Warehouse Management Cake

The Warehouse Cake: Software, Process & Procedure

The secret to a quality warehouse operation is quite simple, in my opinion. With our customers I’ve always used the concept of a warehouse cake which is made up of 3 key ingredients

The secret to a quality warehouse operation is quite simple, in my opinion.  With our customers I’ve always used the concept of a warehouse cake which is made up of 3 key ingredients.  They are software (flour), process (sugar) and procedures (eggs) and each of them constitute a major part of the business.


It is no use at all having a world-class warehouse management system if the processes or procedures are not adhered to.  By the same token, if the process differs from the prescribed procedure, why would you expect a quality result?  In the way that if a recipe told you to sieve the flour and you didn’t, why would you expect the cake to be light and fluffy? The link between them is that the Warehouse Management System (WMS) software is there to support great procedures so your warehouse does not end up like a flat burnt cake.

Warehouse Cake: Software


With more companies increasingly looking at tech to help in their warehouse operations, here is some advice if you are thinking of changing your company from using basic stock location control processes to a full blown warehouse management system.


For many years technology has been available to capture all of the warehouse physical stock movements in real time. This is now ‘mainstream’ and if you doubt it then simply walk into any Tesco or Asda and watch the staff replenish stock on shelves using data capture tools. The value of inventory for many businesses is the single biggest cost to the business. It has always been important to know what you have and where it is – never more so than right now.  If the professionals in your planning, purchasing or customer service departments are making decisions based on ‘gut feel’ rather than on solid inventory numbers, your business is wasting valuable resources. How often are your planners ‘eyeballing’ the stock just to satisfy themselves it’s there?  As I have always said, if you can measure stock accuracy then you can improve it.


Warehouse Cake: Process & Procedure


Good processes accurately mirror the day to day events happening in warehouse or manufacturing site.


The big push towards quality processes and procedures in 1980s and 1990s of the back of the BSI 5250/ ISO 9000 programs saw companies documenting defined procedures in great detail.


Sadly the reality on the ground was very different with operators often bypassing defined procedures with their own process therefore compromising on all manner of things, notably accuracy.  This continues today and many of my colleagues will have heard me use the phrase “Anarchy masquerading as Flexibility” when describing a process.


I have often heard operations people tell me they would like a single process across all of their manufacturing distribution sites.  I usually reply you have to start looking at working patterns at individual sites first, as very often different shifts work in different ways.


A great example of the process part of the cake is the modern automotive assembly plant.


Each car consists of tens and thousands of components.  These are all brought together to the assembly line in an orchestrated ‘dance’ around a moving conveyor.  Imagine the chaos if some of the components were found to be unavailable at the appropriate time.


Accurate process mapping as part of a strategic business process review will highlight any areas of disparity between shift working patterns.


Embrace a “lean” concept to every process and procedure, if it’s not “adding value” to the day to day running of the business then why are you doing it?


Eric Carter, Solutions Architect, Indigo Software

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