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Warehouse management system customization and information availability in 3pl companies: A decision-support tool

Giulia Baruffaldi (Department of Management and Engineering, University of Padova, Vicenza, Italy) (Department of Industrial Engineering, Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Riccardo Accorsi (Department of Industrial Engineering, Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Riccardo Manzini (Department of Industrial Engineering, Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)

Industrial Management & Data Systems

ISSN: 0263-5577

Article publication date: 17 August 2018

Issue publication date: 21 February 2019

4271

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to illustrate an original decision-support tool (DST) that aids 3PL managers to decide on the proper warehouse management system (WMS) customization. The aim of this tool is to address to the three main issues affecting such decision: the cost of the information sharing, the scarce visibility of the client’s data and the uncertainty of quantifying the return from investing into a WMS feature.

Design/methodology/approach

The tool behaves as a digital twin of a WMS. In addition, it incorporates a set of WMS’s features based both on heuristics and optimization techniques and uses simulation to perform what-if multi-scenario analyses of alternative management scenarios. In order to validate the effectiveness of the tool, its application to a real-world 3PL warehouse operating in the sector of biomedical products is illustrated.

Findings

The results of a simulation campaign along an observation horizon of ten months demonstrate how the tool supports the comparison of alternative scenarios with the as-is, thereby suggesting the most suitable WMS customization to adopt.

Practical implications

The tool supports 3PL managers in enhancing the efficiency of the operations and the fulfilling of the required service level, which is increasingly challenging given the large inventory mix and the variable clients portfolio that 3PLs have to manage. Particularly, the choice of the WMS customization that better perform with each business can be problematic, given the scarce information visibility of the provider on the client’s processes.

Originality/value

To the author’s knowledge, this paper is among the first to address a still uncovered gap of the warehousing literature by illustrating a DST that exploits optimization and simulation techniques to quantify the impacts of the information availability on the warehousing operations performance. As a second novel contribution, this tool enables to create a digital twin of a WMS and foresee the evolution of the warehouse’s performance over time.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to heartily thank the company Due Torri S.p.a. involved in this study. Especially in the name of Eng. Nicola Borghi, for his valuable inputs, his support and his willingness to cooperate in this research project.

Citation

Baruffaldi, G., Accorsi, R. and Manzini, R. (2019), "Warehouse management system customization and information availability in 3pl companies: A decision-support tool", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 119 No. 2, pp. 251-273. https://doi.org/10.1108/IMDS-01-2018-0033

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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