Can Simulation and AI Optimize a Warehouse?

EVS Brings AI and Simulation to day-to-day WMS operations

AI and Simulation may revolutionize day-to-day WMS operations. Photo courtesy EVS

Can software that incorporates artificial intelligence and simulation actually optimize warehouse operations? EVS claims it can deliver insights by simulating the environment and workflow changes to gauge impact on productivity prior to making the actual changes. EVS claims that it’s the first and only company to do so with its new mobe3 warehouse management system (WMS). EVS might have a valid claim, and they do have a pretty cool sounding new solution.

Simulation is not a new technology in supply chain software – nor even in warehousing. What’s new is that simulation has not been fully integrated as part of the day-to-day WMS. Traditionally, it was run in a separate off-line system to create what-if scenarios to gauge impact of investments and major changes.

With mobe3, EVS says it will quantify the effect of changes in the warehouse on a day-to-day basis, and factor in the results of those scenario decisions as part of what the WMS is directing employees to do. Optimizing picks and put-aways using simulation is not common in the industry today. Mobe3 also provides ongoing views of performance and runs native on mobile iOS-based devices to support the inherent movement of warehouse employees.

Optimization and simulation, as well as artificial intelligence, support better decisions as they can handle more data and very complex and dynamic problems people often struggle to master. As distribution operations become more challenged by rising customer expectations and ever more specific products and variants to handle, keeping up with change is a critical challenge warehouses must meet to succeed. Moving products through both effectively and efficiently – or reliably, quickly and at low cost – will differentiate those who thrive from those who struggle.

EVS has been around for about 15 years, starting in the process industry warehousing business. EVS’ current customers are mostly mid-range businesses. Target industries include 3PLs, manufacturing, food and beverage, life sciences, chemicals, biotech, and electronics.

It’s arguable whether this is “the first true innovation in warehouse management systems since 1999” as the PR agency suggested in its e-mail. Yet, it does hold great promise to help warehouses keep up with the disruptions they have been experiencing with greater intensity as Amazon expectations and services have reached into nearly every segment.

Process manufacturers use simulation and increasingly, artificial intelligence, for many other operations. Process industry supply chain planning and production execution have long incorporated simulation to optimize outcomes. These companies use real-time metrics and what-if scenarios to drive optimization that has kept them vital – and the warehouse is getting this opportunity now too.

Can you foresee how your warehouse operations might change? They do, year-to-year, month-to-month, shift-to-shift and moment to moment. What could you achieve with insight into what the impact will be when they do, and recommendations for decision-makers from the top to the forklift? There is probably a sound business case in most warehouses that have a future….

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