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Evil Spreadsheets

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This is a situation many planners and team leads are familiar with: Because existing tools do not work well, they resort to the probably most widely used general-purpose IT tool in the world: Spreadsheets. Why? They are easy to use, powerful and, one can do a thousand things: from lists, through complex calculations, to comprehensive planning and steering solutions.

If I Had a Hammer........

But with great power comes great responsibility. Since you can do "everything" with spreadsheets, you can do anything. You are responsible for every cell, every value, every formula, and every lookup. In warehouses, spreadsheets are used by almost everybody: The operations director, the budgeting team, human resources, planning teams, shift leads, and team leads. They cover all the planning horizons with spreadsheets. What is the most frequently used argument apart from existing tools do not work well? Believe it or not, it's "our spreadsheets work". Sure, they do, and the knowledge and skills people put in them are truly admirable. The creators of the warehouse planning solutions are masters of working around the spreadsheets' limitations which are, in short: A spreadsheet is not a database. It is not a user interface for editing "objects" or "records". It is just a bunch of cells and formulas. The complete business knowledge and semantics are in the head of the creators and, hopefully, the users. It's like decades ago when people used spreadsheets for their company's financial controlling instead of an ERP.

Don't get us wrong. This is not a spreadsheet bashing. They are brilliant tools for the appropriate tasks. If you only have a hammer, every task looks like a nail.

Deep Dive Why Spreadsheets Are Not Made For Warehouse Planning

Let's cover all the points people have told us so far in our workshops:

Limited collaboration

Limited Scalability

As the size and complexity of a fulfillment center's operations grow, the amount of data that needs to be processed and analyzed also grows. Excel has limitations in terms of the amount of data it can handle and may not be able to accommodate the needs of a large fulfillment center.

Lack of real-time data

Lack of Automated Planning

Spreadsheets are primarily a manual tool and may not be able to automate planning processes to the extent required by a fulfillment center. Planning software can help streamline order picking and packing, and reduce shipping costs.

Not made for end users

Knowledge bottleneck: Only the creator knows...

Risk of human error

No good past/planned/actual comparisons

Lack of communication

There are many different versions of spreadsheets

Fact-based intraday balancing is almost impossible

Lost data goldmine

Conclusion and Call for Action

In summary, while spreadsheets can be useful for planning in some contexts, the limitations mentioned above make them less than ideal for planning in a fulfillment center. Planning software that can handle large volumes of data, provide real-time updates, minimize human error, and allow for collaboration among team members is a better choice for planning in a fulfillment center.

Let's use the brilliance and deep business insights of the people who create and maintain the spreadsheet warehouse solutions and put them into a "genuine" workforce planning and management tool that mitigates why people resorted to spreadsheets in the first place.

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