Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Problem: Picked/Shipped Wrong Product. Result: Charge-Backs.

Wholesalers move toward intelligent warehouses.  Automation increases inefficiencies.  No matter how modern a warehouse, if it includes overhead costs, paper processing or manual processes, there is room for improvements.  Evidence would be workers sent to the wrong bin slots, picking the wrong products, or shipping the wrong products.

More accurate shipping means less returns and more customer satisfaction.

Intelligent, instrumented and interconnected warehouses enable the ability to respond to supply and demand from market fluctuations.  Purchasing can be done at a more accurate level, which results in not holding on to inventory for extended periods of time.  Something food processors are keenly aware of. 

Monitoring customer needs, having inventory on hand and available, knowing what is happening in real-time.  These are key concerns for any distribution operation.  Automation through bar codes and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags enable automated tracking and inventory processing much faster and accurately than manual paper processing.

Other automations include portable printing systems, such as belt printers, which save time and increase accuracy.  Voice response units enable hands-free picking increasing safety, saving time and energy, and increases accuracy of orders.

How much nicer would it be if your orders were accurately picked and shipped?  Easier on the workers in your operations, easier for customer service, happier customers who receive what they ordered on time. 

The alternative is not attractive:

·         First you get the call from an unhappy customer, resulting in time taken away from production.  Hopefully your customer service people are in a good mood that day and can reassure your customers this is not typical of your business. 

·         Then add the time and effort of the computer entry of the return and replacement orders and resulting paperwork. 

·         Do not forget to add in any time for investigation of what went wrong and supervisor or manager approval of the credit.  Your finance team probably has lots of free time anyway. 

·         Then you end up paying for the return and expedited replacement shipment.  Was this one box or a pallet or entire truckload?

·         Add in the time someone takes to pick the replacement order.

·         Add in the time for someone to receive the original incorrect order, inspection, and restocking efforts. 

Your team has spare time, right?  Your business has grown in this economy and you have extra time and personnel to deal with these issues.  You did not have any overtime situations, because of the extra overhead of incorrect shipments, did you? 

Are you saying that this is just a part of doing business?  This does not happen often enough to worry about.  Nothing can be done about it. 

Would adding automation really help?

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) that are fully integrated with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system solve these issues.  Especially if it is the right solution.

Too soon to tell, but is it not worth an investment of some time to know you are doing the best you can?   Maybe you do not solve all your issues today, but you put a plan in place to tackle your challenges so that over time you become more efficient. 

Maybe today is the day you pick up the phone and call Dolvin Consulting to confirm you are already doing everything possible in the area of warehouse automation.  Contacting us is the first step.  It is only a phone call.  Hang up if you like.  Stay on the line to move forward.  No promises, just conversation.  We are not out to sell you anything.  We are here to see if there is a match between your challenges and our solutions.

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