Being at the core of the supply chain and distribution industry, the warehouse should be given central focus. Still, many businesses in Kenya, Uganda, and Africa have not paid much attention to modernizing their warehouses. And many have paid a hefty penalty.
Modern and proficient Warehouse management software and technology are essential if Kenya and Ugandan businesses are to fulfill their potential and bring in a significant return on investment. However, most distributors and manufacturers in Kenya, Uganda, and Africa at large still rely on outdated legacy systems that are only hindering their productivity and profitability. This, therefore, calls for massive investment in warehouse technology for Kenya and Ugandan businesses.
But what does modern warehouse and distributor technology look like?
Warehouse technology is a wide topic: ranging from autonomous mobile robotics, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence, to advanced real-time data analytics.
Current and future trends in Warehouse management systems Kenyan, Ugandan, and African manufacturers and distributors should adopt
The foundation of success in the warehouse starts with proper identification and tracking of inventory with the level of granularity needed to allocate, fill, and deliver orders accurately. Users should be able to view and monitor the location, condition, and amounts of all products in warehousing operations, as well as rotate inventory according to FIFO vs FEFP (first-in, first-out versus first-expired, first-out) principles, and other relevant factors. Lot control, serial number capture, date code tracking, catch weights, inventory aging, and expiration dates all provide additional visibility and flexibility. For larger organizations, this information should be available at the enterprise level, ownership level (distributor, customer, and vendor), and individual branch level. Without deploying modern distributor and warehouse software/systems, this level of tracking cannot be achieved and it’s very difficult for Kenya and Uganda businesses to meet fulfillment demands and establish a plan for their operations.
Work and task management
Warehouse automation will enable you to manage the ebb and flow of demand by balancing workloads and tasks with available resources. Task interleaving allows the grouping of work orders and locations with similar or complementary attributes into batches and waves so that orders are received, picked, packed, kitted, and shipped in a timely fashion. Individual worker productivity improves by combining complementary tasks to increase output and limit travel time.
By enabling task interleaving, distributors limit unnecessary movements, better enable high volumes of work to be done, and maximize efficiency and productivity in the warehouse, while also ensuring the best use of their forklifts and other warehouse equipment.
RF and voice direction
RF and voice direction help improve the productivity of distribution and fulfillment processes by using hands-free connections and advanced speech-recognition technology to voice-enable order selection, replenishment, put-away, transfers, and receiving. Workers can operate hands-free
without reliance on cumbersome lists, labels, and scanners – vastly improving productivity and order accuracy. The use of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled digital assistants take direct verbal interaction with the enterprise solution to the next level and support a more profound level of multitasking for your warehouse personnel.
Larger organizations often need help maximizing worker performance in the warehouse. Your WMS should provide workforce planning, staffing, and execution capabilities, as well as the ability to monitor direct and indirect labor and provide feedback to workers and supervisors as picking, packing, and shipping activities are completed. Real-time performance measurements give supervisors visibility into operations so they can identify bottlenecks, labor performance problems, and other barriers to productivity—and take corrective action. Altough Kenya, Uganda, and Africa in general is blessed with cheap and easily accessible labor, it may not equate to productivity. However, utilizing modern distributor and warehouse management systems can boost productivity immensely.
Slotting capabilities help maximize productivity and minimize travel time from location to location by determining the most advantageous arrangement of SKUs within a range of pick faces or slots. Slotting minimizes disruptions that result from demand variability by allowing adjustment of product placement according to seasonality, special promotions, and changes in customer order patterns.
Kitting and light assembly
As mentioned earlier, distributors are more frequently offering value-added services. Kitting and light assembly add another level of complexity to an already busy warehouse especially in Kenya and Uganda where distributors rely on legacy systems. Your Warehouse Management System should support light manufacturing and assembly work. You should be able to institute postponement strategies, create kits for promotions, and manage the process based on the bill of materials (BOMs), assembly work plans, and assembly instructions provided to the warehouse staff. This enables the mass customization of products at the time of distribution and fulfillment to ensure customer requests are fulfilled correctly at the lowest total supply chain cost.
Kitting and light assembly facilitate personalization and other product enhancements, single- and multi-station kitting and assembly, packaging and labeling operations for existing products, and complex final assembly operations for customer-specific products. As a result of these capabilities, Kenyan and Ugandan companies can better accommodate changing customer tastes and product requirements.
3D visualization tool
3D technology has helped some of our customers in Kenya and Uganda visualize their work processes before deployment and thus save time and money. Information presented via 3D visualization tools can make it easier for your team to identify and resolve potential obstacles throughout your warehouse or yard. The ability to not only monitor, but also have the power to immediately resolve issues, can have a profound impact —streamlining operations by more efficiently uncovering trends. According to McKinsey & Company: “A few companies are already able to design and visualize their warehouse operations virtually via ‘digital twin’ simulations. The simulations allow companies to create virtual models of their existing facilities, and then test different scenarios—no shutdowns required.”
Whether you’re exploring robotic process automation (RPA) or machine learning initiatives, there are opportunities to incorporate AI initiatives throughout your warehouse. A successful AI project will address a very specific challenge you’re trying to resolve or automate. One of the key differentiators of an AI solution is in its ability to process huge quantities of data and make connections that previously wouldn’t have been possible. Keep your mind open to the possibilities when you explore potential AI projects.