more orders, increase service levels and maximize asset utilization.

The right technology for the job

People and robots are constants in the DC and both will play major roles going forward. The key to better productivity lies in helping them work together. Unlike WCS, advanced WMS technology – with a vendor-agnostic WES built in – takes a holistic view of operations to bring labor and automation together. And then uses machine learning to maximize efficiency.

It allows you to utilize all your assets. Synthesize any type of automation you want to add. And continually optimize your operation. In short, the right WMS gives you the best of man and machine. So no matter what challenges arise, you’ll get the most from your operations.

Next article, we’ll look at emerging warehouse automation and technology that will shape the future of work.

Can the right WMS help you? Discover your potential savings with our WMS ROI calculator.

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