by Simon Kulczycki
Material Flow Technology for Today’s Distribution Centre
It’s a familiar scene from countless comedies; boxes on a conveyor belt piling up and spilling over as they move from one part of the system to another that is running at a slower speed or capacity, or potentially broken altogether. Meanwhile the hapless operator, who has dozed off on duty, sleeps on regardless of the chaos being caused by the lack of synchronisation.
This is of course the extreme example, played for its slapstick appeal. But the reality is not so very different if warehouse management is not handled with the right tools, technology and precision.
Modern distribution centres with automatic storage and conveyor technology enable today’s organisations to process and handle vast quantities of goods quickly and efficiently, thereby enabling greater productivity along with cost savings. However, this requires significant upfront investment. One pinch point in the flow, such as a conveyor that has stopped working and is not immediately visible, and the overall system seizes up. This only has to happen a few times for the benefits of automation to be eroded – and the returns on the initial investment dwindle.
Technology keeps pace with customer demand
But as customer demand drives the need for ever-bigger and more effective warehousing facilities, technology developments are keeping pace.
Material Flow System (MFS) is now an integrated component of SAP’s Extended Warehouse Management (EWM), which in itself is an efficient ‘off the shelf’, ready-to-go solution that can be customised for individual warehouse requirements. In recognition of the increasingly complex function of distribution centres, MFS has been designed in, not added on. Many tools are standardised and there are fewer interfaces with third party systems; all factors that simplify the task of receiving goods at the warehouse, handling and processing them and distributing them as required.
MFS helps organisations to see return on the investment in their state-of-the-art, highly automated distribution centres.
Intelligent systems for the modern warehouse
MFS maps the complete business logic and streamlines processes, dynamically selecting the optimal transport route through the warehouse. It controls automated components – such as conveyor belts – in the warehouse; automatically re-routing if equipment has broken down or is undergoing routine maintenance. It enables maximum capacity limits to be implemented to prevent overflow and system stoppages; if a particular conveyor can only handle a certain number of items, restrictions are put on the previous ones.
All warehouse activity is visible via live feeds and the MFS onscreen dashboard. The days of an operator being blissfully unaware of problems in the warehouse until the system grinds to a halt are over.
A traffic light display indicates the status of every element of the warehouse operations. At any point in the flow, pinch points are easily visible; drilling down into these metrics allows issues to be investigated and resolved before they become potentially costly problems.
The 360-degree visibility allows everything to be documented and scheduled; deliveries can be prepared for so that the right teams are on hand and the space is available when they arrive at the warehouse to make sure they are processed as efficiently as possible. Similarly the optimum number of people are available and deployed when goods are loaded onto vehicles to leave the distribution centre.
MFS through EWM offers other key business advantages. For example, implementation through EWM also allows the material flow system to be simulated before it goes live. Glitches are ironed out and teams transitioned and ‘bought in’ to the new technology so that it is effective from day one.
Do you need to move goods quickly and efficiently through your logistics centre, with minimal human input and maximum return on your investment, while meeting customer demand? Get in touch with Rocket Consulting to find out more about SAP EWM with built in MFS.
• State-of-the art distribution centres need to receive, process, handle and distribute vast quantities of goods as quickly and effectively as possible to meet customer demand.
• Material Flow System (MFS) tools, embedded in SAP EWM, control automation and provide full warehouse visibility so processes can be dynamically streamlined and optimised.
• MFS tools drive business efficiency and deliver return on investment.