It's Time to Remaster the Art of Fulfillment

By Eric Lamphier,
Man and Machine in the Modern Warehouse

Forward-thinking companies around the world and across nearly all industries are challenging themselves to serve more customers, more quickly and more directly. In other words, omnichannel fulfillment projects aren’t just for retailers. In response to digital transformation and connected commerce initiatives in the marketplace, Manhattan Associates announced the availability of WMOS v2018, the largest WMS release in our company history.

Supply chain leaders are taking note of gains in other businesses and they are taking action. The time has come to rationalize and optimize – to share, synchronize, and eliminate waste. It’s no longer acceptable to live with segregated warehouse space, duplicative inventories, excess labor, and redundant automation. All of these assets are expensive and in order to improve throughput, profitability, and customer satisfaction, shippers must improve asset utilization across the board. Continuous optimization and orchestration of order fulfillment activities across all assets and channels is the solution, and that’s why we have embedded a Warehouse Execution System (WES) and powerful new Order Streaming capabilities into WMOS v2018.

It’s no secret that fulfillment centers are becoming increasingly automated as they are tasked with handling more SKUs, larger amounts of smaller and more frequent orders, across more channels, all while shrinking processing times. Rising demand for human labor and resulting labor shortages in many markets is causing many shippers to investigate the new advanced automation and robotics options available today.

No Communication

The challenge is that different types of automation do not naturally communicate. They are not aware of each other, much less the supporting workforce. Further, they are being improved constantly – with innovations coming from numerous vendors around the world. As we look forward, we can only imagine the types of advanced automation technologies that will be available in the years to come. Getting maximum throughput within the distribution center requires coordinating and orchestrating assets to work together – advanced automation and people. Over the last decade, as fulfillment leaders have introduced advanced automation into the fulfillment center, they have been forced to work with various systems: a warehouse management system (WMS) and a warehouse execution system (WES) or warehouse control system (WCS). Historically, the WMS was the single place to recognize supply and demand, optimize and allocate work – because it understood orders, capacity, and of course, inventory. But legacy WMS solutions were never designed to continuously manage against the capacity of advanced automation and robotics.

It’s Time to Remaster the Art of Fulfilment with Warehouse Execution System and Order Streaming.

Higher Customer TCO

So, independent WES systems were developed and interjected to manage more real-time work tasking, prioritization, and optimization. But WES systems did not inherently understand order demand across all channels, they did not understand all inventory positions and availability, and so they depended upon the WMS to provide a bulk download of work to process. Unfortunately, these fi eld-integrated WES implementations resulted in higher customer total cost of ownership in many scenarios.

The systems and resources were siloed, lacking orchestration capabilities across all asset classes. Fulfillment organizations were left trying to ensure inventories were not duplicated, and that resources were maximized – all while continuing to meet ever-increasing demands. We are excited to now offer an embedded WES module inside WMOS that will eliminate siloed integration challenges – in favor of a comprehensive orchestrated approach.

The fifth resource In any fulfillment center setting there are five ‘natural’ resources to manage: orders, inventory, labor, work, and automation. WMOS has orchestrated four of those five with tremendous success for nearly 30 years. And now Manhattan has added the fifth to deliver complete command and control of the modern warehouse with the industry’s first WES built into a WMS. Seamlessly integrated, it has been engineered from the ground up to work with any type of automation. It doesn’t matter what kind you have or how much of it you use. While the use of technology in the warehouse is exploding, it is important to remember that more human capital is being used than ever before. With the infusion of WES capabilities inside of WMS, it is now possible to orchestrate workflows across both man and machine, so warehouse leaders get the best of both: the power of repeatable and predictable process and the ability to pivot, and to think innovatively with their personnel, while still retaining full control of building-wide inventory that only a complete WMS can provide.

Machine Learning

Order Streaming, our approach to sophisticated order fulfillment has been a point of focus for several years as our customers and prospects have prioritized the need to operate with increased speed and flexibility. With WMOS v2018 we have shattered the boundaries between wave and waveless and we are excited to now offer our most advanced Order Streaming solution ever. Order Streaming optimally processes orders of all types with a simultaneous wave and waveless alternatives at your disposal. Waveless manages every order as a discrete allocation of work instead of immediately bundling them together. It brings fast, responsive fulfillment for small, more urgent orders and it is ideal for direct-to-consumer order fulfillment. As workers – or machines – fulfill orders over time, the system now leverages Machine Learning to estimate how long a task should take. When conditions change, Order Streaming adjusts the expectation of how long the task will actually require, given the combination of historical data and numerous other conditions. As the task completion patterns are learned, Order Streaming disperses exactly the right amount of work to the most appropriate resource. The longer Order Streaming listens and learns, the more optimized the fulfillment center becomes.

Total visibility Coordination and collaboration across discrete pieces of advanced automation in the warehouse only gets more powerful when those systems are connected to, and aware of, each other. More than ever, warehouse management must be approached from a perspective that considers any combination of human and automation capacity together. With the combination of native WES and Order Streaming capabilities, WMOS is the only solution that enables total visibility across the distribution center, complete flexibility for automation growth, and maximum utilization of all resources.

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