Simplify Automated Storage System Connectivity, Control with an Experienced SAP EWM or WM Integrator

For operations with multiple subordinate automation systems—including automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) such as vertical lift modules (VLMs), horizontal carousels and vertical carousels—connecting both their control and communications to warehouse management and material flow systems can be challenging.

That’s why more companies are taking a closer look at implementing SAP Supply Chain Execution (SCE) Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) or SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Warehouse Management (WM) in their automated and/or conventional warehouses. Either choice can be customized to connect administrative functions to warehouse management to material flow to automation (and back). [Read more…]

About the Author Harouna Mohamadou

Harouna Mohamadou is Director SAP Consulting at viastore SYSTEMS, and is responsible for launching the company’s SAP consulting initiative, which will allow viastore to offer the full spectrum of supply chain execution software solutions.

Missed MODEX live? Or, Didn’t Make It to the Incremental Approach to Automation Installation, Investment Seminar? Catch It Here.

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At MODEX 2016, viastore presented a free, on-floor educational session exploring “What Level of Automation Makes Sense — An Incremental Approach” to debunk the concept that automating your warehouse means you’ll be exclusively incorporating expensive, complex, high-speed, highly mechanized equipment that runs 24/7, lights out, without any human intervention.

Yet, in reality, there are actually four levels of automation, and very few installations in the U.S. are at that highest level. The majority of facilities have instead invested in a more affordable level of automation to achieve process improvements in a few select areas that were previously not delivering value to their operations. The resulting automation solution yields better throughput and productivity.

If you missed the ‘live’ MODEX, or missed the ‘live’ session, you can view a recording of the presentation and listen to the accompanying audio here. In the seminar, I covered the four levels of warehouse automation, divided into groupings based on increasing degrees of complexity and cost. They include…

Level 1: Conventional picking with process improvements delivered via warehouse management system (WMS), order picking system such as radio-frequency (RF) or voice-directed picking, and/or a labor management system (LMS).

Level 2: Mechanized solutions that automate horizontal movement and reduce non-value added activities (like walking), such as conveyor, pick modules, stretch wrap applicators, label print-and-apply, and layer picking equipment.

Level 3: Semi-automated equipment that improves storage efficiency and further minimizes travel and manual handling with storage carousels, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), conveyor and sortation, and warehouse control software (WCS) to direct equipment operation in line with the WMS.

Level 4: Fully automated, high-speed (and yes, potentially “lights out”), greenfield installations that include a combination of high-density AS/RS, extensive conveyor and sortation, automated layer picking, case palletizing, WCS and WMS.

During each level of automation, the relating common factors for the ROI for each were discussed. These are covered in the presentation.

In the session, I also explained how to plan each level of automation investment in order to build upon the previous step in a planned, predictable way. For that reason, it’s key to partner with a supplier or systems integrator who can help you develop and map a solution that grows—flexibly and scalably—in lock-step with your operations. That way you can be sure that previous technology investments can be maximized and your existing equipment and processes are properly leveraged.

Want to learn more? Call viastore at 616.977.3950 to chat about which level of automation makes sense for your operation with one of our warehouse planning specialists.

Take an Incremental Approach to Automation Installation, Investment

Warehouse automation. The term calls to mind expensive, complex, high-speed, highly mechanized equipment operating in the dark, with nary a human in sight. Yet—if reading this blog achieves nothing else—let your takeaway be that there are actually four levels of automation (generally speaking), and that only a handful of facilities in the U.S. house installations of that highest level. The rest have invested in a more affordable degree of automation that delivers process improvements in key areas to enhance productivity.

automation scaleAutomating your warehouse breaks down into the following four levels of increasing sophistication and investment: [Read more…]

20 Questions Manufacturers Should Ask When Selecting a WMS/WCS Integrator (part 2)

Modernisierung_Kleinteilelager_ODU_b14_NRThe second critical decision about a new warehouse management system (WMS)—whether it is best-of-breed, or SAP LES or EWM—or a new (or integrated) warehouse control system (WCS) to track and control inventory and its movement within your manufacturing operation, is how it will be installed. Careful evaluation of the software supplier and/or integrator of a WMS/WCS solution for your company should happen either before or during software selection (although it sometimes happens after the software is chosen, for myriad reasons). [Read more…]

18 Questions Manufacturers Should Ask When Selecting WMS/WCS Software (part 1)

viadat_WMS_Weltbild_NRIf your manufacturing operation is in the market for a new warehouse management system (WMS) (either best-of-breed or SAP LES or EWM) or a new (or integrated) warehouse control system (WCS) to track and control inventory and its movement, there are several considerations to keep in mind. When evaluating an investment in a new warehouse execution system (WES) that combines WMS/WCS software, or an upgrade to an existing system, you have a lot of choices. Further, your level of material handling automation (either existing or planned) can have a critical impact on your ultimate software selection.

To help figure out which WMS/WCS solution is best for your application, here’s a checklist of 18 questions to ask. Use them as you navigate your software selection process. [Read more…]

New Automated Warehouse Helps Santa Keep Christmas Promises

'The North Pole'

viastore, a leading material handling automation systems and software company, announced that it has completed the installation of an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), at a super-secret location inside Santa Claus’ Village at the North Pole. Santa Claus is the world’s largest international distributor of Christmas gifts to children of all ages, delivering an estimated 1,829,256,297 presents annually during a 24-hour period on the night of December 24. [Read more…]

Nine Reasons Manufacturers Should Invest in (or Change) a WMS/WCS, Part 2

Warehouse_Management_System_viadat_b1_NRIn a previous post, we discussed why technology limitations and/or strategic initiatives might prompt a manufacturing operation to consider investing in a new warehouse management system (WMS) and warehouse control system (WCS) to track and control inventory and its movement. This second post covers the types of manufacturing process optimization objectives that can be met by an investment in a new or upgraded warehouse execution system (WES) that combines WMS/WCS functionality. [Read more…]

Nine Reasons Manufacturers Should Invest in (or Change) a WMS/WCS, Part 1

Manufacturing operations that store component parts—either made in-house or supplied by another facility or vendor—may or may not rely on a warehouse management system (WMS) and warehouse control system (WCS) to track and control inventory and its movement. Whether your manufacturing operation is considering investing in a new warehouse execution system (WES) that combines WMS/WCS software, or upgrading an existing system, there are a variety of reasons to do so. Generally, these reasons fall into one of three categories: technology limitations, strategic initiatives or process optimization. [Read more…]

Three Benefits of Warehouse Automation Duplication for Multi-Site Operations

Although it’s not often that “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to implementing warehouse automation in different facilities, installing the same brand and configuration of material handling automation equipment can deliver benefits to multi-site operations.

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Phoenix Contact’s Indianapolis distribution facility was automated by an AS/RS and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) from viastore.

Take manufacturer Phoenix Contact—a maker of industrial electrical and electronic technology products that power, protect, connect and automate systems and equipment—for example. As a global entity, the company has three regional supply chain hubs located in Germany, China and the U.S. When it came time to better support business growth in both North and South America, the company decided to automate its Middletown, Pennsylvania manufacturing and distribution facility and chose to mirror its automation installation already in place in Blomberg, Germany. [Read more…]

What Warehouse Execution Can Do for Your Supply Chain

Over the years, as new software tools came out that would automate your distribution environment, each touted that they would optimize their respective space. The problem is that while the solution DID optimize it’s ‘world’ (i.e. the warehouse operation), it would sub-optimize the areas that worked with the warehouse (i.e. transportation or TMS). Each of these solutions created ‘islands’ of automation throughout a company’s supply chain.

Another issue for these disparate systems is that they operated on a batch mentality, meaning that orders and work were planned in advance, and then the work was done. If something changed during the course of the work, the plan (the batch) was not adjusted for re-optimization of work.

In today’s new world of Omni-Channel distribution, this can’t continue. The solution for true overall facility optimization, is the Warehouse Execution System (WES).

[Read more…]