2016 is already shaping up to be the year of warehouse re-management.

While STL has offered a warehouse management system for some time, demand has predominantly come from those with bonded warehouses, with a critical need to manage duty on imported goods while complying with Customs regulations.

Now, however, we’re seeing an upsurge in demand from foodservice businesses and cash and carry operators alike. While their business models are quite different, they do share a common challenge: stock location.

We all know the problem: we can see from the goods-in log that certain items are in the warehouse, but no-one knows exactly where they are. Perhaps the entries are inaccurate, incomplete or undecipherable. Or the person who received the goods is on holiday, off sick or has left the company, taking that valuable knowledge with them.

Locating the goods then usually requires someone to trawl through each rack to find them. This is clearly cumbersome but, to date, wholesalers have typically written this off as a frustrating but inevitable event in any warehouse.

Now, though, many wholesalers are becoming savvier about calculating their cost of operations – especially those using Business Intelligence solutions for detailed insights. And they’ve recognised that the type of inefficiency described equates to a significant and quantifiable cost each year, in terms of increased administration and loss of productivity.

Further, if products are haphazardly stored, their rotation cannot be effectively managed. Invariably, this leads to a situation where depots are sometimes replenished or orders fulfilled from the most recent batch received – because their location is both top-of-mind and top of the stack.

Inevitably, this means that some earlier batches will exceed their sell-by date before someone even registers that they are sitting in the warehouse, unavailable to customers.

Not only does this clearly have an impact on profits; it is also becoming increasingly bad for the corporate reputation.

The recent War on Waste campaigns have highlighted the immorality of the casual attitude towards such waste by supermarkets. In response, customers are already picketing with their wallets to demand more responsible practice by their suppliers: they want less waste, less contribution to landfill, better valuing of our food resource – and will shop elsewhere if their demands are not met.

It’s not scaremongering to suggest this dynamic is the future in Wholesaling, too. Those wholesalers who cannot demonstrate that they have control of their rotations to minimise waste, could find themselves falling out of favour with their customers, and losing market share.

In response, STL has re-developed its Warehouse Management Solution (WMS) to more specifically support the demands of depot management for cash and carry operators and distributed wholesalers. The software has been fully integrated with STL’s popular Merchandise Management System (MMS) and Sales Order Processing solution (SOP), to provide seamless support for all warehouse management processes – from receiving goods and inventory management to dispatch.

Once populated, STL WMS automatically locates the oldest batches within a warehouse, ensuring they are used first. Crucially, it also provides tight sell-by date control, so that if a product has moved slowly, is can at least be promoted prior to its sell-by date to generate some return and minimise waste.

Should there be a product recall, the system can also automatically locate affected batches, to ensure their swift disposal with minimum downtime and reputational impact.

The system has already proven its capability and reliability, helping fast-growing The Printed Cup Company (TPCC) to efficiently process more than 1 million items per month through its warehouse and distribution operation.

Mark Woodward, CEO of TPCC, said,

‘By providing us with continuous, accurate and real-time information, STL WMS helps us to stay right on the ball and deliver our customers great products with a terrific service every time – even at the break-neck speed at which we’re growing.’

So, whether you need to wage a war on waste, missed opportunities or lost productivity, perhaps it’s time to rethink how you manage your warehouse?

Let the battle commence.