When it comes to modernizing today’s warehouses, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” Warehouses of all sizes are facing immense pressure to keep up with internal and external customer demands and expectations, and doing business as usual isn’t an option.
To keep up with exponential growth in order volumes, the number of SKUs they need to manage, and turnaround times in hours or days instead of weeks, warehouses need to reinvent their workflows and processes, and transform the way they operate. Simply hiring more labor isn’t an option, particularly with a shrinking warehouse labor pool, competition for new hires, and rising wage costs.
This is where a modernization strategy and the right warehouse technologies come into play, to help automate processes, simplify workflows, and get more done with less labor and cost.
But when it comes to modernization, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Different warehouses have different needs and different potential pathways depending on where they are in what our technology partners at Zebra call ‘the Warehouse Maturity Model’.
Zebra’s model is a five-phase framework that breaks warehouse modernization into manageable pieces guided by a bigger-picture strategy as well as longer-term goals.
Depending on where you are in the framework, and which phases you’ve already passed through or are working on right now, it serves as a basic strategic and visual guide to where you are and where you ideally want to be.
The end game isn’t just to upgrade your warehouse management systems, give your workers some better technologies, and selectively optimize a few workflows. To reach full maturity, your warehouse should aim for more strategic, long-term goals and to be able to fully sense, analyze and act on data, challenges and opportunities in each of the five phases.
The diagram below shows the framework, with phases 1 through 5 moving from left to right, with the ultimate end goal of each phase shown in bold:
- Phase 1: Improve Operations
- Phase 2: Connect Workers
- Phase 3: Integrate
- Phase 4: Be Responsive
- Phase 5: Predict and Adapt
For each phase, the nearest objective is to Sense, followed by being able to Analyze, and finally to Act. All three of these centers on data and actionable insights, whether it’s being able to collect data at the Sense stage, or Analyze it to identify challenges and opportunities, or to Act on those insights and ultimately make meaningful changes.
The framework also provides some basic examples of what sort of data, capabilities or insights will be needed to Sense, Analyze, and Act in each phase.
Warehouse management systems, shown in the grey outer shell layer, provide the automation and the foundation that will enable each phase of the maturity process. But worker and workflow optimization, shown in the interior blue areas, is critical to all the improvements and steps that will allow your warehouse to reach each phase’s eventual objective.
Making use of the framework and Zebra’s maturity model means taking this holistic approach to your end goals and thinking about issues that might currently be preventing you from achieving them.
Just like building a house, you have to start with a foundation, and you need a blueprint. You have to think in terms of the entire project and take the right early steps. If you try to skip ahead or get too focused on one part of the project, the whole build may eventually suffer and fail.
It’s the same with modernizing your warehouse, which is why we strongly recommend Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model. Zebra has a whole series of articles and videos that walk you through each phase of the model, explore specific challenges that warehouses may need to address, and explore strategies, systems and technologies that can drive a successful modernization effort.
But to learn more about the Warehouse Maturity Model and how to use it to drive your modernization and optimization efforts, you can also reach out to us at The SMS Group.
As experts in warehousing strategy, consultation and technology, and as a partner with Zebra, we can provide you with expert advice, tips and insights that can help you make the most of this framework and get on the right path for your warehouse. And we can recommend proven Zebra Android warehouse technologies and mobility solutions that can play a crucial role in helping your realize your goals.
To learn more, contact us now to start a conversation, and let’s work on modernizing your warehouse.