Many companies carry out in-depth audit to investigate the inefficiencies and warehouse automation can help in reducing them. Usually it involves investigation of whole warehouse management systems. While proposing such system management may become hesitant because of the initial costs, fear of change and resources required for implementation. ERP solutions can provide the same benefits as implementing totally new enterprise software without the problems associated with the later.

In this article we will discuss how ERP application can assist in effective warehouse automation. Many surveys and researches have shown that using these application help in improving performance and margins up to around 50-60%. Innovative and modern technologies like RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) enable the owners to completely automate their business. It helps in automating all the critical processes including product movement, packing, order verification, quality control shipping, returns, transfers and customer care.

Usually most companies will find it more beneficial to extend the existing ERP functionality within an enterprise environment than going for a full-blown Warehouse Management System. After doing research in various companies who have ERP system and full blown Warehouse Management Systems, researchers have reached on a conclusion that there exists a huge gap between WMS distribution logistics and ERP distribution capabilities. The Warehouse Management System provides similar working system as an ERP but most of its features are of no use to majority of the manufacturers.

It is very easy to extend the existing ERP with straightforward technology which directs workers to the warehouse without a full-blown Warehouse Management System. Further, this extended ERP approach can enable you to go for more challenging approach of warehouse management and picking including:

• Batch and Wave picking
• Picking by carrier
• Picking in accordance with expiry dates
• Picking in accordance with FIFO (First In First Out) approach
• Picking products that are subject to revision

Majority of manufacturers only look for a little automation in key areas, effective logistics support and features that enhance the overall productivity and growth. What they don’t really need is unnecessary features present in most of Warehouse Management Systems. Blending the warehouse capabilities with automated workforce suite can be very beneficial. The automated workforce suite includes data collection, monitoring through mobile devices, truck mounted devices as well as being able to communicate the next task to the workers in a fast and efficient manner. This approach has been proven to be quite effective in automation of warehouse functions and improving the efficiency of the whole work force.

A Warehouse Management System may perform the same operations as an extended ERP but it comes with unnecessary functions and added costs. This added cost is because of additional licenses for the application and database, cost of additional server hardware, much higher maintenance and support fees. It also requires extra time as the staff has to maintain expertise at two separate systems. Moreover, integrating the ERP and the Warehouse Management System does not only require additional costs in the implementation stage but also during each update and upgrade of the system. This is because you need to uplift the whole integration to add new software for both ERP and Warehouse Management System.

Moreover, integrating a Warehouse Management System with an existing enterprise suite slows down all the processes and may even affect the inventory initiatives. When we integrate a Work Management System and a manufacturing system are integrated, we usually do it by refreshing data in Work Management System periodically in a batch process present in the manufacturing software. When the product is needed to be shipped right after the manufacturing phase, this batch processing can be very slow. In such situation, it is very important to have live snapshots of the manufacturing system.

If you are looking to upgrade your existing ERP solution, you need to check a few things to ensure that your new ERP solution helps in improving the automation of the warehouse. First and probably the most important one is the functionality. If the existing ERP solution does not provide you with top-notch product tracking and other critical functions, then you need to upgrade it for improved automation.

Moreover, the ERP solution for warehouse automation should be flexible enough to handle the frequent changes. Usually ERP solutions are not designed to handle significant changes and can only work efficiently in linear environments. For warehouse automation through an ERP application having a flexible software is a must.
Other important factors that should be kept in mind are present day technology and infrastructure. The ERP solution for effective warehouse automation should be in accordance with the modern technology and infrastructure. This helps in seamless integration of new features in the system and network and also ensures that the whole system works at the top level. The implementation time is also reduced significantly and it also helps in enhanced quality standards.

Last but not the least is the human factors involved in the warehouse process. Usually expanding the ERP to warehouse results in involvement of more people in various processes. All the people involved need to properly trained and the system should also help them in performing their jobs. If you don’t expect the system to fulfill all this, there a huge chance of failure.

Now we have so many innovative ERP solutions which have several powerful features. SO it is now quite common to use them for warehouse automation. A detailed research should be carried out to find out how an enterprise grade ERP solution can be beneficial for warehouse automation. If a cost-benefit analysis and other research show a positive result, there is no reason you should hesitate to use ERP solution for effective warehouse automation.