The life of a WMS consultant at bol.com

On 7-01-2019
Category: Blog, Culture

Bol.com is growing with approximately 30% per year, not just in terms of revenues but also operationally. With these increasing numbers it’s an on-going challenge to fulfil all customer orders in time. Year in year out we’re pushing both logistical operations and IT to their limits; two elements that come together in the role of a WMS (Warehouse Management System) Consultant. it’s our job to design and build scalable solutions in the WMS to improve stability and operational efficiency.

The scope of a WMS Consultant is quite broad and is definitely not limited to the WMS alone. I experience lots of autonomy in my work and can experiment to bring live a lot of cool new functionalities every year. Last year I worked on new innovations together with developers, business analysts and data scientists. A handful of projects I worked on last year: RoadRunner (Optimizing Walking Distances for operators), CartonPack (Packing Machine Integration) and with a small team of motivated colleagues we even brought live our first 2-hour delivery depot in Amsterdam.

RoadRunner:

RoadRunner is an algorithm that optimizes walking distances for operators in the warehouse by calculating efficient routes for each individual pickbatch, using the Google OR-Tools implementation for the Traveling Salesman Problem. Operators are now ensured to always walk the shortest route for their pickbatches. This algorithm was built in an external service, that smoothly integrates with the WMS. In my role I investigated the feasibility of the solution and advised on architectural design to integrate the algorithm in the WMS. This solution was the first successful collaboration of IT, Logistics and Data Science at bol.com and led to an increase of total picking efficiency of approximately 5%.

CartonPack:

To improve the operational output in the bol.com fulfillment center, the CartonPack machine was installed. The CartonPack is a packing machine that is able to pack up to 500 multi-item orders per hour. To put that in perspective: One operator is capable of packing approximately 25 multi-item orders per hour manually. To bring this machine alive, smooth integration with the WMS is essential to on the one hand control the order flow to the machine and on the other hand to optimize the user flow to prepare orders for the machine efficiently. In my role I designed these two flows together with the technical message flows between the CartonPack machine and the WMS. This is where IT and Logistics really come together.

2-hour delivery depot:

One of the great advantages of a scalable WMS is the fact that new depots can be created easily. Together with a great group of colleagues, we managed to launch the first local bol.com warehouse to facilitate a 2-hour delivery service in Amsterdam, in just a limited amount of time. In my role I was responsible for a successful WMS implementation and designed and implemented the processes of the entire local warehouse from scratch to go-live. Currently we have a smooth operation running in Amsterdam and we can’t wait looking forward to serve even more customers in the Netherlands within a 2-hour time-window.


Figure 1: Giving a bol.com fulfillment center-tour for bol.com customers