In recent months we outlined several advantages of using a warehouse management system (WMS) to direct product putaway to minimize operator decision making requirements. We pointed out the potential improvements in compliance, operator productivity, and overall space utilization. But as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In this example the cost appears in three ways.
One, during system setup, significant attention and effort could be required to define the putaway strategies. Afterall, these smart systems are only as smart as the people who set them up. The potential to have multiple putaway strategies / options sounds enticing but will require detail planning and system configuration to make successful. If the time is not invested detailing the strategies, the system may end up suboptimizing performance.
The second cost is associated to the first. The more putaway options in the system, the more processing power and time will be required as the system works through the options. During slow periods this may not be an issue, but as you move into peak season, and there are hundreds or thousands of transactions happening simultaneously, operators may see system performance degradation and the system competes for processing resources to make decisions. From a productivity perspective, these extra seconds can quickly add up and impact overall labor performance.
The third cost will appear if the facility goes through frequent changes. If you are moving storage locations and/or storage location configurations through process improvements and layout changes, the system configuration will need to be reviewed and probably changed to align with the new layout.
A warehouse management system can make a good distribution operation great. However, it comes with the cost of attention to detail and system administration.