WMS – control center for more (energy) efficient warehouse logistics

Every kilowatt hour counts. Reducing electricity consumption as permanently as possible is not only a key to achieving the ambitious goals of the energy transition. Even in times of rising costs due to energy shortages and galloping inflation, the following applies: Save wherever possible! Our latest blog article shows why digitization is THE solution and how you can directly influence your warehouse’s environmental footprint and operating costs with the help of a Warehouse Management System (WMS).

Do you know chess? The associated tactical requirement is to bring the opponent successively into distress with strategically well-considered moves and ultimately to bring him to his knees. In the context of the energy crisis, the chosen comparison in approach is perhaps a bit bold, but not so far-fetched after all. This is because a modern WMS gives you numerous options for permanently monitoring parameters and components of a warehouse, controlling them in a controlled manner, and also distributing resources sensibly according to target specifications.

Identify and analyze consumption-critical processes

To achieve this, it is necessary to localize in advance those places where energy consumption is highest. Obvious “power guzzlers” are of course found on the hardware level. This can be stacker cranes and conveyor technology. The building equipment is also decisive. But more about that later. Let’s look at the processes first. This is because there is much more potential for savings there than is often assumed. According to expert calculations, for example, picking accounts for around 50 percent of energy consumption in intralogistics. This is especially the case when staff still use paper printouts, pens and clipboards to do their work. You can counteract this time-consuming and resource-binding procedure by using a Warehouse Management System (WMS). The switch to a digitalized, online-booking warehouse management system also has the advantage of being able to achieve 100% inventory security, create transparency throughout and continuously carry out various optimizations according to the criteria of “Green Logistics”. They save energy, streamline processes and, in parallel, reduce operating costs considerably.

Pick faster and optimize performance

But what opportunities are opening up specifically in the picking area already mentioned? The be-all and end-all is the possibility of paperless order processing initiated by a WMS. Not only do they save vast amounts of paper, the production of which is energy-intensive and causes procurement prices to skyrocket. At the same time, the WMS guidance of the workers minimizes walking distances and search times, and the integrated forklift guidance system eliminates superfluous transport journeys in the warehouse, so that energy can also be noticeably saved here.

Currently, the most widespread methods of paperless picking are pick-by-voice, pick-by-light, forklift guidance systems, and mobile data collection via handhelds. When it comes to making the best possible use of existing resources, reducing errors and speeding up processes, voice-controlled picking in particular offers considerable

Optimization potential:

  • Employees no longer need to carry pick lists with them
  • and have their hands free for the actual process, which is acknowledged verbally in each case.
  • Work is easier and faster, gripping times are reduced
  • and real-time feedback is provided to the warehouse management system.

When considering these factors, it might even be possible to reduce weekly working hours on a case-by-case basis without sacrificing logistics performance. In this way, personnel costs and expenses for lighting and heating could be saved not only in theory, but also in practice.

Storage and transport strategies put to the test

A forklift guidance system (SLS) also directly contributes to more targeted use of resources and better capacity utilization. Transport orders are assigned to the vehicle via the WMS. The system specifies the shortest route to the extraction point in each case. Empty runs and idle times are reduced, search runs eliminated. This also speeds up order processing immensely and, parallel to the energy saved, reduces operating costs.

Further improvement approaches can be found at the level of warehouse strategy and replenishment control. For example, the so-called ABC classification is ideal for storage in order to further shorten walking distances and during picking. The article master is subdivided according to stock removal frequency. Category A denotes fast-moving items that should be in direct access at all times, if possible. In addition, multi-order picking can be used, a process that is also supported by modern warehouse management systems (WMS) and significantly reduces throughput times. In this process, individual orders are combined into so-called batches. The higher this combination, the greater the time and distance saved and thus the higher the productive output during picking. After completion of the picking process, the picked items are again assigned to the various individual orders.

Precisely metered replenishment control also reduces expenses and lowers
(Operating) Costs. When integrated into the warehouse management system, it is then possible to systematically replenish not only pick zones, but entire warehouses coming from outside. Here, the supply can be triggered by the WMS as required, for example when the minimum stock level is reached, or due to shortages.

Further measures with great effect

At this point, at the latest, it becomes clear that modern warehousing and order picking principles, in conjunction with high-performance warehouse management software, offer a wide range of opportunities to meet current challenges – both in terms of the energy crisis and growing cost pressure, as well as in view of the ongoing shortage of skilled workers and the urgent need to avoid wasting resources unnecessarily.

When considered holistically, intelligent load monitoring, lightweight design and stand-by operation also play a key role here – especially in (partially) automated systems. WMS-controlled, for example, settings can be made for energy-intensive stacker cranes that take into account high and low tariffs. In addition, transfers can be made at times when the electricity tariff is cheapest.

The building equipment also promises improved energy efficiency. LED lighting technology, for example, massively reduces power consumption in the warehouse. LEDs also offer a significantly increased service life and consequently do not have to be constantly renewed or replaced. It is also not necessary to completely illuminate comparatively less frequently frequented areas in the warehouse all the time. On the contrary, they can be equipped with motion detectors. Last but not least, a building offers further options for noticeably reducing energy consumption and the associated costs. Modern heating or cooling systems, solar modules (photovoltaics), geothermal energy, combined heat and power units, underfloor heating, and separation of different climate zones in the warehouse by air walls are just a few examples.

Actively counteracting instead of holding out in a half-guarded position

Of course, the introduction of a Warehouse Management System (WMS) initially involves initial costs. However, the preceding explanations show that modern warehouse management software offers numerous levers to target resources where they are actually needed, to make processes more sustainable, to curb energy consumption noticeably and to reduce operating costs. This has never been as important (for survival) as it is today! The mechanism thus offered to you is not capable of checkmating the energy crisis and inflation as “opponents. Even a draw is rather unlikely in view of all the imponderables. However, a WMS significantly mitigates the consequences in certain areas. At the same time, companies and logistics managers make an important contribution to climate and environmental protection that can be shaped according to their possibilities by streamlining processes and reducing harmful CO2 emissions to only what is really necessary.

Our supply chain experts know the challenges and advise you.

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