In a warehouse back in the late 1980’s, they employed nearly 100 people on 3 shifts per day. Fast-forward to the present day and that number has dwindled significantly.
From pickers to packers to checkers to loaders, these roles have become streamlined in many respects. The warehouse owners have pointed towards the positives as they are, in-effect, getting a higher level of productivity for a significantly reduced cost. However, it goes further than that, with warehouses that have introduced a technological aspect to some functions also benefitting from more space. Reduced space for workers including canteens and rest areas have enabled them to downsize in some cases and as everyone in business knows, every penny counts.
This said, the warehouse customers want a more streamlined service, as it is generally more efficient. For example, the warehousing and distribution by TIFS is used by many different companies as they provide the complete service at a realistic price. Many such companies have purpose-designed inventory management software that positively drives efficiency and savings throughout every step of the warehousing and distribution process. Many of these warehouses are strategically located to major freight carries in order to maximise the overall service they offer.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
One of main reasons that warehousing and distribution companies can make do with less staff is the advent of advanced WMS. This technology has significantly cut down on the amount of time that people need to spend filling in forms or transferring data from one source to another. This is in addition to advantages that WMS bring to the picking function as it helps organise warehouses more efficiently.
This is in direct contrast to the set up in a 1980’s warehouse where a lot of workers walked about, seemingly for ages, with trolleys or pallet trucks trying to find customers’ orders. There is no doubt that the WMS has virtually revolutionised the warehousing and distribution sector and although some of might reminisce about the old days, the owners and customers are certainly not doing the same! Scanning and voice technologies have also simplified many tasks and spare the warehouse operative of recording everything with a paper and pen.
Back in the 1980’s, it was virtually unthinkable that the warehouse would be almost paperless. There were boxes of papers and orders everywhere, and even the line manager would struggle to locate where everything was. In retrospect, that was wasted space which could have been utilised much more effectively.
For some forward-thinking warehouse and distribution outfits, the future is already here. With the advent of WMS and the paperless warehouse, it may only be a matter of time before the robots come in and according to some statistics, more than 25% of manufacturers are already using machine to machine technology.
Surely, it is only a matter of time before forklifts will work by sensors, cameras and lasers and work alongside people, negating the need for an operator. The relentless march of technology is affecting every business, and warehousing and distribution are no exception.