Locanis is a warehouse technology supplier headquartered in Germany with clients located in Europe, North America, and Asia. It is likely that many of you are not familiar with how Locanis optimizes warehouse operations. This is because Locanis’ solution, Site Optimizer 3600, doesn’t fit neatly into the category of a WMS. It is reasonable to call it a WMS. But this term does not clearly describe how the solution delivers its results. It is equally reasonable to call it a warehouse control system (WCS). But that term conjures up images of lengthy conveyor belts with complex sorters and lines of chutes. In reality, Locanis offers a solution that doesn’t fit neatly into a defined category. So, I am going to describe how I view Locanis’ solutions and the ways in which it can deliver benefits to its users.
Location, Mobile Assets, Inventory, and Tasks
Site Optimizer 3600 (SO360) is a software solution that incorporates a real-time location system (RTLS). The system maintains real-time visibility into resources, capabilities, status, location, and order requirements. It then leverages this information to orchestrate and optimize warehouse activities to meet the priorities and objectives of the facility on an ongoing basis.
When and how does real-time warehouse data deliver productivity? In general, real-time location data on mobile assets in a warehouse is most valuable when the assets are valuable and highly mobile. Greater mobility means greater variability of location, leading to greater value associated with location accuracy and visibility, all else equal. Real-time data is most important when time value is high. For example, missing a train by five minutes can incur an hour delay. Those five minutes can result in an hour’s worth of sunk costs. In a warehouse, drawn out lead-times can result in manufacturing down-time or missed carrier cut-offs – both of which can be very costly. More directly, warehouse time is related to productivity per hour, with time as a cost driver (hourly wages, asset costs).
Warehouse Orchestration and Optimization
Site Optimizer 3600 maintains visibility into mobile resources, inventory, status, and locations. The system receives tasks (transportation orders) and assigns the tasks based on the operation’s criteria of importance and the real-time status of the resources. For example, the system drops an order to move a load with weight of x pounds, in location y, on a Euro-pallet in a tight area. The system will match a warehouse transporter (manual forklift, AGV, etc.) with the assignment based on the transporter’s location, availability, and suitability of load capacity, load handing device, and even operator’s skill level or other interdependencies of the task. A forklift operator or AGV will then update the status to unavailable and its location will be tracked as it navigates the warehouse and even outside to the yard, if the system is set up to do so. Intelligent, real-time visibility into tasks, resource status, and prioritization can deliver substantial productivity improvements to complex warehouse environments. These improvements can increase when the operation utilizes a heterogeneous set of transporters from multiple vendors, that move along variable paths, conducting different functions. Imagine the potential for utilization and overall productivity improvements when flexible material handling equipment can be efficiently assigned to various tasks according to an operation’s priorities.
I expect the warehouses that can achieve the greatest benefits from this solution are those with a diverse fleet of high-cost material handing equipment that can move dynamically through the facility, executing a variety of tasks that vary across time periods. The more critical and time-sensitive the operations, the more value in executing them effectively. I believe these generic criteria describe the operational characteristics of many facilities where Locanis is currently deployed.