The Importance of Data Integration in Warehouse Operations

the importance of data integration
warehouse_operations, supply chain-1

In today's digital age and new normal, warehouses are no longer just physical storage sites. hey are a multidimensional hub between different parts of the supply chain, brimming with data that businesses are often overwhelmed with. Companies can sail through this sea of data by consolidating and integrating it into a unified system that gives a bird's-eye view of warehouse operations and what lies ahead of it.

A recent report noted that warehouses around the globe saw an increase in the complexity of their operations in recent years in order to accommodate the needs of e-commerce and other digital services. It's predicted that in the next five years as businesses expand their warehouse operations, 70% of warehouses will have more automation in their processes, while 66% will equip the staff with more technologies. Not only do these mean pouring more resources to the warehouse — it also means having additional processes to manage these resources.

These complexities are also influenced by growing number of warehouses (and their different locations), longer supply chains, and additional data that can be tracked and monitored. In the past, warehouses relied on Excel workbooks and email communication, with no centralized data systems. Warehouse management is rapidly changing, but many companies are still lagging. Now, companies are not only digitizing their data, but they're also reaching out for better, more efficient ways to manage and integrate this data within their business processes and use it to make informed business decisions.

Costs are at the forefront of any business, with modern warehouses being no exception. Warehouse managers are always looking for new data and analytics tools to manage costs, maximize profitability, and optimize operations. These tools allow companies to gather and analyze huge quantities of information about their buyers, the products they're selling, stock maintenance, and other metrics like customer satisfaction. Without proper analytics tools, warehouse managers and business leaders will end up fruitlessly using data which, in turn, obscures their visibility in the warehouse's operations.

 

Managing complexities in warehouse operations through data integration

The best way to handle data in a meaningful way is to have a “single source of truth.” This means integrating data through a centralized platform that connects dispersed and multiple sources of data into a single, wide-reaching system. When there are multiple sources of truth, discrepancies and conflicts can (and will) occur. It's easy for businesses to become compartmentalized and break off into silos with everyone working away in different locations and directions. This can be detrimental in the long term. A single source of truth helps bridge these gaps.

Companies also benefit through improved transparency and collaboration. A consolidated and integrated source of data can also serve as a central hub that can be accessible and visible to people who need it. By allowing them to view, share, and integrate data in parallel, it helps reduce redundancies and increase efficiency across the board.

A warehouse KPI dashboard, for example, can integrate all sorts of data from different sources, such as a company’s depot and transport management systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, warehouse management software, warehouse slotting application, and even from internet-of-things (IoT) devices.

As shown in the following example, a way to manage all these complexities is to integrate all dispersed datasets into a single ecosystem.

A warehouse KPI dashboard, for example, can incorporate datasets that are processed in real time through the following:

  • Smartyard: Logistics-related data, such as planning the delivery time of trucks, scheduling their maintenance, and assigning vehicles for specific work.

  • Warehouse management system: Data related to inventory, team performance (e.g., workloads, schedules, productivity), costs, and other metrics or KPIs related to planning and monitoring operations

  • Transport management system: Delivery and transit times, palletization of inventory, transport orders, load planning, and fleet and freight management, among others

  • Slotting applications: Data related to labor management, such as the timing of the workforce's schedules

  • Zoning applications: Identifying warehouse areas — that is, knowing the optimal area within the warehouse for picking and packing inventories

  • IoT: Data that sensors in IoT devices collect, such as real-time location and shipment, working conditions of equipment and machineries, product information through barcodes or radio-frequency identification-enabled (RFID) devices, and product status (particularly for those in the cold chain, like medicines, food, and other perishable products)

 

A warehouse KPI dashboard can be connected to multiple data sources and even back-end systems. The dashboard becomes the warehouse’s single source of truth, where different kinds of data are gathered, automatically calculated (if needed), and presented in a single view. Warehouse managers don’t have to straddle with different tools and error-prone manual processes to check the warehouse’s performance.