Innovation has never been so important in the warehouse as it is right now. Emerging technologies and changing consumer demands have hugely increased the importance of distribution activities, and efficient, effective fulfilment operations can provide significant competitive advantage. Inventive solutions to logistical challenges are continually being sought; but how do you actually deliver data-driven innovation in the warehouse? 

At SEC Storage, we believe that the answer to this question is deceptively simple: truly understand your operation. 

Over the years, we have provided thousands of SME and blue-chip companies with bespoke warehouse solutions that have delivered award-winning performance. Every organisation is unique; however, our success in delivering innovation has been centred around gaining this true understanding of our customers’ requirements. Consequently, we thought we’d share some key insights and demonstrate how a data-driven approach to problem-solving can help you to incorporate innovative solutions within your warehouse.

A Data-Driven Approach

The first phase of SEC’s problem-solving process is the most important: define the actual problem. It’s essential at this stage to engage with key stakeholders at a strategic level. We generally carry out a ‘requirements gathering’ workshop with our customers to establish precisely what the business’ requirements are.

With this, we are then able to start building a detailed understanding of the operational aspect of the problem. We begin by carrying out a forensic ‘operational walkthrough‘ of the current facility, before analysing critical performance data, such as volumetric throughputs, and order-profiles. By combining data with experience, we can moderate the human ‘bias’ that results from the unconscious desire we all have to over-emphasise the things that bother us the most. And instead, we are more able to spot previously unnoticed trends or insights that can be the building blocks for innovation.

With this data, we can start to produce a multi-dimensional ‘model’ of the problem. At SEC, we actually spin this into a ‘virtual twin’ of our clients’ operation. This provides a safe playground for us to test different solutions under various hypotheses and establish the most optimal method of tackling the problem, rather than the most obvious. Admittedly, we use sophisticated tools to do this, but ‘what-if’ analysis can be achieved in a variety of accessible ways.

This ‘scientific’ approach, allows our cross-functional project team to combine extensive experience, with mathematically proven insights, to drive its decision making. By carrying out further analyses, such as time-in-motion studies, we can then build fully-fledged, real-time simulations of both the conceptual and original designs by utilising our bespoke modelling package. This enables us to compare the operational performance of both systems and contrast other vital metrics, such as space-utilisation and growth capacity. This step, importantly, allows us to assess the return on investment (ROI) of the project and to establish the business case for proceeding: typically, we look for an ROI period of no more than two years.

At SEC, we believe that by gaining a deep understanding of problems through detailed data gathering and analysis, it is possible to identify solutions that were not previously visible, or have not been seen by others. This allows us to utilise commonly available products in new, innovative ways to consistently outperform other, more traditional designs.

As a bonus, data-analysis completed at the problem-solving phase is tremendously useful when it comes to implementation. By working with previously captured information, we can help our clients to plan for and resolve operational challenges before they arise. For example, we utilise our already-built digital twins to optimise product placement before ground has even been broken. 

Our data-oriented approach has unquestionably made us more innovative and helped us to our own competitive advantage. By understanding our customers’ operations better, we can provide solutions that differentiate our customers and drive improved financial performance. This can be evidenced by our rapid growth, built on a platform of building long-term relationships and high-levels of customer satisfaction.

 

Award-Winning Innovation

Our data-driven approach to warehouse solutions was recently demonstrated at our customer Christie Lites where we used our analytics platforms and simulation tools to design a complex multi-point, multi-directional sensory system that would be able to find and locate a unique set of items within the warehouse. This project, resulted in SEC Storage winning the Logistics Award for Innovation at the SHD Logistics Awards ceremony held during IMHX 2019 in Birmingham. It also demonstrated how by harnessing the data of your operation, any organisation is capable of achieving genuine innovation.