The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical role digital transformation has on the success of the wholesale industry. Many businesses are unleashing the power of digital technology to adapt to current circumstances and maintain operational continuity. We caught up with Dave Hughes at Business Computer Projects (BCP) Ltd to discuss what impact these digital initiatives are having on warehouse operations and why Voice WMS remains an essential solution.

“Ecommerce platforms have become indispensable for retail suppliers, especially those in the food and drink sector,” said Dave. “However, spikes in demand and the ever-increasing volume of online orders are adding additional strain on warehouse operations. Similarly, Foodservice businesses have had to quickly implement Click and Collect or Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) solutions to keep up with changing customer demands.”

As a result, wholesalers must not overlook their warehouse when it comes to undertaking digital transformation projects according to Dave. “The increasing reliance of online fulfilment is presenting difficulties for warehouse operations, for example, bulk orders are now being replaced with smaller and more frequent orders that only have single items or individual SKUs,” explained Dave. “The challenge now is to maintain efficiency and accuracy whilst fulfilling the increasing volume of smaller, more complex orders.”

This subsequently raises issues relating to staff availability and workforce capacity. “Wholesalers with growing order volumes have had to expand their warehouse workforce to meet these demands,” said Dave. “This raises difficulties around social distancing and employee safety within the warehouse.”

So what is the solution? According to Dave, these challenges demonstrate the importance of having suitable back-end systems. He said, “When wholesalers are re-evaluating their current operations and processes, it is crucial that they also consider systems like Voice WMS to support their omnichannel activities.”

As one of the longest standing suppliers of Voice WMS solutions, BCP are experts in implementing systems that are designed to overcome the unique problems that wholesalers often face. According to Dave, Voice WMS remains a market-leading solution because of the real-time functionality. “This enables wholesalers to have end-to-end visibility across all warehouse activities, from goods-in to despatch” he explained.

Real-time functionality and end-to-end visibility it seems are the key to achieving successful omnichannel fulfilment. Dave said, “Unlike paper-based systems which require workers to waste valuable time on administrative tasks, Voice WMS solutions are more comprehensive and provide more efficient options for warehouse workers, especially when it comes to picking.

“For example, with a good Voice WMS there should be a ‘Multi-Order Pick’ programme that enables warehouse workers to pick multiple orders at a time which significantly decreases time and effort. This is especially useful when dealing with the challenge of higher volumes of smaller and more complex orders.”

When it comes to challenges around labour and staffing within the warehouse, Voice WMS is again the perfect solution. “Warehouse staff are at the heart of supply chain operations and their safety and wellbeing is paramount,” acknowledged Dave. “What’s great about a Voice technology is that it’s a handsfree solution and each worker is assigned their own headset, meaning that the number of unnecessary touchpoints or personal interactions throughout the warehouse is reduced.”

Dave went on to explain that training is also easy with Voice WMS, which is important for those businesses needing to quickly onboard temporary staff. “Voice training takes only ten to fifteen minutes per user ensures the system is accurate and robust in an industrial environment where there is much more extraneous noise,” he said.

To further help wholesalers improve their efficiency and keep labour costs down, BCP also often recommend their Voice Labour Management system. Dave said, “This gives managers full visibility of the workforce so workloads can be scheduled to meet targets, performance levels can be tracked, and staff levels adjusted as needed.”

Going forward, Dave thinks wholesalers need to ensure that systems across their business, including the warehouse, are flexible and agile enough to meet new customer expectations. He said “Inputting online orders into a back-end order management system is no longer going to cut it. Close integration between front and back-end systems is critical to give the transparency and real-time information customers want.” When asked what wholesalers should look for when considering solutions such as Voice WMS, Dave answered, “Flexible, agile, and properly integrated systems and processes are what’s pivotal to meeting the needs of your customers today, and in the future.”