By Jim Willems – President, Appolis Inc.
As organizations pursue supply chain optimization – they typically start within the four (4) walls of their own facilities. As the major research organizations point out – the three main “Return on Investment” (ROI) drivers are:
1) Improved efficiency and productivity
2) Improved customer service
3) Reduced operating cost
All three (3) of these can be addressed by utilizing a warehouse management solution (WMS) that provides real-time decision making and put-away logic, without the restriction typically in place due to financial transaction “batched” posting of the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions.
Improved efficiency and productivity – Real-time information which helps drive decision making during the receiving process can greatly improve labor and inventory utilization. One example of this is item/sku cross-referencing during receiving. This is where the receiving personnel can scan the vendor’s barcode (which contains the vendor’s item/sku number) and theWMS will automatically identify the internal item/sku number, greatly improving receiving efficiency and productivity. Another example is allowing for item put-away without having to wait for the receiving transactions to be posted in the ERP system. This allows for receiving and put-away to be either a single or two-step process, which is now an option as the inventory is active at the point of the scan.
Improved customer service – Real-time inventory data allows for more accurate decisions and communications with Customers. Without the need to post the receiving transactions in the ERP system, as is the case with data collections systems tied to the ERP, customer service personnel now have the most up to date and accurate information as the scans and movement of goods are occurring throughout the warehouse. This receiving data also optimizes the sales order process as the “available to promise” (ATP) inventory is now real-time.
Reduced operating cost – As with any process or workflow, the more accuracy and efficiency built in at the start provides savings all the way through the process flow. Typically the receiving process is tasked with many additional processes in an automation environment – this is due to the fact that all of the subsequent processes require the incoming items, cases, pallets, etc… to be fully labeled at the point of receipt. An example of an additional process is the capture of the required data elements during the receiving process. These data elements may be lot number, serial number, expiration date, manufacturer date, sell by date, unit of measure (UOM), etc… These data elements once captured in receiving can be stored against the item or license plate (in simple terms “a moveable bin”) records and retrieved during all other system processes automatically. This greatly improves the labor and data accuracy throughout the remaining processes within the distribution and/or manufacturing facility, thus reducing your costs of operation.
The receiving process can provide more “Return on Investment” (ROI) impact than any other area of the warehouse, due to the fact that all of the other downstream processes rely on, and benefit from the accuracy and efficiency provide from the real-time WMS receiving process.