What is the key goal or driver for most of the companies involved in warehousing and supply chain management? According to a study conducted by Zebra Technologies in 2019, 43% (of 1403 top industry professionals) feel that their growth would come from faster deliveries to end customers. What does this number signify?
Back in the 1970s, only a few companies like UPS and FedEx offered overnight shipping. It was a huge deal at the time. It etched out an entire business model for them. Then came further innovations like FedEx Ground recommitting to next-day deliveries and improving the end-customer experience.
Let’s jump back to our time when overnight shipping is taken as a basic need. People have same-day or next-day deliveries for almost anything they choose to buy online. This is not exclusive to e-commerce. Retail stores depend on a lean supply chain to keep up stock availability and visibility to maximize high-footfall sales events like Cyber Monday and Black Friday. According to National Retail Federation (NRF), a record number of 196.7 million people shopped online and offline through the Thanksgiving weekend up to Cyber Monday.
There’s a vast and intricate distribution network that ensures such high availability in stores and same-day deliveries online. The sales numbers mentioned above are astronomical and are sure to grow further.
Now, we have seen that the market dynamics and end-customer expectations are moving further towards instant gratification and faster deliveries. But can the supply chain and warehousing industry sustain such numbers?
The supply chain is comparatively more dynamic and scalable than warehouses. Managers can dip into spot markets for trucks if they’re expecting a rise in sales or high-volume shipments. Even though this is sometimes restricted by driver shortages and fuel price fluctuations, the general adaptability and responsiveness in the supply chain are improving year-on-year.
Compare this to the warehouse. A warehouse has limited real estate and resources. How would this warehouse manage the load fluctuations, capacity requirements, and resource shortages while ensuring fast and accurate dispatches?
Benefits of warehouse digitization and automation for retail and e-commerce
The key solution point here is digitization and automation in warehousing. Imagine a scenario where the warehouse managers:
- know the exact location of each stock item in their warehouse, along with the fastest mapped way to reach this item;
- know the exact status of each activity like goods receipt processing, put away, cycle counting, internal processing, picking, staging, packing, and dispatch;
- know all these details in real-time with instant actionable insights at their fingertips in a single interactive dashboard;
- assign, control, and approve all processes from simple interfaces that function as per their business logic and language;
- and have full mobility with IoT enablement (for scanners, smart devices, and integrated forklifts) across their warehouse.
This would help them:
- reduce the time required for inward and outward movement processes;
- reduce completion time for cycle counting that gives exact inventory status in real-time;
- optimize resources in terms of time, labor, utilities, and capacity;
- sustain agile warehouse operations that are consistent over all scenarios;
- and improve visibility for each item, handling unit, bin, and shipment across the supply chain.
How SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) helps warehousing and supply chain in retail and e-commerce
SAP EWM offers its users much more than traditional warehouse management in terms of mobility, automation, and process visibility. SAP EWM becomes a seamless part of the full supply chain offering visibility about the location and processing status of each item in the warehouse.
Warehouse managers using SAP EWM would know exactly how long it takes to process inbound shipments or put away. They know the exact resource cost in terms of labor and time. This helps standardize the activities and processes to make them scalable and responsive. Now, if the warehouse manager is expecting high-volume movement, then they would know exactly how many resources would be required in the unloading area for the required sorting and put-away process.
They would also know the exact inventory status at any time. This would help them optimize their space and capacity. Suppose they also support their manufacturing plants vertically to supply spare parts and materials. They would know the exact availability of each part or item and the exact time it would take for picking and dispatch. This would help the entire supply chain (procurement, sales, and logistics) know the lead times for each part. As we know this holds critical importance in production and asset maintenance.
Knowing the exact inventory status also helps rearrange stock as required. Suppose you know that some category of items would be fast-moving (multiple order requests) due to a launch or sales event (like Super Bowl) then you can preemptively move them into a specific storage section.
This is the control and agility, infused through SAP EWM, that helps keep your warehouse’s capacity and resources optimized.
Moreover, the visibility granted with SAP EWM gives the company the exact availability of all items across all their warehouses and distribution centers. Suppose a store requires an item in a short period. It is associated with a specific Warehouse A.
However, Warehouse A doesn’t have the required items. The parent company would like to know if Warehouse B, which is located nearby, has the items. Company or Warehouse A can request support from Warehouse B to fulfill the delivery request to the store. This means that the end customer got their delivery on time without making an excuse about stock-outs. Everybody wins.
How Crave InfoTech’s cEWM as an RF-enabled mobile solution can help along with SAP EWM
So, you can see now that SAP EWM is a step up from traditional warehouse management. There’s another piece to this enablement that involves the on-ground Workflow, intuitive user interfaces, RF and IoT enablement. This is where Crave InfoTech is the best partner for warehousing and supply chain companies.
Crave InfoTech has been a key SAP partner for over a decade. We have worked with all business verticals like manufacturing, warehousing, and supply chain. We know how the whole system optimizes processes, how it seamlessly interoperates, and how the data is transformed into insights and intelligence.
When it comes to warehouses, we have deep expertise with SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) and SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM). We know how to unlock the full benefits of SAP BTP and SAP EWM with full process visibility, error-free and clean deployment, fast user adoption, and fast go-to-market.
We have our pre-packed mobile app cEWM that extends the capabilities of SAP EWM.
Users with cEWM can simply follow a smart workflow to process all incoming shipments through sorting and handling unit creation to final put away. Everything is step-by-step and easy to follow for anyone.
They don’t have to type anything into the system. This saves time and cuts down on human error. The users simply scan the items or units directly into the system using their in-app camera or handheld scanners.
The accurate information and process status are instantly updated in the system. The managers or superusers can check the status updates in real time in their dashboard.
They can also print labels right there on the warehouse floor using portable printers. The print is directly formatted and processed through a single click in the app.
They can assign a specific storage bin to the item from within the app. The app would show them the location of this bin and can even guide them to the destination.
All items and bins are tagged and associated in real time as the process moves on. This means that managers know the exact physical and functional location of each item in the warehouse at all times.
The counting process is further simplified with cEWM. The users can simply move the scanner over the bin to instantly scan (bulk scan) all items in the bin (or area). This saves time and ensures accurate counting.
The users can search for any item using the app with the click of a button. The app would guide them to the pick-up location. They can scan the required item and disassociate it from its bin (within the picking and dispatch process). This ensures zero duplicity of information and real-time information accuracy.
As mentioned before, cEWM is an RF-enabled mobile app for the optimization of various warehouse operations as an extension to SAP Extended Warehouse Management. If you want to ensure that your warehouse can sustain the new-age supply chain, you must adapt to a smart warehousing system. Here in SAP EWM and Crave InfoTech’s cEWM is your best option.
If you want to talk about this solution, do drop in a message.
As founder and Solution Architect of Crave InfoTech, Shrikant Nistane serves businesses of all sizes and industry segments as a trusted provider of digital transformation and mobility services that enable competitiveness and reduced costs.