In most cases, the increasingly demanding expectations of customers for fast and error-free deliveries as well as constant cost pressure cause companies to optimize their logistics processes. However, space shortages and the lack of skilled personnel also call for action. On the one hand, they have to maintain their own profitability and operate efficiently (or more efficiently) - and on the other hand, they have to meet current market requirements and developments.
This sounds like a difficult balancing act. In practice, it often turns out that isolated process optimization does not bring the desired success and has to be readjusted. Furthermore, it can happen that the optimization of one subarea is to the detriment of another and thus has a counterproductive effect. Why a holistic view is important in this context and how you can approach the important topic of "optimizing logistics processes" in a systematic or methodically secured manner, is explained in the following a few tips.
Logistics processes are often "historically" shaped and have not been adapted for some time in many companies. Logistics optimization eliminates these structural deficits in the organizational and operational structure. It helps to save time, resources and costs and to adapt processes flexibly and efficiently to constantly changing market and customer requirements.
Logistics optimization is successful when processes are not analyzed and improved in isolation from one another, but as part of the overall structure. This is referred to as a holistic optimization approach or end-to-end consideration.
The recording and analysis of the actual processes forms the basis for identifying weaknesses. The conception of the target processes is based on this, using a catalog of measures with a priority indication.
Furthermore, clear objectives are necessary. If possible, the targets should be measurable in figures, e.g. in key performance indicators such as pick performance, goods issue performance and the ratio of performance figures to the number of employees deployed. Only with clear targets can actual and target be compared with each other.
Optimizing logistics processes - what's in it for me?
Warehouse logistics is a major cost factor (not least due to increased salaries for skilled workers), but it is also a decisive factor for corporate success. The goal of any logistics optimization should therefore be to reduce costs while eliminating structural deficiencies - such as outdated technologies and strategies - and making better use of resources. Against the backdrop of changing customer needs, fluctuating throughputs or even increasing order numbers, the organizational structure and process organization must be constantly reviewed and adapted to current requirements in order to generate sustainable competitive advantages. One thing is certain: logistical performance has a significant influence on customers' purchasing decisions, and not just in e-commerce.
Frequently, we also talk about logistics quality in terms of delivery time, delivery flexibility, ability to deliver, adherence to delivery dates, and willingness to provide information. In order to achieve the best possible logistics quality, it makes no sense - as already mentioned at the beginning - to subject only partial areas to optimization. Instead, based on a holistic end-to-end approach, it is possible to precisely coordinate not only individual procedures, but all processes, so that one "cog" meshes smoothly with the other. A high level of service is the be-all and end-all in today's world.
This allows you to
- deploy resources in a targeted manner
- make better use of the division of labor
- eliminate superfluous work steps
- shorten response times and
- accelerate order processing with increased throughput performance.
In this way, you not only improve your company's logistics performance, but also achieve significant cost and time savings at the same time.
When is the right time to optimize logistics processes?
There is actually no such thing as the all-important time. Apart from the fact that logistics optimization should at best be a continuous process in the company, there are, however, factors that create pressure to act: Particularly in medium-sized companies rich in tradition, structures that have grown over years or decades are often the rule in intralogistics as well. Processes are not coordinated, there is a lack of transparency, e.g. also with regard to inventories, so that long distances and search efforts are required. This increases process costs and orders can no longer be processed with the usual speed.
The worst-case scenario is a loss of orders due to a decline in adherence to delivery dates. However, it is also high time to optimize logistics processes when capital commitment costs are no longer tolerable due to excessive inventories, companies are growing, orders are becoming increasingly smaller or, for example, returns management is becoming a burden. Stricter legal regulations - especially in the food and pharmaceutical industries - are often reason enough to put logistics handling processes to the test.
Optimizing logistics processes in a structured and holistic manner
But where and how to start - especially with regard to a holistic view of logistics and optimization?
- In a first step, it is recommended to record and analyze the actual processes. Processes are scrutinized and evaluated so that weak points in the structural and process organization can already be identified in this phase.
- This is followed by the conception of the target processes. The previously defined objectives are decisive for their design. From this, a catalog of measures can be derived. The core of this can be a reorganization, a redesign or the implementation of a suitable warehouse management system.
- The realization of the logistics optimization ideally follows a prioritization of the potential effects verified during the analysis and conception. A watertight project plan with defined milestones simplifies implementation.
Added value(s) through objective assessment and openness to technology
But a purely subjective view also harbors pitfalls. Here, professional consulting by external experts can help (through an unclouded view from the outside) to localize even latent weaknesses and to derive further optimization potential. Benchmarking based on objective performance criteria is also helpful in this context, as it allows the strengths and weaknesses of a company to be determined on the basis of reference values.
This also brings topics such as digitization and sustainability increasingly into focus. It is also easier in this way to identify areas in the warehouse where automation in conjunction with powerful standard software, such as SAP EWM (SAP Extended Warehouse Management)could be of significant benefit. In this way, companies not only design their processes to be faster and error-free, but also benefit from a further measure of time savings, gain inventory security and transparency, and increase the efficiency of warehouse logistics.
Another benefit of automation is that it minimizes dependence on human resources. Cleverly implemented, space can often also be saved, so that freed-up areas can be used elsewhere or there is simply more clarity and order in the warehouse.
Of course, process optimization in intralogistics initially involves effort. But to do without it or only to turn individual screws here and there would mean giving up a lead to the competition. In order to create a basis, as it were, an end-to-end view is essential. An objective assessment by experts with many years of experience helps to fully exploit optimization potential. This also makes it possible to implement lean management as a continuous improvement process. Once installed, companies can thus permanently eliminate waste and raise the added value of their intralogistics to a new level. Do you want to optimize your logistics processes and still have questions?
We will be happy to accompany you on this journey. Working in partnership, we analyze your processes from a neutral point of view, evaluate the results, develop key figures, and point out optimization potentials that will enable you to align your warehouse logistics in a crisis-proof, market- and target group-oriented, and highly efficient manner in accordance with the current world situation.
Do you still have questions? Then we look forward to hearing from you!