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Data-Driven Revolution: Transforming Warehousing in Africa

March 6, 2024

A constant, dynamic data stream of various formats and functions is generated across supply chains through IoT sensors, autonomous robots, and mobile apps.

By harnessing this hot mess of data, business leaders can better understand their organisation’s data, laying the foundation for advanced integrations, analytics, business intelligence, and informed decision-making processes.

In this article, we explore how leveraging the power of data is transforming warehousing operations across South Africa and Zambia by examining real-world examples from two leading African companies and a government health organisation.

The Evolution of Warehousing: From Cost Centers to Profit Centres

While the growth of automated warehouses in Africa lags behind other developing continents like Latin America and Asia Pacific, the market is projected to grow significantly. It’s claimed that the warehouse automation market in Africa was valued at US$12.7 billion in 2019, and it is anticipated to maintain a robust compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.4% from 2022 to 2029.

This growth is fueled by a global trend we explored previously, where global supply chains are shifting towards Africa to gain access to raw materials used in high-tech applications.

Warehouse transformation is well on its way.

Numerous top African companies are spearheading this transformation. They are redesigning their warehouses as “smart nodes” within their supply chain network, converting their distribution hubs into profit-generating hubs by investing in advanced, data-driven logistics and warehouse software.

Nowadays, warehouses play a vital role in enhancing business intelligence and decision-making throughout the organisation, and companies are realising that their value extends far beyond obvious distribution efficiencies.

Calling out the elephants in the room

Implementing a warehouse management system requires significant capital investment, and modifying the existing warehouse infrastructure to accommodate the new equipment can be challenging.

However, despite these elephants in the room, many of Africa’s largest warehouse centres are shifting from the periphery to becoming essential elements of a company’s overall success.

We’ve prepared these case studies to give a clearer view of what it looks like.

What do data-driven warehouses look like?

Case Study 1: Delivering Medications Efficiently

A key player in Zambia’s healthcare system, ensuring the efficient procurement, storage, and distribution of medicines and medical supplies nationwide. Its work contributes to the overall goal of improving healthcare delivery and outcomes.

The health organisation was challenged to distribute critical medical supplies across its vast public health facilities. They turned to Apex for a modernisation solution.

One of the main hurdles the health organisation overcame was its reliance on manual, paper-based processes. Implementing Made4Net’s WarehouseExpert integrated automation into their operations and modernised their supply chain and warehouse process management.

The following data-driven capabilities were implemented:

  1. Real-time inventory tracking: The Made4Net WMS application, WarehouseExpert, allowed the health organisation to track inventory in real-time, ensuring tighter control and lot monitoring at all levels of the agency’s warehouse management1.
  2. Improved order fulfilment: The implementation of WarehouseExpert in their central distribution centre and subsequent rollout to regional hubs expedited the turnaround time for critical medications and provided trans-shipment facilities for goods delivered from the central distribution centre.
  3. Enhanced quality control: The Made4Net delivery management system, DeliveryExpert, enabled the health organisation to manage deliveries nationwide, ensuring the safe and compliant dispatch of pharmaceutical items1.
  4. Increased efficiency: The modernised warehouse solutions provided by Apex reduced the need for human intervention, leading to a more efficient and automated operation. This eliminated the days of paper-based picking, unmanageable dock facilities, and the need for manual workarounds for large-volume orders.
  5. Better decision-making: The collaboration between the health organisation and Apex, along with the continuous process of upgrades, allowed for better decision-making in managing and distributing order demand throughout the supply network, as well as managing serial number validation throughout ZAMMSA’s supply chain network.

By embracing data-driven decision-making, the government health organisation streamlined its inventory processing, tightened control, and improved lot tracking while adhering to stringent pharmaceutical industry regulations.

Case Study 2: Thriving in the 3PL Market

A national courier and logistics provider recognised the intense competition in the 3PL market and the need to stay ahead. Partnering with Apex,  they adopted the Matflo software, a best-of-breed warehouse management system.

The provider implemented specific strategies to become data-driven, focusing on implementing a data-driven warehouse management system (WMS) and analysing warehouse metrics for data-driven decision-making.

They received the following data-driven capabilities:

  1. Implementing a data-driven WMS: The provider adopted the Matflo software, a best-of-breed warehouse management system, allowing them to integrate automation equipment and create a paperless environment. This enabled real-time task management and accurate inventory visibility, improving warehouse efficiency and reducing errors.
  2. Configuring WMS rules per customer requirements: They configured the WMS rules according to individual customer requirements, allowing them to meet service level agreements (SLAs) and handle different customer needs.
  3. Analysing warehouse metrics: They gained the ability to analyse various warehouse metrics, such as productivity and accuracy. This enabled data-driven decision-making to improve operations continually.

Adopting a data-driven WMS and using advanced technologies have improved the provider’s operations, increasing efficiency, improved customer service, and enhanced decision-making capabilities.

Case Study 3: Staying Ahead of the Curve

Since partnering with Apex in 2006, a leading African Telco has been committed to continuous warehouse optimisation initiatives.

It’s an approach that has enabled the pan-African Telco to effectively address the evolving demands of the cellular market while maintaining service excellence for its growing customer base.

Here are some lessons gathered along a partnership almost twenty years old:

  1. Culture of continual improvement: The Telco realised early on that their warehouse automation project represented an ongoing journey focused on consistently advancing speed, reducing costs, and enhancing service quality for their growing customer base.
  2. Adapting to changing priorities and market factors: The Telco regularly refines and realigns its improvement roadmap based on current business strategies and technology factors. Their commitment to ongoing improvement allows them to adjust to fluctuating market conditions faster.
  3. Warehouse process improvement: Apex’s nearly two-decade partnership with the Telco has built high levels of trust and a deep understanding of their specific needs. This has resulted in successful warehouse process improvements, significantly enhancing efficiency and productivity.
  4. Growth in throughput and system uptime: Enhancing the capabilities of the Matflo Warehouse Management System has boosted throughput within the facility by more than 400%, with a greater than 90% system uptime.
  5. Investment omnichannel customer experience: The Telco’s e-commerce and omnichannel goals are a work in progress. They continue to make strides towards adopting a fully connected e-commerce omnichannel customer experience.

From Pharmaceuticals to 3PL: Data Drives Success in Modern Warehouses

Common to all the case studies is how essential data-driven decision-making is for modern warehousing. Whether it involves delivering necessary medications, excelling in the 3PL market, or maintaining a competitive edge in Telco space, implementing data-driven approaches has unlocked substantial competitive advantages beyond operational efficiency.

By utilising data, warehouses can quickly adapt to changing market conditions and customer expectations, leading to informed decision-making, better resource allocation, and a deep understanding of customer needs.

If you’d like to know more about the journey of transforming your warehouses from cost centres into profit centres, talk to sales.

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