Supply-chain disruption is in the public eye like never before, given the pandemic’s effect on everyday norms – including constrained availability of many goods and services across the world. A White House blog posted earlier this year shows just how pronounced and interconnected shortages have become in multiple industries.
Inside enterprises, the focus often comes down to warehouse management system (WMS) capabilities in the “no-more-business-as-usual” era. Such discussions can quickly turn into perceived need for epic transformation – at a time when budget constraints may be just as daunting and uncertain (or more so) as the pipeline for finished goods and components.
Warehouses and distribution centers must deal with the unknown in unprecedented ways. Robotic process automation, RPA, has surfaced as one of the few viable solutions for offsetting increasingly acute labor shortages. Redundant or inefficient work must be eliminated at every juncture. Customers also have considerably higher expectations and demands, whether B2C or B2B.
The Low-Code/No-Code SAP WMM Route
Automating steps and modernizing warehouse operations no longer entails large-scale investment for the many organizations that have SAP Warehouse Management System (SAP WMS) installed, for example. Administrators in these environments can now take a low-code/no-code approach to innovation that’s highly cost-effective and rapidly achievable. These SAP-centric enterprises need to leverage a platform that can automate and incrementally digitize their operations one process at a time.
Even though SAP provides a full-featured solution for warehouse management, 91% of companies customize processes to make those software applicatons unique to their individual businesses, according to a recent study by Americas’ SAP Users’ Group. Customizations can take a user the final mile toward optimal SAP warehouse management process flow, eliminating manual activities and bottlenecks everywhere feasible while delivering real-time visibility.
Low-code/no-code development is an advisable strategy in these environments since it can enhance productivity and increase the efficiency of the modernization process, making digital transformation up to 20 times faster than traditional application development methods. Platforms exist that make it easy to retain functionality offline — for an entire shift in many cases — and automatically synchronize valuable business data whenever network connectivity resumes. It all occurs without loss to the integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
Here are six key operations areas that make great targets for customized upgrades for companies to consider as they start on their transformation journey.
Greater workflow efficiency can be achieved by using modernized mobile applications to approve purchase orders (POs). This not only replaces time-consuming manual processes, but also enables tighter alignment to an organization’s workflow and release parameters. Perhaps better still, the mobile app can notify accounting and receiving — in real-time — by automating the SAP MM (Materials Management) purchase order process.
Companies that create a companion application to SAP Inventory Management solution will gain coveted capabilities such as GPS positioning and barcode scanning. This will enable employees to more quickly locate storage sections (even down to bin numbers) and automatically update stock quantities within SAP.
A custom material traceability app will help users gain deeper operation insight by following the status of stock or parts from procurement through to end-user delivery – and every step in between. Companies can use the app, rather than labor, to locate parts, work in process, and products on pallets ready for shipment.
A goods movement application can help organizations more accurately account for inventory as it’s transferred or moved between areas of a warehouse or to other warehouses or DCs.
Warehouse managers and employees can more expeditiously confirm orders using a mobile device at the moment a job is completed. This saves the “gap time” typically experienced when using a shared, stationary computer.
Production / Process Instructions
Guiding warehouse employees through picking or other processes can improve accuracy and productivity. A custom app can help guide the warehouse team through instruction and parts or materials needed to complete the task. The app can also track the quantity of goods consumed to update SAP in near real-time.
Although warehouse and DC operations face many similar challenges today, these examples only scratch the surface. The ability to flexibly address company-specific needs only adds to the current and longer-term appeal of a proven low-code/no-code platform solution. The bottom line is that SAP customers can automate and modernize warehouse operations at their own pace – and without disrupting workflows or incurring the inherent risks and expense of more traditional methods of software development
A rapid application development (RAD) platform designed specifically for SAP customizations can help these enterprises overcome challenges, especially in managing development and maintenance. Pre-built templates can be customized for specific warehouse operations, expediting development.
Moreover, a low-code/no-code platform enables, even team members without cloud or mobile app development expertise, to create apps using graphical “building blocks” tailored to their operation. Those apps can be deployed in just a few weeks. This process incurs less risk of the data compatibility issues and anomalies that typically happen when upgrading or migrating to new WMS or other core SAP systems, including in the cloud.
Go Offline First in Mobile App Development
The ideal RAD platform for offline warehouse app development will take a true, offline-first approach to mobile app development and will also feature deep integration with SAP. A platform with these features allows users to work offline or online without changing their workflows. For example, temporary SAP document numbers are assigned offline and execute those documents to fill orders, track time, and more – without concern over losing vital data or correcting errors or conflicts later.
Furthermore, an effective low-code/no-code platform shouldn’t force the user to commit to a specific device before they start development. Look for a RAD solution that allows users to create, deploy, and test an app on any platform to ensure it delivers the optimal experience on the most cost-effective device for that use case.
Be on the Winning Side of a 50/50 Outlook
Whatever the case, keep in mind that an estimated 50% of warehouses and distribution centers will have automated processes by 2025. Enterprises that don’t take progressive action on this front will likely face extreme difficulties, if not extinction, over time.
That’s one form of disruption most companies want to avoid at any cost. A proven low-code/no-code platform can deliver the workflow efficiency and digital processes you need at any given time, even if the needs and pace of change are relentlessly unpredictable!