Many distribution centers and warehouses that need to upgrade SAP WMS and ERP systems find that there are other tools to improve picking and other warehouse processes to increase efficiency, accuracy and customer service. Rather than upgrading their SAP WM or installing SAP EWM, many of these DCs get the new warehouse management capabilities they need using warehouse optimization.

Warehouse optimization solutions eliminate the cost and risk of replacing your warehouse management system, and it’s a solution that will prolong the life of your current ERP or WMS. Below we discuss some things to consider before upgrading your SAP system, and provide examples of how two different companies supplemented their SAP WMS with Lucas.

The SAP Upgrade Challenge

Upgrading legacy SAP ERP or WMS technology often makes sense, but there are many factors to consider before committing to a new WMS. The first step in the process is to define the capabilities you are lacking today, and then to determine the best way to fill those functional gaps.

The core functions of any warehouse management system are inventory control, work execution, and reporting. Different systems offer different levels of inventory control capability. Many ERP systems provide basic inventory tracking, while most standalone WMS packages include detailed inventory tracking to the bin level (what quantity of product is in each location – forward pick location versus overstock, etc.). Likewise, most ERPs and WMSs may provide location management, but few provide sophisticated slotting tools.

To fill these functional gaps it is common for DCs to purchase add-on systems. For example, many companies add standalone labor management, transportation management, and slotting software outside of their ERP or WMS to get richer capabilities.

For companies looking to improve hands-on processes – picking, receiving, replenishment, etc. – the best option is often to supplement their SAP WMS or ERP with external warehouse optimization solutions.

(Download our Extending SAP WMS and ERP Whitepaper for more information on how to assess your current systems, and hear how three companies followed different strategies to upgrade their systems.)

Adding Work Execution To SAP WMS Systems

More and more DCs are supplementing their SAP ERP or EWM systems with optimization solutions that fully optimize, direct, and coordinate the movement of products by people and machines (including autonomous mobile robots, so called AMRs). The following examples show two different approaches to adding these solutions to SAP.

HD Supply Facilities Maintenance is a division of HD Supply, one of the largest diversified wholesale distributors of industrial supplies in North America. HD Supply was planning to implement SAP WM to replace a legacy WMS, but rather than moving to WM-driven picking using RF, they determined that it would be more effective and efficient to roll out SAP WM and a Lucas solution for voice picking.

After an initial pilot implementation at their Seattle DC, HD Supply installed the SAP and Lucas systems at eight additional DCs, and has since rolled out to a total of 40 sites with more than 500 users.

By undertaking the SAP WM and Lucas warehouse optimization projects in tandem, HD Supply was able to identify ways in which the Lucas System could fill gaps in SAP functionality. This reduced overall implementation costs while enabling the company to create optimized voice processes working with the new SAP WMS. Since rolling out the SAP and Lucas solutions, picking productivity has increased more than 30 percent, with a significant reduction in picking errors.

Eby-Brown is the third largest convenience store distributor in the US. To support continuing growth Eby-Brown wanted to improve picking accuracy and productivity and replace legacy home-grown management systems with SAP applications. Given the time required to move to SAP and the need to get immediate improvements in operations, the Eby-Brown operations and IT organizations determined that the best approach was to install the Lucas solution prior to upgrading their back-end systems.

The Lucas System was installed in Eby-Brown’s seven distribution centers over the course of one year. Overall productivity gains across all seven DCs averaged 33 percent in case picking and 40 percent in piece picking, in addition to improved quality.

At the same time as the Lucas Solution was being rolled out in the DCs, Eby-Brown had started the migration of their back-end systems to SAP ERP. They then installed the WM module in the distribution centers, which were already using the Lucas mobile, voice-directed applications.

Chris Timmons, Senior VP of Operations at Eby-Brown says the changeover to SAP in the DCs was “invisible” to associates who continue to work with the Lucas applications the same as before.

Lucas manages assignment creation and route management using data from SAP, automatically updating pick assignments as orders are downloaded from SAP. In addition to guiding the hands-on picking process, the Lucas System also includes a QC/Audit system that allows a selective post-pick audit based on parameters managed by site supervisors. In addition, the Lucas management console provides real-time productivity and picking status information that supplements information available from SAP.

Certified SAP Integration

System integration is a vital part of any software implementation. Although integration can be complex, our standards-based system interfaces make the process easier and less risky.

Lucas offers SAP-certified integration with SAP applications using existing APIs and proven, reliable integration technologies. The Lucas framework simplifies integration with SAP and other systems (WCS, LMS, etc.) without limiting workflow possibilities or imposing onerous development requirements on our customers.