Warehouse management systems (WMS), like other systems, require regular maintenance run. A breakdown in manufacturing causes production to stop, whereas problems in warehouse management systems can break the entire supply chain cycle.
A smart warehouse management system using augmented reality technology to identify package picking and delivery.
The IT department is typically responsible for WMS maintenance. The IT department is only accountable for small-scale tasks such as interface installation at stations, authorization issues, and data entry problems. If there is a breakdown, developer support is available round the clock.
If the in-house IT department develops the WMS, the department is responsible for complete maintenance. The IT department develops and manages its maintenance strategies and schedules. The solution is readily available at any time. However, in severe problems or system shutdown, support can be challenging to obtain from external sources.
Troubleshooting a Warehouse Management System
Troubleshooting a WMS varies depends on if the WMS was purchased or created in-house. All developers have a combined goal of reducing downtime with smooth operations. Problems with a WMS are either related to software or hardware. Below is a summary of how engineers can manage these troubleshooting techniques.
Hardware Related Maintenance
Hardware represents the physical devices involved in supporting a warehouse management system. These include the following devices listed below.
Terminal devices are the interfaces where the software is installed, such as computers, laptops, and mobile devices. The common, occurring problem is faulty power supply, memory card issues, network interface card, or display problem.
Physical Devices Providing Network Connectivity
Physical devices are responsible for establishing and providing a network throughout the warehouse. The hardware interface relies on network devices to connect to the main server.
Mobile devices include all devices to input data such as scanners, tablets, and more.
Software Related Maintenance
Software maintenance requires checking the software for validity and functionality. Engineers must diagnose faults by regularly reviewing all functions involved. This prevents duplicate features, broken internal links, delays between command’s approval and execution.
Software is equally as important as hardware. Requirements can change at any time, especially when there is an addition of a new product, target destination, or a sourcing department. Changes cannot be implemented if the software is not updated.
Identifying the Software Issue
Software maintenance is executed by first initially identifying the problem and its effects on the overall system. The IT department is responsible for initiating and executing the plan. After maintenance procedures are applied, the work is tested for authenticity and consistency. This is done by simulating different scenarios and monitoring the solution.
A warehouse worker utilizing warehouse management software to streamline warehouse operations. Image used courtesy of Intel
After getting the necessary approvals, the solution is then made part of the software application, and relevant documentation is completed and maintained.
Maintenance Strategies for a Warehouse Management System
The following are the maintenance strategies for a warehouse management system, in addition to corrective maintenance.
Preventive maintenance is a scheduled type of maintenance. This maintenance is performed on known pain points and is checked for re-occurrence. This ensures the software application is thoroughly checked before it fails. It focuses on the significant issues of the future that might stop the software application from working.
A checklist is prepared in advance, including the critical features and parameters.
A Maintenance plan is shared in advance with the warehouse team, enabling the warehouse department to plan their activities ahead of time. In some cases, the IT department plans their activity such that the preventive maintenance doesn’t hinder the routine warehouse operations such as during slow activity hours or during holidays.
Predictive maintenance in a warehouse management system does not follow scheduling but instead relies on analytics. The analytics are developed to predict faulty scenarios or error before it occurs.
The main advantage of predictive maintenance is that the maintenance is only performed when required, eliminating WMS downtime. Another advantage is that it predicts defects in real-time before they occur, saving valuable WMS downtime.
Analytics for predictive maintenance relies on the historical trend of error in the WMS. Historical trend combined with the maintenance algorithm allows the analytics to predict fault before it happens.
A group of warehouse workers troubleshooting a warehouse management system.
Before the execution of maintenance, analytics generates notification or alert for the maintenance to the relevant department, making it the department’s responsibility to facilitate in executing maintenance.
Companies are adopting warehouse management systems to simplify warehouse operations and increasing efficiency. A WMS can also protect goods and data. Like other application systems, it is common for the WMS to require maintenance, and investing in maintenance strategies takes time, resources and costs money.
Companies do not rely on a single maintenance strategy, but a combination of many. Modern maintenance strategies in a warehouse typically use a combination of preventive and predictive maintenance. Each maintenance strategy differs from the other, but they can be productive and beneficial to the overall facility when combined.
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