Storage optimization specialists

Doing inventory is always a chore for anyone, whether you are talking about a small or medium-sized business or a complex and multi-site supply chain.
The volume of items changes, and so do the staff involved, but it is always a boring operation that takes a lot of time which could be better spent in some other way.

Can you not just do away with inventory then?

Unfortunately, no, as it is a fundamental task for controlling your warehouse’s situation in terms of its stocks of materials, products and semi-finished products at the end of a given period. This activity is sometimes done periodically by some companies to avoid problems with reordering and production.

If you are managing an e-commerce store, doing inventory is even more important for reducing discrepancies between physical stocks and the numbers held in your online shop. The modern consumer is knowledgeable and demanding. They expect speed and cost-effectiveness from product distribution systems and for this reason Distribution Centres have taken on a strategic role in the supply chain. They must therefore be managed in the best way possible, even if this means doing the inventory several times a year to maintain precise information about product availability and quantities.

The advent of new technologies has brought many benefits to industrial processes and in particular to the automation of warehouse management with many positive implications for running inventory. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first of all we need to understand the three main reasons why inventory is needed.

Regulatory obligations

First of all, it is worthwhile remembering that doing inventory is required to fulfil statutory and fiscal principles for quantifying and evaluating remainders. In particular, inventory is fundamental to completing your year end accounts, must be completed upon setting up your business and every year thereafter.

In this last case, it must relate to the specific company year end date and contain all goods divided into categories according to type as well as the value of each individual item in order to be able to estimate your company’s worth in terms of assets and liabilities and then be recorded in your inventory records.

Ensure efficiency in the production process

The second reason concerns the management of the warehouse itself and of orders. A precise and consistently executed inventory allows you to keep track of all goods inwards and goods despatched.

Any delays due to, for example, the lack of a raw material needed for the production process will negatively affect your company’s overall profits.

Getting precise stock availability

A very common problem is not having precise information about actual stock availability due to discrepancies between the goods physically in the warehouse and their expected quantity.

To avoid such discrepancies, simply keep a meticulous eye on all operations carried out in the warehouse so that you can watch for any goods which are being depleted and proceed to reorder them in time for production and/or despatching the order to the customer.

To optimise this, the best solution is to schedule the reordering of items to take into account lead times for delivery to the customer and delivery from your suppliers.


How do you do a warehouse inventory quickly?

The ways you can carry out your inventory can be grouped into the following four categories.

Paper and pen (and calculator)

This is the traditional method and definitely only suitable if you have a small warehouse and a limited number of products. In this case, the first thing you have to do is to divide your products into categories; there are no pre-defined categories so it is up to you to find the best way to subdivide them according to your business.

Next, proceed with further product subdivisions, taking into account the speed with which the items are running out so you can keep watch on the ones that require frequent reordering.
To get an overview of the warehouse stock situation write information next to each product macro category which includes the names of your suppliers and your minimum required stock level.
Then label the shelves and catalogue the goods by annotating everything on multiple sheets and creating tables that reflect the physical subdivisions inside the warehouse.
You can then, for example, create a table with information on which category the goods belong to, product arrival date, product cost, quantity, etc., and thus create a proper database.
Keep the sheet constantly up-to-date so you don’t find yourself having too many cataloguing operations all at once. This would increase the likelihood of errors.

Excel spreadsheet

A simple solution to speed up inventory operations is to manage the warehouse efficiently, carefully and meticulously. This means constantly keeping track of all the operations that take place inside it: despatch, orders, stocks, returns, and so on. If you do not have the possibility of using business management software that can do this automatically for you, you can use a simple Excel spreadsheet.

In this way, at the end of the year you will not have to waste valuable time checking over everything, but instead you will have detailed summary tables in front of you.

Here are some tips for building a warehouse management application using Excel spreadsheets that allow you to speed up inventory operations.

  • Use three separate sheets:

    – one for products, where you record the complete list of goods with their relative supplier and stock information
    – one for goods inwards movements to record the date of arrival and quantity of goods in the warehouse
    – one sheet for despatches

  • If your warehouse is used for stocking raw materials, semi-finished products and finished products, in this case use three separate sheets to distinguish them
  • Connect these sheets together. How? For example, report the column containing the actual stock figure from the product table into the sheet containing despatch information. In this way, before confirming despatch, you can safely check actual availability without delay and, of course, by only having to update one single sheet you can keep all your data updated in real time
  • To automate operations, use drop-down menus. For example, in the order sheet, create a drop-down menu which allows you to select the products relating to the order to be despatched from those listed in the first “Products” sheet.
    There are many pre-compiled sheets available online that can help you build your Excel file. However, this is still only a tool which can certainly be very helpful but only if kept constantly up-to-date.

Warehouse Management Software

If this activity is central to your business and is worth making an investment that will repay you over time, then you may opt for management software.

A Warehouse Management System (WMS) actually allows you to keep track of all handling operations that take place inside your warehouse. Combining this with the use of mobile terminals, such as barcode or RFID readers, operators can very quickly and very easily keep the situation under control.

Inventory control using WMS is constantly up-to-date and this allows you to speed up the calculations needed for your Company Accounts, which, as stated above, are required for fiscal and statutory reasons.
In fact, your company accounts need to show details and values of the assets and liabilities relating to your business, and all goods divided into categories according to type and value must be listed, including an indication of each category’s value.

Your management system will also contain all your historical records, so auditing any mistakes will be really easy. As every single company is different, your software can be set up according to individual needs and individual production streams.


Vertical warehouses

An all-in-one solution. Automatic vertical warehouses are a solution that allows you to automate your warehouse at low cost, and also resolve your inventory problems. This technology will replace your old shelves, which are bulky and impractical for handling goods, and not at all ergonomic for your operators.
Automatic vertical warehouses are structures up to 16 metres tall, and in which trays move around. These trays can hold up to 990 kg and are propelled by internal elevators which bring them directly to the delivery level.

The trays inside the warehouse can hold products of different height, size, volume and weight. The software can adjust the unit height automatically thus maximising the vertical space inside the warehouse and avoiding waste, with a tray storage pitch of 25 mm.

The vertical warehouse WMS allows you to manage your orders automatically via a convenient PC interface: simply select the product you are looking for, enter the quantity and submit the request. In just a few seconds the product you were looking for will be made available on the delivery level. Not only that: the software will keep a record of this operation automatically and you will be able to do your inventory with one click.

In fact, the WMS monitors all movements and knows how many products there are in the warehouse and where they are located: get the stock situation at any time with just one click and have your inventory in real time.

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Storage optimization specialists

In the current economic climate, efficiency and integration play a key part in paving the way to success in business. A crucial contribution on this front is made by modern ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems for comprehensive coordination of all of a company’s resources, including staff, machinery, goods and assets.

But what exactly would ERP implementation entail for your organization and how can it improve your business management processes? In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at ERP software and highlight its benefits, while also explaining how it can be integrated with other systems, focusing in particular on warehouse management systems (WMS), to keep your storage facilities running efficiently.

What are ERP systems and where do their origins lie?

Today’s ERP systems could be described as the brains behind companies, because they are used for synergistic planning, management and monitoring of business processes in all departments. It’s all made possible by networked connections between the different areas of businesses and a constant flow of information that ultimately enables decision-making processes to be coordinated in real time.

The forerunners of ERP – MRP and MRP II systems – were created to boost communication between the logistics and production areas of organizations, at a time when profitability largely depended on the cost of raw materials. Over time, ERP systems became increasingly integrated and began to encompass other areas of organizations that would benefit from automation and monitoring, as people realized that the advances in computing had something to offer for all departments.

Nowadays, the name ERP II is used to describe increasingly open management systems that can be used for integrated interaction not only within companies but also with other stakeholders, such as banks, customers, suppliers, retailers and technicians.


Why should we make the move to an ERP solution?

The main reason for switching to Enterprise Resource Planning systems is the one mentioned above: the scope to integrate the different areas of your organization and create a single, all-embracing system that enables you to assess the impact of individual activities on your company as a whole.

It can be a key factor in the success of your business, because it boosts efficiency and profitability by providing various features to support your processes. Therein lie the core advantages of ERP software.

The benefits of ERP software

The comprehensive range of features offered by ERP systems and the integration of these solutions within companies open up a host of incredible opportunities. Modern business management software presents a vast array of configuration and customization options that can be tailored to suit an organization’s specific needs, by choosing between different modules.

The benefits of ERP systems generally tend to include the following:

  • Greater operational efficiency and fewer errors, thanks to the automation of processes that do not require human intervention.
  • Better coordination between departments, thanks to real-time sharing of data.
  • Better financial control, thanks to meticulous management of deadlines.
  • Enhanced capacity to respond to changes in the market, thanks to the constant availability of up-to-date reports that allow executives to react by making informed decisions.
  • In addition, ERP systems are designed to grow with the companies that use them, so they can be integrated and changed at any time in order to adapt to developments in the business.


The importance of integration between ERP and WMS for efficient warehouses

So far, we’ve seen how enormous the benefits of adopting an ERP system can be in terms of efficiency, visibility and coordination of decision-making processes when running a business.

However, when it comes to logistics management, ERP software alone is not enough because it does not come with all of the advanced features needed to adapt to various specific needs (such as supply chain management) or optimize all logistics processes.

Much of the efficiency in business depends on what happens in the warehouse. With that in mind, all companies that require sophisticated warehouse management features should adopt WMS software, a warehouse management system that is specifically designed to control the logistics chain.

In order to ensure that your business ecosystem remains cohesive and you’re making the most of your WMS and ERP systems, it’s essential for the two to interact with each other. Therefore, you need to integrate the two systems. The roles they perform might be different, but they all play a crucial part in your organization.

Integrating ERP and WMS

Integrating WMS and ERP systems involves enabling secure data sharing between the two, so that there’s a constant flow of information in both directions, with the roles of the master and slave being reversed as and when necessary. This means that – when integration is done properly – all updates in one system (which will have an impact on the other) are sent in real time.

Integration between WMS and ERP systems can be carried out using APIs, Web Services (XML/Data Sets), text files or databases. For example, integrating Modula WMS Premium with major ERP systems is quick and simple thanks to the standard integration options that are ready for use.

Our consultants are ERP-WMS integration experts and they’re aware of the importance of implementing everything properly in order to keep the shared data secure. They will plan every step in the process alongside you and carry out all the tests required to ensure there are no communication errors.

Nowadays, WMS and ERP systems have become essential tools for all organizations that want to optimize their logistics management and stay competitive in the market.

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Storage optimization specialists

Warehouse logistics is an ecosystem of solutions and tools that coexist and operate in synergy to achieve common goals, including efficient storage and preservation of goods and order preparation. Technological evolution has made warehouses a key component of ongoing progress, thanks to the use of systems which are capable of speeding up the management of goods and order preparation, enhancing operating conditions, reducing errors, and increasing productivity. These efforts towards more efficient warehouse operations certainly involve personnel, too: warehouse operators are no longer simple workers but the coordinators of an advanced, easy to manage and innovative system designed to facilitate their work.

In the complex world of warehouse logistics, we can distinguish:

  • storage solutions, that is, the actual structures where goods are stored, such as automatic vertical and horizontal storage systems;
  • software designed to manage warehouse automation and to be integrated with automatic storage systems;
  • picking solutions, that is, systems that optimize the preparation of orders starting from the picking of goods from the storage areas.

In this article we will explore picking solutions and analyse their impact on warehouse logistics.

The put to light system and the elements that enhance its functionality

The put to light system is a picking solution developed to achieve greater efficiency in warehouse managementgoods picking, and order preparation. The put to light system can make use of two elements that enhance its functionality, designed to work in synergy and to further improve warehouse logistics: the picking cart and the picking station.

Let’s start from the heart of the system, the put to light, which is the perfect solution for faster, more practical and intuitive order preparation. The put to light is part of the outbound internal logistics flow and is a valid aid in the sorting of goods. In fact, in the put to light system displays positioned on counters or roller conveyors visually guide the operator to the individual areas where the picked products and items must be placed. More precisely, each specific position is dynamically associated with an order and is combined with a lighted display that indicates to the operator where to place the item(s) and in what quantity. Through the implementation of dedicated WMS (Warehouse Management Software), it is possible to manage different picking processes such as batch picking (same SKU to be distributed on different orders) or multi-order picking (simultaneous preparation of multiple orders without batch picking). The put to light system can be applied to both automatic storage systems and traditional storage structures such as static shelving.

After introducing the put to light (PTL) system, it is time to further explain the characteristics and functions of two critical elements supporting the put to light method, the picking station and the picking cart:

  • Picking station

Picking Station

The picking station can be considered the infrastructure (hardware) of the put to light (the core system). It is an intermediate storage point, consisting of a sturdy coated steel structure equipped with multiple shelves for the containers where the goods are placed. Each container is associated with a put to light display with its own control unit and power supply. The picking station can be used in combination with manual or automatic handling systems like belt conveyors. The picking stations are modular and thus can be placed side by side to expand the operating area (with operators on one side or both sides), which is very useful when it is necessary to process multiple orders simultaneously. The basic structure of the picking station can be customized with additional modules, to facilitate, for example, the installation of monitors, barcode readers, label printers or other accessories.

  • Picking cart 

Picking Station

The picking cart is a steel trolley equipped with 4 pivoting wheels, designed to be maneuvered with extreme ease. It has shelves for containers, put to light displays with the related control units, power or backup batteries, and WiFi systems for wireless connectivity. The picking cart can be moved manually by the operator or by autonomous mobile robots. The picking cart can be used with vertical or horizontal automatic storage systems as well as with “traditional” storage systems based on static shelving. Picking carts facilitate the handling of goods throughout the warehouse.

Picking stations and picking carts can also be supported by specific picking applications for smartphones and mobile devices which track picking and placing operations within the entire warehouse.

The advantages of picking solutions for warehouse logistics

All these new picking tools are aimed at improving the safety and efficiency of the warehouse personnel. The put to light, the picking station and the picking cart are 3 complementary elements which can work in synergy to improve productivity, a critical factor for many sectors such as distribution. Some of the main objectives of the picking solutions include:

  • improve operating speed (for example, the number of picking operations in a given time unit) and therefore obtain savings in terms of processing time;
  • increase precision and significantly reduce errors (which can occur in the case of manual processing);
  • minimize the impact of reverse logistics;
  • implement high-performance picking aids which require limited maintenance and upgrades to always guarantee top efficiency.

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Manufacturers worldwide are facing significant challenges as industries rapidly digitize and automate towards Smart Factory Industry 4.0 operations.

However, despite the proliferation of robotics and interconnected processes, many manufacturing aspects have only partially embraced Industry 4.0 initiatives.

To meet the challenges of modern manufacturing, Smart Factory solutions are becoming essential.

The urgent need for smart factory solutions

Supply chain executives across various industries must balance production runs, inventory volumes, and delivery schedules efficiently.

In pursuit of higher efficiencyreduced energy consumption, and cost optimization, manufacturers are closely evaluating their manufacturing and distribution models. Smart Factory connectivity offers an optimal solution to address these challenges.

Optimizing Small-Piece Storage and Fulfillment with Smart Factory Solutions

Lean warehousing

In today’s Smart Factory warehouse, the heart of efficient operations lies in the automated storagepicking, and fulfillment of small-piece items and finished goods. Whether it’s handling finished goods, replacement parts, retail e-commerce micro-fulfillment, tool cribs, or kitting for assembly, an automated storage and picking system for small-piece order fulfillment is essential.

Vertical lift modules (VLMs) and horizontal carousels (HCs) exemplify the ideal system for this purpose. They are capable of managing thousands of different SKUs, allowing small-piece inventory to be stored, picked, and packed within a small footprint with impressive speed and efficiency.

The unique capability of VLMs and HCs to store inventory in a compact space leads to a significant reduction in conventional inventory storage size, up to 90%. This allows facilities to save valuable floor space and concentrate operations in a smaller footprint, closer to where they are needed. As a result, the flow of operations is optimized, and the need for off-site storage can be minimized or eliminated.

The modular and scalable design of VLMs and HCs enables them to function effectively in various environments, including both high-ceiling and low-ceiling facilities with unusual configurations. These systems can easily adapt to changes in SKU counts and throughput volumes. Moreover, they can accommodate the storage of both ambient and temperature-controlled products within the range of  2°C and 25°C.

VLMs leverage the available room height, allowing items to be stored up to 16 metres high within a confined footprint, effectively maximizing the use of vertical space in the facility. On the other hand, the Modula HC is designed for use in environments with limited ceiling height.

While VLMs and HCs have already proven their effectiveness in enhancing storage and fulfillment efficiency, the latest evolution of these solutions takes things further. They now offer a higher level of integration and connectivity, fully supporting Smart Factory operations. Companies like Modula are at the forefront of manufacturing such advanced automated storage and retrieval systems.

By embracing these Smart Factory solutions, manufacturers can optimize small-piece storage and fulfillment processes, leading to increased efficiency, reduced operational costs, and improved overall productivity in their warehouses.

WMS Connectivity: Enhancing Smart Factory Operations

As the backbone of managing VLMs and HCs, a dedicated and comprehensive warehouse management system (WMS) is the most ideal solution, specifically designed for receiving, picking, and organizing small-piece fulfillment.


VLMs and HCs offer complete Ethernet connectivity with the plant WMS and house ERP. 

The Modula WMS, for instance, is a robust inventory management software specially tailored to operate VLMs and HCs while seamlessly integrating with traditional manual  in static racking.

A key feature of this WMS is its real-time integration with the facility’s host WMS via Ethernet. This ensures that the host WMS has updated information about the location of every item to be picked or refilled. The VLM and HC’s WMS interface supports various WMS, DMS, MRP, and ERP platforms, enabling faster and more accurate processes like receiving, picking, and putting away products. Additionally, the VLM and HC WMS allows the host WMS to directly monitor the VLM and HC units.

Each VLM and HC is equipped with a color touchscreen console called Copilot, connected to Modula WMS via Ethernet. This user-friendly interface simplifies operations, enabling operators to request specific items or execute orders seamlessly.

MODULA Copilot

Each VLM and HC is equipped with a color touchscreen Copilot console, connected to Modula WMS via Ethernet

The graphical visualization of the tray layout on the Copilot provides clear information about the location of desired items within the VLM or HC. It also displays all relevant information related to picking or refilling operations, such as item codes, quantities, and item notes.

The dedicated and connected WMS for small-piece inventory storage and picking with VLMs and HCs offers several inherent benefits, including:

  • Elimination of Manual Input
    By utilizing barcodes and other automated solutions with VLMs and HCs, the WMS reduces the risk of human errors associated with manual input.
  • Inventory in Racking
    Many warehouses use sophisticated MHE and WMS but still handle thousands of SKUs manually with shelving, drawers, and tool cribs. A dedicated WMS for small-piece inventory can integrate data from static shelving digitally with VLMs and HCs via Ethernet, streamlining management and reporting.
  • Insight-Driven Dashboard
    The WMS offers personalized views and real-time visibility into key performance metrics through customizable layouts, alerts, and custom reports. This empowers managers to make data-driven decisions to optimize warehouse operations.
  • Track and Trace Unique IDs
    As the need for tracking unique IDs grows, especially for high-value smaller-item products, the latest VLM and HC WMS support this requirement. They enable efficient digital management of inventory for track and trace capabilities and seamless data sharing with the host WMS and management through Ethernet connectivity.
  • Fast Installation and Connectivity
    Unlike many traditional WMS requiring lengthy installations, the latest WMS, like the Modula WMS, provides a rapid installation process. It comes with standard interfaces for seamless integration with the company’s ERP, enabling quick and secure order and inventory management via Ethernet.
    By leveraging WMS connectivity and the capabilities of VLMs and HCs, companies can significantly improve the efficiency and productivity of their Smart Factory operations, enabling them to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced manufacturing landscape.

MODULA display

Graphical display of tray layout clearly shows the operator where the desired item is located in the warehouse. 

Embracing Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory Solutions

Implementing a Smart Factory initiative is aimed at achieving the highest level of production efficiency.
To achieve this, manufacturers must develop individually tailored and comprehensive intralogistics solutions that prioritize security and flexibility, propelling them confidently into their digital future.

A critical aspect of this evolution is harnessing interconnected automation solutions across multiple distribution processes, enabling a seamless production flow. Central to this transformation is the integration of VLMs and HCs for automated small-piece fulfillment, revolutionizing the efficiency and productivity of Smart Factory operations.

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Storage optimization specialists

Whether it’s eliminating waste by removing cumbersome warehouse processes or ensuring your warehouse employees are safe, lean warehousing is the solution to several different challenges in warehouse management.

Lean warehousing is an approach to warehouse management that eliminates warehouse processes or activities that use resources but do not create additional value, to help reduce waste and improve productivity.

This approach was initially developed in the manufacturing industry — in the automotive sector by Toyota — with a focus on reducing waste and improving efficiency.

Let’s take a manual picking process as an example. Manual picking requires your warehouse operators to use pick lists and navigate pick locations manually, which can be seen as wasteful, as it uses resources, such as time and labor, but it doesn’t add any value for your customer.

To resolve the wasted resources from manual picking, implementing the lean warehousing approach in this situation might mean taking advantage of automated picking solutions instead.

Lean warehousing means:

  • Improve productivity: Lean warehousing focuses on eliminating wasteful warehouse processes, such as overproduction and excess inventory storage. By identifying and eliminating non-value-added activities, productivity is improved.
  • Boost employee safety: Lean warehousing prioritizes workplace safety by utilizing automated vertical storage solutions to eliminate the need to reach high and low places, reducing both clutter and unsafe work practices.
  • Increase employee morale: Lean principles promote employee involvement and empowerment. By involving your employees in continuous improvement initiatives, you can boost retention rates and allow your employees to feel valued and motivated to contribute to the success of the warehouse.
  • Reduce downtime: By improving processes across your warehouse, you can reduce downtime and ensure your warehouse operations run smoothly.
  • Reduce the need for more storage space: Instead of moving to a bigger facility, implementing the lean approach to your existing warehouse allows you to optimize inventory levels and reduce excess stock. This, in turn, allows you to save on premium costs associated with warehouse expansion or leasing additional storage facilities.

Stacker crane automatic warehouse

How To Implement Lean Warehouse Management

Once you’ve nailed down the steps to achieving a lean approach, the next step is to implement best practices into your daily warehouse operations.

To fully integrate the lean warehousing approach:

1. Audit Your Warehouse Processes

Auditing your warehouse processes is key to identifying inefficiencies and areas that need improvement in your warehouse.

  • Define your objectives: These might include improving efficiency, reducing costs, ensuring safety compliance, enhancing customer service or identifying training needs. Clear objectives will help you focus on the audit.
  • Create an audit checklist: Develop a list of areas to examine based on your objectives. This might include inventory management, order picking, packing and shipping, equipment maintenance, space utilization and employee training.
  • Gather data: Utilize different methods to collect information, such as physical inspections, staff interviews, documentation review (like shipping records or safety logs) and data analysis (like order fulfillment times or error rates).
  • Analyze the data: Look for patterns that indicate a problem. For example, if there are frequent stockouts of specific items during a certain season, this might indicate inadequate stock of fast-moving items.
  • Benchmark your performance: Compare your performance against industry standards and/or against your past performance to look for areas that need improvement.
  • Provide recommendations: Based on your findings, recommend improvements. This might include changes to procedures, equipment, warehouse layout or employee training.
  • Present your findings: Prepare a report outlining your findings and recommendations, and present this to the relevant stakeholders.

2. Implement Just-in-Time (JIT) Inventory Management

Just-in-time (JIT) is a type of inventory management that requires you to work closely with suppliers to ensure that raw goods arrive as soon as production is scheduled to begin.

Implementing JIT inventory management allows you to boost efficiency, eliminate excess inventory and reduce storage costs — goals that are in line with lean manufacturing.

To implement JIT inventory management in your warehouse:

  • Collect historical sales data at a granular level (by consumer behavior or SKU, for example) to provide a detailed outline of your demand patterns.
  • Develop strong relationships with your suppliers and involve them in your planning process. Communicate your demand forecasts with your suppliers and ensure they can meet your requirements in terms of quantity, quality and timing.
  • Implement an inventory management software that automatically triggers purchase orders when your goods reach low inventory levels, so you don’t risk stockouts.

3. Train Your Warehouse Employees

Implementing lean warehousing requires changing processes and restructuring your employees’ mindsets.

Training your warehouse employees is key to ensuring that everyone understands the principles of lean manufacturing and how to put them into practice.

To train your employees on lean warehousing practices:

  • Provide a thorough orientation program for your new employees. The program might include an introduction to the principles of lean warehousing, for example, along with an overview of your company’s specific processes and procedures and a clear explanation of employee roles and responsibilities within the warehouse.
  • Offer specific training sessions focused on lean warehousing principles and practices, such as the 5S methodology, value stream mapping, waste reduction techniques, visual management and problem-solving tools for continuous improvement.
  • Provide hands-on training opportunities for your employees to apply lean concepts, such as mock simulations, role-playing exercises or actual work assignments.

Lean warehousing

4. Utilize Warehouse Automation

Automation can significantly improve efficiency and accuracy in your warehouse — characteristics that align with the lean approach.

Automated warehouse solutions include automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), robotic picking systems, and warehouse management systems (WMS) that can boost picking accuracy and speed.

As a leader in automated storage solutions and warehouse management systems, Modula provides advanced solutions that can enhance productivity, efficiency and picking accuracy — primary goals that align with the lean warehousing approach.

5. Utilize Continuous Improvement (Kaizen)

The lean journey doesn’t end once the initial improvements have been implemented — it’s a continuous process.

You can ensure continuous improvements by holding regular team meetings to discuss ideas or hosting formal kaizen events where your team works together to solve a particular problem.

For some years Modula has decided to equip itself with a Kaizen manager to monitor and improve company processes, with a view to continuous streamlining of processes.

Modula’s advanced storage solutions and warehouse management system allow you to implement a lean approach to your warehouse operations to optimize your storage space, improve your picking accuracy and boost your employee’s productivity and efficiency.

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Storage optimization specialists

Automated warehouse management systems are designed to overcome some limitations of conventional systems by maximizing storage capacity in terms of efficiency, speed, space, precision and operating costs.

The main automatic warehouse management systems include:

Stacker crane automatic warehouse

Stacker crane automatic warehouse

In a stacker crane automatic warehouse, pallets are stored and handled by means of stacker cranes, and these operations are efficiently managed by means of the central WMS IT system.

The structure may be prefabricated or free-standing, can be very tall and is able to manage a large number of product codes.
The main benefits of stacker crane warehouses compared to conventional systems are:

  • Picking process speed: the goods are brought to the operator, reducing order fulfillment time
  • Space optimization: handling aisles are reduced to a minimum
  • High selectivity and high density
  • More control of products in store
  • Low operating costs

This type of automated warehouse provides a clear improvement in terms of storage efficiency and operating costs, although the initial investment is high.

Vertical lift module automatic warehouse

Vertical lift module automatic warehouse

Vertical buffer module, or Vertical Lift Module (VLM) automatic warehouses are leading-edge, compact automated storage structures which can be perfectly integrated with production processes and internal ERP systems.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a vertical automatic warehouse is the saving in floor space, which may be as high as 90%.
Compared to conventional models, management with a VLM also provides a sharp improvement in safety, speed and inventory precision, cutting time, costs and errors.
In other words, this is a real revolution in efficiency, the spread of which is perhaps only hampered by lack of awareness of the results and potentials of this particular automatic management model.

Those who are worried about having to stop or slow down production because they view automatic systems as complex and therefore think lengthy assembly time are required have no cause for concern.
The installation time for a vertical warehouse are very similar to those for conventional static solutions and the transition to automatic operation can also take place gradually.

The idea that automatic vertical warehouses cost a lot more than conventional solutions is another of the common misconceptions about automatic warehouses.
The investment is definitely not unaffordable and a rapid ROI is guaranteed.
In Italy, the option of “Hyper and Super Amortization” for tax purposes under the Industry 4.0 scheme makes the transition to automatic warehouse management even more financially attractive.

In other words, there are many reasons for investing in an automatic vertical warehouse.
Now let’s take a look at the differences between them and stacker crane warehouses.

Difference between stacker crane and vertical warehouses

The first difference between stacker crane and automatic vertical warehouses is that the latter do not need aisles for transporting goods, and all the space available is used for storage.

What’s more, any type of goods can be stored in a vertical warehouse, from heavy, bulky products to small parts, without the limitations imposed by pallets.
The automated system guarantees the optimization of spaces between trays, improving storage efficacy.

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Storage optimization specialists

This is one of those activities that requires a significant investment in terms of time, money and resources, and too often one we approach reluctantly. However, good warehouse management can be fundamental to increasing your company’s productivity and efficiency, meeting customer demand and thus also increasing profits.

Whether the space is used to store raw materials, semi-finished products or finished products, a warehouse is not just a simple store for goods. Contrary to what you might think, your warehouse can play a truly crucial role in the correct functioning of your entire business.

Constantly keeping your warehouse in order is undoubtedly the first step to quicker order processing and faster shipment of goods, but this may still not be enough. To improve the performance of your company and make it truly competitive in the long term, it might be time to make a decisive move towards a complete warehouse reorganisation and define a whole series of specific activities aimed at improving logistics performance.

Modula storage system

Reorganising a warehouse: where to start?

If your aim is to have perfectly organised warehouse logistics which are able to support production without ever slowing it down and ensure more efficient management of incoming and outgoing goods, nothing can be left to chance and everything must be planned down to the smallest detail.

Where do you start when you are struggling to reorganise your warehouse? The first thing to do is to carry out a deep analysis of the situation so that you can have a complete overview of the problems to be solved, make the right assessments and then define a proper action plan. This will involve identifying the most effective solutions to adopt whilst keeping the characteristics and peculiarities of your business in mind.

For example, where there are problems related to a lack of space inside the warehouse, a business might opt to acquire a new area in which to store its goods. Another might find it more advantageous to arrange new storage systems such as VLMs which allow you to speed up and improve stock management. Yet another might find it more appropriate to install Cross Docking systems in order to speed up customer despatching and reduce the costs of storage to a minimum. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is why it’s important to find the right strategy that best suits your needs.

Improving logistics performance: two approaches

Only after having identified the problem can you proceed to define which strategy to adopt in order to improve warehouse management and make it more efficient. There are two paths you can take.
To obtain results which are constant over time (if modest), you can opt for a “Bottom Up” approach which involves performing small daily improvement actions in the warehouse, making the best use of existing resources.

If, however, it turns out that more radical changes are required, it might be better to opt for a “Top Down” approach which requires more extreme action to be taken and, above all, an investment in ad hoc technological solutions which will facilitate the full reorganisation of the warehouse and an improvement in logistics performance.

Before and after renovation comparison

Technological solutions: which ones to adopt to optimise space

Which tools do you need to acquire in order to improve warehouse logistics and which technological solutions should you invest in to best organise available space? Also in this instance there are two different types of approach to choose from.

Traditional warehouse models are still valid, such as the stacked warehouse, which, just like its name suggests, allows goods to be stacked one on top of the other; racking warehouse, in which products are placed on special racks; or cantilever warehouse, which allows particularly large items to be stored at height. However, to improve the safety of your storage space, facilitate stock management and speed up inventory operations, it may well be even more advantageous to invest in automated storage models, such as an automated stacker crane warehouse or a tray-based vertical warehouse which are very well suited to this purpose.

As an example, the stacker crane warehouse is the ideal solution for simplifying the picking and refilling of goods, reducing errors to a minimum. This system manages storage via a computerised system which guides the stacker crane through the warehouse’s internal spaces along a set of rails. The crane can reach great heights and also transport very heavy loads.

A vertical warehouse or VLM, however, is a goods management method in which raw materials, semi-finished products and finished products are stored vertically on internal trays, with a payload of over 900 kg, and where identifying and picking products is done with a simple click. This system has multiple advantages: it guarantees that different activities can be more efficiently coordinated, allows optimum standards of cleanliness and organisation, ensures significant space and time savings and greater safety for both operators working inside the warehouse and for the goods transiting through it.

How to choose the best solution for reorganising your warehouse

As we have already highlighted, each business is different and has its own peculiarities. This means that there is no absolutely best or worst approach: everything depends on the needs and requirements of your business.

Without doubt, anyone wishing to achieve better warehouse logistics should invest heavily in the initial analysis phase in order to ensure they have a complete understanding of what actually goes on inside their own business, immediately identify the most obvious problems, examine them carefully and identify the solutions best able to resolve them.

Any choice must be made by weighing up and considering a large number of variables, such as the company’s management model or the type of relationship established with suppliers. Only through a truly deep analysis is it possible to identify the best solution for each business.

There is a general tendency for people to wait for problems to manifest themselves and then try to solve them. However, this is a costly approach and one which eventually proves ineffective. It is therefore advisable to anticipate problems and arrange for improvement actions to be carried out in the warehouse according to a set schedule. This will address any little problems as they arise, at a time when they are still reasonably easy to handle.

Once problems in the warehouse are understood, and any related costs, equipment to implement and technological solutions to invest in have been carefully assessed, the best strategy for your business will not be difficult to find.

It is undeniable that the initial investment can turn out to be quite large, but it is an effort which is worth it and which will be amply rewarded.

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Storage optimization specialists

Warehouse innovation is a continuous process that changes and evolves together with the company, which must be able to gradually adopt the tools, technologies and processes of Industry 4.0 according to the needs. On the other hand, a company that wants to remain competitive today must opt for innovative warehouse solutions that enable it to overcome the daily challenges of the supply chain, such as:

  • Disruptions in the supply chain itself
  • Sustainability
  • Labour shortages
  • Traceability.

Improving the logistical infrastructure of their warehouse and adopting the latest technological innovations enables companies to successfully deal with emerging problems, and also brings other internal benefits to the warehouse itself, such as:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Higher profitability
  • More efficient warehouse processes
  • Higher productivity
  • More safety in the workplace
  • Ability to handle peaks and troughs in demand.

Warehouse upgrade through automation is the best way to manage the volatility and variability of the different components of the supply chain. Innovation, in fact, allows possible future problems to be anticipated, strengthening supply chain resilience in advance, and avoiding unplanned changes made necessary by contingent events.

For many years now, Modula has helped companies improve their warehouse management with its automated vertical storage systems and other innovative technological solutions developed to meet the needs of every industry and adapt to any kind of issue.

Modula storage system

5 reasons why you should choose Modula solutions to innovate your warehouse

Are there other reasons to choose Modula over other solutions when it comes to innovating your warehouse? Yes, as many as five.

1. Modula solutions are cost-effective

Modula’s storage systems are among the most cost-effective solutions on the market for warehouse innovation and automation. The ROI is, in fact, only 12 to 18 months against an unmistakably lean process that includes:

  • Consulting, inspection and configuration
  • Commissioning
  • Basic staff training.

The cost-effectiveness of the Modula solution, compared to the technological offer, is confirmed by the fact that these storage systems are used in the most diverse business sectors, including hardware distribution, shops, and large industrial plants.

2. Modula solutions are scalable

Modula solutions can be adopted gradually without impacting the management process, and are scalable over time according to warehousing needs.

Modula’s sales staff will study the bestwarehouse configuration, also with a view to future scalability, evaluating additional placements and solutions. Thanks to this predictive approach, many customers have exponentially increased the number of Modula storage systems included in their operational flow without repercussions and slowdowns in daily operations.

Modula storage system being operated

3. Modula solutions are easy to use

Modula solutions are easy to use and do not require any specific expertise. However, the purchase package includes basic training in the use of tools such as the Copilot Console, which features an intuitive touch screen interface from which all operations can be performed.

Many technologically advanced features are linked to the use of the Modula WMS software, which was completely designed and created in the company’s software department. To implement customized solutions, which are also created according to customer requirements,training courses and on-site training are offered to familiarize the customer with the full potential of the Modula WMS. The new Modula system will be operational and efficient, and the personnel trained, in no time at all.

4. Modula solutions meet the needs of every customer

Thanks to their flexibility, ease of operation, and scalability, Modula’s solutions are used and valued by more than 20,000 companies worldwide, with success stories from every sector. Over the years, this has also led us to deal with special and complex requirements for which we have developed special solutions.

The company constantly invests in R&D to be always ready to meet new demands and requirements.

5. Modula is an international company

Modula is present all over the world, not only with its sales network, but also with its customer service, offering on-site assistance and personalized and timely advice.

This proves our unwavering commitment to always being close to those who choose Modula, with quick and professional answers.

Are you ready to bring the efficiency of warehouse automation to your organization or do you want to keep innovating with advanced technological solutions? Contact us for a personalized consultation.

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Storage optimization specialists

The logistics sector is in continuous evolution and in recent years has faced several problems and obstacles. The innovations and trends that will characterize logistics in 2023 are the direct response to those difficulties. There is no doubt that opportunities arise from crises and those who work in the management of supply chain operations are experiencing continuous transformations and adaptations resulting from past and emerging challenges.

In addition to the 2022 trends which continue to influence the sector, new challenges must be addressed, particularly related to:

  • uncertainty due to the continuing war in Ukraine
  • the ecological and environmental challenges due to climate change
  • the “crisis” of the just-in-time management paradigm.

It is therefore essential to understand the direction taken by innovation and current challenges: by focusing on these aspects, companies can develop a resilient supply chain, able to respond to market uncertainties without compromising their competitiveness. So, let’s take a look at the 8 trends that will stand out in the world of logistics in 2023.

1.Redefining the just-in-time model for managing supply chain disruptions

First the pandemic and then the war in Ukraine showed the weaknesses of just-in-time management, which is based on minimizing stock in favor of a continuous supply flow that prevents production from being interrupted.

In the context of international uncertainty of the last few years, in fact, the lean management model has shown how interconnection and interdependence between global operators can be put at risk by local issues. The effects of the pandemic and the war have spilled over the entire logistics chain, with delays in deliveries and rising prices.

Thus, the trend for 2023 is to redefine the just-in-time model to mitigate global interdependence through the increase of safety stock and the shortening of supply chains through reshoring and friendshoring strategies.

A Modula storage system is the ideal solution to support this trend, as it can be configured in terms of height, tray and bay dimensions, load capacity as well as number of trays and stations.

Warehouse transport

2. Optimizing warehouse space to reduce costs

As a result of the increased demand for safety stock, the demand for warehouse space is expected to grow in 2023. To keep costs sustainable, companies need to focus on further optimization of their storage space by investing in ad hoc solutions such as automated vertical storage systems, which provide:

  • significant floor space savings by making use of the vertical space available
  • an increase in the quantity of goods stored
  • a reduction in warehouse surface area for equal quantities of goods stored
  • an effective way to limit wasted space.

3. Automation of processes for smarter warehouses

In a critical, unpredictable and uncertain context like the present, companies need to be flexible and agile as they have never been before to maintain their competitiveness. For this purpose, digital systems must inevitably be adopted, as they are the starting point for automating many logistics processes.

Emerging technologies – such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and IoT solutions – reduce errors, improve inventory management and optimize warehouse logistics flows thanks to the automated collection and analysis of information. In fact, each Modula automatic storage system has its own Modula WMS management software, a state of the art application developed to optimize the performance of storage systems.

4. Data mining for predictive management and WMS in the cloud

The adoption of digital technologies generates a large amount of useful data for logistics operators. Those who take advantage of big data analysis through data mining will have an undisputable competitive advantage in 2023. In fact, through the computerized analysis of data it is possible to identify models, trends, and useful information to support companies in their decision-making processes.

Access to data-based information is just one of the strategic elements that will characterize the future of the logistics sector and enable the forecasting of demand, thus allowing stock to be adjusted and inventory to be optimized.

Among the technological solutions which, together with those illustrated above, will provide better control of warehouses and the best logistics practices, is the adoption of cloud-based warehouse management systems (WMS).

In this way, logistics operators have access to all the relevant information in real time, anywhere, and for all the storage systems managed, even those located in distant facilities. In addition to providing a complete view of stock, a cloud-based WMS offers greater system security and greater control over the important data from each storage system.

Warehouse transport

5. Automating material handling to compensate for labor shortages

The lack of manpower will continue to plague the logistics sector and thus be a constant trend in 2023. In this context, warehouse automation is no longer just a way to improve efficiency but also an effective solution to the shortage of warehouse operators.Today, the design of a storage system must provide for automation at its core, with the integration of robotic equipment to manage all the related storage, handling, picking and placing activities. The trend is to have increasingly automated storage systems where, alongside AMR robotic solutions, drones can also be integrated for the management of inventory, for example.

6. E-commerce growth thanks to IoT solutions and 3PL partners

Another trend that will continue to grow in 2023 is e-commerce, which translates into an increase in demand for logistics services. In e-commerce, more than in other areas, the speed of order fulfillment, flexibility in storage, and customer satisfaction are increasingly critical factors for success. E-commerce operators will be able to maintain their competitiveness in the future only by adopting digital, automated and advanced technological solutions in order to make their warehouses more efficient, or by choosing to entrust the logistics, storage, preparation and transport of their orders to modern third-party logistics partners (3PL).

7. Green logistics and environmental sustainability

In 2023, one of the challenges for the logistics sector is to become increasingly sustainable (given the fact that it is, to date, one of the largest producers of CO2 emissions) in order to comply with the regulations in place as well as to meet the expectations of consumers.

To do this, it will be necessary to invest in alternative fuels and green mobility, packaging made with recycled or renewable materials, and the optimization of processes and warehousing procedures aimed at reducing “empty” trips, increasing storage capacity, and further developing the network of temporary consolidation points.Given that the demand for logistics services is not likely to decrease, it is vital that operators move quickly towards more environmentally sustainable solutions.

8. Increased security and traceability with blockchain technology

As noted, sustainability is an ever more important issue for consumers, who want to know the origin of the products they buy. From this point of view, in 2023 the use of blockchain technology will continue growing to ensure traceability and verification throughout the supply chain. Another advantage of blockchain technology applied to logistics is the reduction of the risks of fraud and data breach during transactions.

Reorganizing warehousing activities to meet the challenges of the logistics sector

2023 will once again see the logistics sector caught between economic uncertainties and international political instability. At the same time, trends have emerged that will guide logistics operators in the years to come, such as digital innovation and ecological transition.

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MODULA Automated Storage Systems

Storage optimization specialists

Behind every delivery, every package and every order are the operators who have to handle constant increases in stock levels, deliver speedily and without making mistakes, all with no increase in the workforce or the footprint of their warehouses.

Is there an ideal way to optimise these actions? Unfortunately not, no solution can solve everything with a click of the fingers. Actually, a warehouse survives on processed that are all intertwined with each other; to improve management and therefore increase numbers of shipments, or speed them up, a company needs to focus on the processes with the most impact, i.e. their strategy.

One strategic process is warehouse slotting, a method to organise warehouse space that can contribute to improving efficiency and productivity in all sectors and all companies, especially if they are equipped with automation systems such as automated vertical warehouses.

What is warehouse slotting and how is it useful

What is warehouse slotting and how is it useful

One of the processes with the greatest impact on operational management in the field of storage is the slotting of the warehouse. This logistics sequence optimises space, distance between items and the selection of materials and options in order to improve picking performance.

Efficient space management is essential in a warehouse and, as a rule, this is based on the correct placement of stock-keeping units (SKUs), each of which must be in its optimal slot to facilitate the work of the warehouse staff.

In turn, each slot is either fixed or random, depending on company requirements.

Fixed slotting is an inventory splitting method, used for products always kept in the same location. Random slotting tends to be used for products that are assigned to the first available picking zone.

Typically, fixed slotting is reserved for fast-moving or high-turnover items, whereas random slotting is used for items with a lower turnover.

Warehouse slotting: why?

Decisions on how to organise a warehouse frequently focus on the lowest possible running costs, by optimising picking locations. It results in better positioning of products in the picking area, fewer movements and less time wasted. It results in mapping and analysing logs and warehouse activities in order to understand which products to keep close and in which part of the warehouse.

There is always a golden zone in every warehouse, characterised by stock locations housing the most commonly moved items, i.e. those with the highest turnover. If this golden zone is compact in size, picking operations are immediately optimised.

The person optimising slotting normally bases their actions on position analyses and the ABC classification system used in logistics units. A good slotting analysis offers great savings in terms of warehouse management, as travel and picking times can be modified to improve picking times and efficiency will undoubtedly improve. The crucial point is in seeking to reduce as far as possible the total cost of picking and refilling your warehouse.

How can automation optimise warehouse organisation?

From reducing travel time to increasing workplace safety, warehouse splitting – combined with the introduction of automated equipment – is key to optimising inventory management for four reasons.

1 – Reduction in travel time

The routine of a warehouse operator includes searching for products within the warehouse so they can pick them; as such, stock location is essential to reduce the time required to pick products ready for shipment.
Warehouse slotting proves useful in situations like these: goods sold in a short time can be stored near the shipping area, resulting in faster picking and refilling.

A Modula automated warehouse is a clear example of an efficiency saving: travel time is virtually eliminated by having a concentrated golden zone in the warehouse. Reordering costs are then also easy to predict when you already have all picking, refilling and consumption of materials under control.

2 – Improvements in safety

As in any other workplace, accidents can unfortunately occur in a warehouse. Whether an operator might carelessly trip over a product left on the floor or be hit by an item falling off a shelf, a warehouse can be a breeding ground for injuries if goods are not stored properly.

Primarily, Modula automated warehouses store all products in trays and therefore prevent the risk of sudden falls from shelves. They also mean lighter goods can be stored at a higher level with heavier items lower down, which ensures a balanced and safer storage area.

3 – Improvements in goods handling

The estimated value of all global returns made in Europe in 2020 was €490 billion, as shown in a recent study by Twenga, comparing percentages of orders and returns in European countries. The research also highlighted the differences in digital buyers’ approaches to returning goods.

The highest numbers of returns were recorded in Germany (53%), followed by the Netherlands (52%), France (45%), Italy (43%), Spain (43%), the UK (40%), Belgium (38%) and Poland (32%).

With vertical warehouses, returns due to picking errors reduced exponentially; all it takes to reduce return rates and therefore improve customer satisfaction is to store the items in the right position (e.g. refrigerated containers for perishable foods).

Proper space division can improve the goods handling process. In an organised warehouse, the staff mainly work on picking, which adds value. They are not required to walk up and down the aisles searching for products, as automated vertical warehouses know the precise location of the items. As a result, they are more focused and make fewer picking mistakes; inventory management processes are also quicker, easier and more efficient.

4 – Maximisation of storage

Warehouse space in Italy can cost between €50 and €60 per square metre: in Milan, €55 per m2 per year; in Rome, €56 per m2 per year; in Florence, an average of €50 per m2 per year.

London, Paris and the cities of northern Europe are much more expensive, whereas costs can be lower in Poland, other countries in eastern Europe and Spain.

By designing and building efficient warehouse splitting, companies can save valuable space and focus operations in a smaller area closer to where they are needed. Of course, this contributes to reductions in total running costs, or can prevent needing to move to a larger warehouse.

The net capacity of an automated vertical warehouse in the case of, for example, increasing slot volumes is very high, and detailed mapping of trays and their splitting into compartments using dividers and partitions results in levels of space optimisation that would be unthinkable with racking, shelving, mezzanines or traditional warehouse types.

You can think in terms of a golden zone and slotting even within the details of the warehouse itself: let’s imagine that we have the most frequently picked items (or those with the highest turnover) in the middle of a tray in an automated warehouse (also known as a vertical lift module). This means that they are in the closest part of the tray to the operator, which is therefore the easiest part to access. The distance an operator’s arm can reach and the tray depth are now variables to add into the equation used when positioning products.

The use of bins, containers or metal dividers to create multiple and highly detailed compartments can make picking operations even more efficient. These systems are normally used as part of WMS, but can also be used as modules alongside WMS as part of automated processes or manual preparation.

Automation and slot optimisation strategy

Warehouse organisation requires the constant gathering of information on consumer behaviour, data analysis and changes to inventory layout when required.

Using a Modula solution, together with logical slot optimisation, is an excellent choice to ensure appropriate development of warehouse dynamics, resulting in benefits from the perspective of both productivity and safety.

The user can monitor stock levels in real time, speed up order resolution times for both picking and replenishment, and avoid the accidental release of incorrect, obsolete, expired or pending products.

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Products that might interest you:
MODULA Automated Storage Systems