I have compared my daughters’ consumer habits to distributors using software solutions for enterprise purchasing and to determine the cost to serve. So it’s no surprise that there are similarities between how they manage or don’t manage their rooms to how distributors manage their warehouses.
I rarely go into my daughters’ rooms, primarily because I am not sure I will be able to find my way back. However, I am often required to do so after a particularly successful trip to the mall when they ask for help bringing their new acquisitions to their room. As I see them trying to find space for their new cloths, rearranging their closets and drawers, and laying out new clothes for the next day, it hits me that they could be so much more efficient if they just had a warehouse management system to help them organize their rooms.
For distributors today, effectively managing the logistics environment is an increasingly complex challenge. In the face of market uncertainties, and growing customer expectations, it becomes even more essential that operations managers run a lean, reliable logistics operation. To profitably manage inventory movements and deliver on the promise of the perfect order, companies must integrate their end-to-end logistics and fulfillment operations. By enabling visibility across the network, organizations can allow warehouse managers and logistics executives to anticipate supply chain disruptions and take proactive, timely, and profitable actions across the global logistics network.
To address these requirements, you should look for applications that orchestrate and manage all aspects of the logistics and fulfillment processes. With this integrated software, logistics executives can plan, source, procure, store, transport, and deliver products – all within a single, unified logistics platform.
Some tactics that warehouse managers are using today to ensure that customer orders are filled and that expectations are met or exceeded include:
- Cross Docking – Reduce warehouse costs by minimizing product handling. Cross-docking features help you transport products directly from goods receipt to goods issue, letting you increase goods processing efficiency while reducing processing and storage costs. Just like my daughter laying out a new outfit for the next school day and not putting it away, saving her time.
- Slotting – Determine the best fit for a product within the warehouse. Optimize the storage of stock so that each product is stored in the most optimum bin, according to size and frequency of access. Just like my daughter reorganizing her closet based on the season and fashion trends.
- Value-added services – Document value-added services (such as product assembly, labeling, packing, or kitting) in the warehouse using orders. The orders can specify worker activities, link the delivery item with packaging specifications and service details. Even my daughters perform value-added services. You would think something just bought from the mall is ready to use. No, these new clothes often need a personalized tweak, cut or adjustment.
- Expected goods receipt – Streamline goods receipt and related processes in the warehouse. By using a planned goods receipt, you create and verify inbound deliveries based on the arrival of the truck. Just like my daughter planning for her purchasing by making room in a drawer before she goes to the mall. She had streamlined her put away time.
- Quality management – Map inspection processes using a quality inspection engine. Check whether delivered products satisfy your quality criteria, and inspect goods upon receipt. Although my daughters have certainly tried on everything at the mall, trying things on at home and modeling them for me is still a valuable quality check before they wear anything out in public. Of course, my opinions have become less and less valuable as they become older.
- Physical inventory – Perform physical inventory at the warehouse level to help ensure you have the right amount of the right product in the right bin. Manage stock differences and then evaluate and post the differences back to the ERP system. This is one area that could help my kids immensely. By not knowing what’s in the closet and drawers, they often buy something very similar and have to return the item.
These are just some of the processes that are core to a successful warehouse management operation. Other processes that help drive efficiency and improve customer satisfaction include:
- Planning and monitoring – Give warehouse personnel complete and up-to-date visibility into all warehouse operations.
- Radio frequency (RF) support – Use radio frequency technology to support faster, more-accurate data entry.
- Serial number support – Manage serial numbers at the document level or at the bin level.
- Resource management – Maximize the efficiency of warehouse processes by facilitating the management and distribution of work
- Labor management – Track employee performance against engineered labor standards or other performance metrics. Manage your workforce efficiently by using software to help with planning, simulating, and measuring employee activities.
Warehouse management system offers features that will support your long-term growth. With the right warehouse management systems you can realize the following benefits:
- Enhanced control – Optimize warehouse processes by managing movements in the warehouse (from point of goods receipt to goods issue) and in the yard (from the time a trailer checks in until product checkout).
- Improved efficiency – Increase warehouse efficiency with functionality that keeps your products stored in optimum locations, and use resource management features to manage warehouse personnel and measure their effectiveness and efficiency.
- Increased visibility – Extend real-time visibility and control of warehouse operations by transforming operations into an adaptive fulfillment supply chain in which customers, suppliers, and partners share knowledge and resources.
- Better business performance – Increase competitiveness and improve the bottom line with the ability to respond faster to changes in supply and demand.
Now if I could only get my daughters to think like a warehouse manager, I might go into their rooms more often.
Mike Wise is the industry principal for Wholesale Distribution at SAP America. He is a wholesale distribution technology and operations leader with over 20 years of comprehensive experience in distribution and logistics environments, executing operational improvement strategies through technology. He focuses on enabling efficient distributor operations with SAP for Wholesale Distribution solutions. Contact Mike and follow him on Twitter @jmikew1964.