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Is your warehouse as efficient as it seems? Why 3PLs and distribution centres need real-time visibility

By Neil Olsson | Jan 2, 2019 10:47:18 AM

Learn how the functionality of the right WMS will give you complete operational visibility, allowing warehouse owners to meet demand by centralising their performance data.


Big data has become big news over recent years. The ability of businesses and other organisations to mine and analyse information from public and online sources can be a key source of competitive advantage. For other businesses, data is the tool with which they can steal a march on their rivals by gaining greater insight into their existing and potential customers, as well as market trends.

The data locked up inside a business can arguably be every bit as valuable as that gleaned from external sources. For businesses in third-party logistics, information such as stock-tracking details, average pick rates and the length of time a particular item spends sitting on warehouse shelves can offer significant benefits – not just to their own managers and executives, but also to their customers.

Without sight of this data, firms’ operational efficiency risks be hampered by problems such as inefficient warehouse layouts, picking errors, and misallocation of staff or other resources -- without them realising it. Bear in mind that staffing costs can make up 50% of a warehouse’s operating expenses.

Meanwhile, among consumers in particular, we have seen increasing demand over recent years for end-to-end order tracking and real-time updates relating to dispatch and expected delivery times. Warehouses that can provide this information in a reliable and accurate way are able to add a considerable level of value to their customers, rising above their competition.

Vital visibility

Obtaining clear visibility of what is happening within the warehouse at any given point in time is perhaps even more important when it comes to analysing its efficiency.

As well as the need to provide customers and other companies in the supply chain with real-time tracking information and status updates, businesses in the sector now recognise that improving warehouse efficiency is the key to maximising performance, minimising costs and ultimately ensuring their operations are sustainable and capable of long-term growth.


Most warehouse owners’ long-term objectives will include:

  • Improving on-time deliveries.
  • Reducing lead times.
  • Creating better cash flow.
  • Reducing reliance on expensive short-term workers.

For each of these factors, visibility of internal performance data is the most crucial starting point.

So what is standing in the way of this visibility at present?

For many businesses, the key problem is that information regarding their warehouse operations – from inventory status to pick accuracy – is not collected or presented in a way that is easily accessible or understood.

This makes it difficult to identify potential problems before they have developed into more substantial issues. It also means that warehouse managers may struggle to work out which parts of the operations are particularly inefficient or could be improved at relatively low cost.


Data from the dashboard

Implementing a warehouse management system with a dashboard function gives management instant access to key performance indicators (KPIs) in all areas of their business. The right WMS will be highly flexible and configurable so that it can present the metrics that matter most to your business and your customers.

By working closely with the WMS vendor, you will be able to set it up in such a way that managers receive instant alerts regarding the most important issues in your business.

By making this data readily available, efficiency savings can be identified and made as and when necessary. In turn, this can lead to significant cost savings.


Introducing a WMS dashboard into your warehouse doesn’t just give you insight into business performance and operations. It also provides a far greater ability to control the variables that can work to derail a fast-moving and rapidly expanding business, especially at times of peak demand.

Management can drill down into the information provided by the dashboard to help them make key strategic long-term decisions regarding the future of the business and potential areas for growth, not to mention sources of competitive advantage.

Companies all over the world and in every industry are increasingly recognising that data is king, but for managers looking to achieve greater warehouse efficiency, the most important data is probably that which is right under their noses as long as they have the right WMS to bring it to the fore.

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