The supply chain has changed dramatically over the last 10 years in so many ways that it can be hard for some to keep up with. Increases in freight and transportation have made these costs higher than distribution center labor in many businesses. The cost and quality of labor throughout your supply chain can be challenging.
One way to get ahead of this constantly changing landscape is using robust Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). Whether you running an ecommerce site, retail chain or are a manufacturer or distributor, these systems can bring increased controls to labor, inventory and transportation.
Typical Warehouse Management System Benefits
Receiving, Quality Assurance and Marking
Many warehouse management systems deliver warehouse functions such as Advance Shipping Notices (ASN) and EDI transactions, allowing carrier scheduling of dock appointments, and better scheduling of receiving and put away personnel. Additional functions typically include:
- The capability to record carrier and/or vendor damage claims upon receiving;
- Creating barcode license plates for pallets and carton labels;
- Identifying forward and bulk locations as product is received, and quantity on hand;
- Options for both paper and paperless receiving;
- The ability to identify special processing of product before put away;
- Cross docking from receiving to packing without going through the put away process;
- Status reporting of incoming receipts to warehousing and merchandising staff for resolution.
Quality Assurance (QA)
- Ability to store vendor/product/ SKU sample testing criteria;
- Ability to store product specifications for QA;
- Support for vendor compliance programs and reporting a vendor “scorecard” of key metrics, on-time delivery, errors in shipment and receiving, etc.;
- Status reporting of problem receipts to warehousing and merchandising staff for resolution;
- Marking in retail, direct and wholesale customer print and ticket formats.
Replenishment to Forward Pick
A WMS automates replenishment of primary or forward pick storage from bulk before the next wave of orders is sent to the floor for picking. It also eliminates warehouse back order costs and lost time. Sales velocity data in a warehouse management system will help plan the size of the forward pick storage by item to reduce the number of replenishment tasks. A product’s min/max or demand replenishment functions will trigger recommended stock movement in an automated way.
A variety of warehouse management systems provide various functions including work orders, kitting, assembly control of labor and material costs, inventory control at component and finished good levels, kit within a kit. Other functions typically available are single-level bill of material (BOM) or a multi-level BOM, and the management of assigning the component inventory through a work order process. Tracking inventory usage and sales at the finished kit and component level, track labor usage by work order and assembled product, and work in process reports are also options. ERPs often have comparable function, whereas this is generally not an OMS strength.
Picking is one of the major labor expenses in most warehouses. A WMS will generally expand your picking options. Some alternative picking choices include paper and paperless pick systems, RF directed, pick to list, pick to box or tote, pick and pass, zone picking, batch and wave picks, cluster pick, pick to cart, label pick and confirm, case picking, pallet picking, bulk, carousel, ASRS, robotic, perfect pick, guided picker systems, voice pick, RFID, FIFO, LIFO, lot number and date, pick to light, and put to light. Options also include the ability to view the order queue by various types of orders and profiles; carrier level of service, single line item versus multi-line orders, special handling orders, down to selecting a single specific order. It can also allow more control over “order waves” being released to the floor and picker skill levels. In general, OMS and ERPs have fewer options for the larger, more sophisticated warehouse operations.
Like picking, packing is a major expense in fulfillment of small parcel ecommerce. To gain customer order accuracy of picking and, consequently, customer satisfaction, consider “pack confirm” verification processes in your operations. Missed picks and incorrect order quantities are caught through the pack confirm process and pulled aside for correction. Many warehouse management systems also allow the ability to provide print-on-demand customer documents, assembly directions, shipping labels, and support selective insertion of promotional materials.
Shipping and Manifesting
Determine what shipping and manifesting system options are available from the vendors, as some rely on third party software solutions. Typical functions allow companies to be able to support sophisticated routines such as rate shopping and best way shipping to reduce freight costs. For companies that utilize their own truck fleets, or rely on LTL and TL carriers, many WMS solutions offer modules and add-ons to support transportation management system for truck routing.
For internally developed functions in a warehouse management system, determine if they are they certified for the carriers you use. How well do they interface to your carriers? Determine the options the WMS affords you for supporting different configurations for printing shipping papers, carrier indicia, etc. An enterprise shipping system with high-speed capacity and the ability to manage multi-location from a server can run many pack lines in multiple facilities for large operations. Some systems also allow functionality to rate shop consortiums for LTL and LT.
A WMS gives a company the ability to track inventory location and usage throughout the warehouse operations, in multiple warehouse locations, in multiple distribution centers and stores. The benefits also Include kitting, production and WIP controls, as well as tracking of component and finished goods. WMS functionality will allow you to better utilize cubic space. It also maintains a solid audit trail of every warehouse bin/slot location and items that have been stored from receipt through shipping by transaction type—sales, return, adjustment, etc., as well as the flip side or by product, where has this item been located. All transactions are operator ID, date, and time stamped. Cycle counting without requiring suspending system functions, or after hours counting is typical with RF/wireless based solutions.
Need more help with managing your warehouse? Contact Meraki Consulting today at 010 595 4934.