Warehouses and distribution centers place great importance on improving picking productivity. This makes perfect sense, given that order picking accounts for more than 50% of warehouse operating costs. However, even the best picking capabilities are only as good as a warehouse’s ability to replenish the products quickly and in sufficient numbers.
Stock replenishment is a vital part of order fulfillment. Today, WES software and AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) are transforming the replenishment process. They maximize warehouse density and ensure optimal product flow throughout the entire supply chain.
What is automated warehouse replenishment?
Warehouse replenishment can be a challenging task. In manual replenishment, employees constantly monitor inventory, keep track of spreadsheets, and reorder stock to meet customer demands. However, this approach is labor-intensive and prone to errors. A typical warehouse can lose up to 5% of sales due to mistakes in replenishment.
Automated warehouse replenishment uses technology to manage and control inventory replenishment in a warehouse. Companies use AI-powered WES software to streamline and optimize the replenishment process or add autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to move the inventory. Both automatic replenishment software and robotic replenishment reduce operational costs, improve accuracy, and minimize out-of-stocks.
How does automated warehouse replenishment work?
With an automated replenishment system, warehouses can monitor their inventory levels in real time. The system uses historical data to calculate the velocity of each SKU within the facility. When quantities of a product fall below a predetermined threshold, the system triggers automatic replenishment workflows.
An example of an automated replenishment system is the inVia Logic Warehouse Execution System (WES) software. Its Replenishment Module analyzes key metrics and intelligently schedules inventory movement from reserve to primary pick locations. It also coordinates picking and replenishment tasks to prevent work stoppages or delays and guarantees on-time order fulfillment.
The system identifies when product quantity is low and triggers automatic replenishment workflows based on order demand, historical volumes, threshold values, and labor availability. It then directs workers to load goods into inventory containers in the correct location. Depending upon whether customers are using their own workers or inVia Picker autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), labor is guided step-by-step to minimize travel and maximize efficiency.
Key benefits of automation for improving replenishment efficiency
– Improved Accuracy and Productivity
By implementing automated replenishment, warehouses are guaranteed to have the optimum inventory levels to fulfill orders. As noted earlier, the system automatically initiates restocking. It also eliminates the risk of human error in conducting inventory counts and re-slotting stock, which can impact business and revenue.
With inVia’s robotic replenishment, AMRs reduce the time and effort workers spend walking the aisles in a facility to assess inventory levels and manually re-stock SKUs. Instead, workers fill replenishment containers on inVia PickerWall, and inVia Picker robots do all the traveling to place them back in the pick grid.
– Optimized Warehouse Density
Automated warehouse replenishment ensures optimal space utilization and shelf availability by organizing and storing stock based on SKU popularity. The downsides of excess stock, eg, extra storage costs and damaged or expired goods, are avoided.
inVia’s automated replenishment also consolidates slow-moving SKUs to utilize all available space in a warehouse while ensuring optimal stock levels.
– Minimized Incomplete Orders
With inventory levels continually monitored, managers can make data-driven replenishment decisions to ensure the right stock is available for fulfillment. That means when orders are ready to be picked, the right products and quantities are available. So, more orders are picked to completion and more daily SLAs are met.
inVia’s Replenishment Module automatically prioritizes and assigns a replenishment task based on order allocation, too, ensuring products are available for that day’s orders.
– Greater Inventory Visibility and Traceability
Automated replenishment is based on real-time data access, making these systems an excellent resource for greater visibility into inventory levels. As orders are placed, the system tracks order status and updates inventory levels for stock in real-time, alerting as to supply status and whether replenishment is needed. As a result, warehouse managers have access to actionable real-time data resulting in greater supply chain efficiencies.
inVia’s AI-driven software takes inventory visibility to the next level by providing 3D renderings of the warehouse with real-time visibility into SKU location, quantity, and restocking needs. In addition, warehouses can see which SKUs are fast-moving versus slower-moving to ensure warehouse space is optimally utilized.
– Improved Customer Service and Order Fulfillment
Automated replenishment systems ensure sufficient stock will always be available in the warehouse to meet customers’ demands. This capability is critical for delighting customers and retaining business. Inventory lapses are no longer tolerated. Out-of-stocks encourage customers to visit another site or choose another store to get what they want. Studies show that 70% of customers go to a competitor if they experience an out-of-stock.
Successful inventory management and order fulfillment for warehouses and distribution centers demand excellence in two critical areas of fulfillment: order picking and stock replenishment. The two go hand in hand. Manual management of picking and restocking may have worked in the past, but those methods no longer keep up with the more dynamic supply chain demands of today’s consumers. Automated warehouse replenishment technologies give warehouses the sophisticated tools they need to monitor inventory closely, replenish the stock in real-time, increase productivity, and optimize performance to grow their businesses.
Curious to Learn More?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by new fulfillment technologies. Our The New Way to Warehouse white paper explains best practices when choosing warehouse automation amid labor shortages and a multi-SKU environment.
Request a demo to learn more about inVia’s automated warehouse replenishment.