Monday, February 17, 2014

Warehouse Management

There is a difference between inventory control and a Warehouse Management System (WMS).  Inventory systems keep track of product information, locations, and quantities.  WMS systems keep track of the movement of inventory.  An inclusive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution incorporates both. 


ERP is designed to integrate the entire organization.   That is where the drive to efficiency is able to achieve its Return on Investment (ROI).  It is the way the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.  The brain of the system like the brain in your body is right in the middle, top front.  It collects and coordinates the information it receives from its various sources, analyzes that information and provides feedback. 


Warehouse management systems help in managing the supply chain and tracking the movement of inventory from receipt, put-away, movement and replenishment, to pick pack and ship operations and cycle and inventory counting.  Technology is the backbone that, when implemented with the right strategy, delivers the efficiency needed to compete and ultimately deliver better customer satisfaction.


Monitoring warehouse activity in real-time, minimizing entry errors through automation, collecting data to measure efficiency of operations and labor are important aspects of any WMS system.


In order to make intelligent decisions, management needs access to as real-time information as possible.  Too much happens too quickly to have to wait hours, days or weeks to get critical information and decipher that information.  ERP systems when properly implemented are able to furnish this information in a format that makes sense.  Managers need to know what their employees are doing, where there are bottlenecks and how to address those issues.


Some of the benefits of WMS systems include (in real-time):
  • Verifying receipts against purchase orders at the time of receipt. 
  • Verifying picked items and quantities against customer orders before shipment.
  • Keeping track of batches, lots and serial numbers. 
  • Bar-coded inventory. 
  • Tracking inventory by the piece, case or pallet. 
  • Measuring employee productivity.
  • Optimizing picking for single or multiple orders.
  • Integration with common carrier systems to capture box information and tracking numbers.
  • Customer returns tracking.
  • Work-in-progress tracking.
  • Production posting.
  • Replenishment activities.
  • Count-back verification.

WMS information can be used to properly organize the physical locations and pick order to increase employee productivity and accuracy.


More efficiency opportunities. 


More accuracy opportunities.


At first glance it might seem that implementing a WMS system would be too complicated for your workforce and if it could be implemented, the processing would slow down.  Do not underestimate your workforce when you enable them with the proper tools to get their jobs done.


For example, count back systems generate confidence in picking operations, because workers learn that they can trust the system to identify where the inventory is located and that the right quantities exist.  They learn the system recommends the right product placement so the do not have to waste time going back and forth to pick orders.  Compare that with an order that was picked and shipped incorrectly.  What happens to customer confidence in your operations?  How will management look at employee productivity?  What costs are incurred by the customer service and finance department, because they have to take care of upset or disappointed customers?  How much time does it take away from their other tasks? How much time does it take to create the return authorization, process the credit, create a new priority replacement order and absorb the associated and expedited return and replacement shipping costs?


Greater, more accurate throughput, inventory turns and employee productivity.


How is your organization taking advantage of WMS?  What efficiencies did you discover that you did not realize that you would have before implementing your WMS solution?  What solution works for your environment?   Is it a separate system or a fully integrated solution?


Contact us today to share your knowledge.  Your fellow readers would like to know.  We are here to help.  Dolvin Consulting works with industry leaders to help you help your organization with knowledge and industry resources.


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