Alex Mills, sales & marketing director, Chess Logistics Technology, offers advice on what businesses should consider when investing in a computerised warehouse management system


stablished retailers recognised the benefits of computerised stock

management systems and warehouse management (WMS) solutions many years ago. Over the past three decades these systems have evolved into sophisticated solutions that interface with other internal processes – such as ordering, deliveries and invoicing – and increasingly with systems operated by external business partners. The key benefits of reduced manual intervention, increased data accuracy, seamless data exchange and ability to share and analyse information have remained. These systems have by-and-large

remained the preserve of larger companies simply because the entry-level investment has always been beyond the means of the smaller and independent businesses. One reason for this is that end users want solutions matched to their unique business requirement. With even the most fully featured ‘standard’ system this will mean some bespoke configuration which takes time and money even before any ongoing support, maintenance and upgrade costs are taken into account. Any systems available to smaller businesses tend to have limited functionality and are usually non-scaleable. The landscape changed with the

emergence of business-to-consumer e- commerce. For the first time, small businesses could reach a global audience and this disruptive model had consequences across the board. Smaller retailers are now expected to deliver the same levels of service as their established competitors. Customers do not care who supplies them as long as the product they want is available, at the right price and delivered on time. This is true whether businesses are selling through their own e-commerce solutions, specialist portals or general retail sites such as eBay and Amazon. Much of this, however, relies on real time management of stock – physical


Most businesses selling items in a shop or online need some form of stock control. The challenge is knowing when to invest in more advanced computerised stock control or warehouse management (WMS) solutions

and virtual – to enable the visibility and interoperability with other business processes including e-commerce. While many smaller businesses can outperform their larger competitors by being more agile and paying even more attention to customer service the problem with stock control has remained. These businesses understand the benefits advanced computerised stock management can bring, but the cost of entry has remained tantalisingly out of reach. Even when a business is growing steadily, has a solid business plan and is confident of future success deciding when the time is right to cost justify a ‘conventional’ WMS can be very difficult. Some off-the-shelf e-commerce packages include basic stock control functionality and larger sites offer ‘fulfilment’ to smaller retailers, but neither is likely to be adequate for a business that wants to deliver best-in- class performance and retain its control and independence. At some point these businesses may want similar functionality to the enterprise WMS solutions. Given that many business applications are now delivered in the cloud it is

surprising that there are very few feature-rich WMS solutions available. In fact, it is hard to find any from the established providers except at price points which still keep them beyond the means of the smaller business. One of the strengths of cloud solutions should be that users only pay for what they use, whether in terms of transactions, storage, bandwidth or some other measurable. Solutions should be scalable in a technological sense, but also in the pricing which should be attractive to smaller businesses with limited budgets. It seems that the market should be

ready for a well-rounded cloud-based WMS solution that not only delivers core functionality, but which is affordable, scalable for business growth and offers a clear migration path to fully-featured systems if needed later. The key benefits of cloud-based solutions would all be there – a solid core of essential features, continuous upgrades, no new technical infrastructure required, no management burden and guaranteed service availability.

Chess Logistics Technology T: 0161 888 2580

Pallet storage optimises warehouse flow S

SI Schaefer has delivered a new pallet storage solution to Yearsley Logistics’ Belle Eau Park Distribution Centre at Newark. The new storage

facility, which represents an extension to the existing site, comprises a 15m high building with a 13,400m² footprint creating storage for more than 26,700 pallet positions. It has been designed to accommodate a national foodservice supplier’s ambient distribution operation. The actual build is larger than current requirements and has options to extend. The operation currently handles 1,200 pallets per day intake and picks

365,000 units per week across a total of 5500 SKU lines. Two storage systems will operate, the largest of which consists of approximately 15,000 wide aisle pallet locations in an 8,100m² footprint, offering both full pallet and full case picking options, serviced with reach trucks and low level order

pickers. The heavy duty racking manufactured by SSI Schaefer can carry three 1,100kg pallets per beam level, while galvanised finished frames and painted wire decking panels are ideal for this food environment application. The system achieves a storage density of approximately 0.54m² per pallet stored. Complementing the wide aisle racking, the second system comprises 11,700 locations in powered

mobile racking on a 3,000m² footprint, occupying only 0.25m² per pallet stored, including one aisle in each of four blocks. This space-saving mobile racking provides a very dense and efficient storage medium and is designed for storage and picking of full pallets. SSI Schaefer integrated the design and installation of the rails and control systems with Russells Construction, who undertook the building project.

SSI Schaefer T: 01264 386600


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