Warehouse Management System Blog page 2

Better Inventory Flow with Warehouse Management Systems; Part 6 Replenishment Picking

In this final post, we will discuss Replenishment Picking.  All of these picking strategies are designed to gain warehouse inventory efficiency by selecting the best movement of goods in the most productive manner and part of any good “Best-In-Breed” Warehouse Management System, like AccellosOne WMS.

Replenishment Picking. Replenishment Picking combines the concepts of Batch Picking and the ReserveWarehouse employeeS scans informations from boxes in the warehouse.Storage/Forward Picking best practice. Reserve Storage/Forward Pick is the practice of segregating the warehouse into a storage (Reserve Storage) area and a picking (Forward Pick) area. This approach tends to optimize overall space utilization and pick labor productivity. Space utilization is improved by storing product in bulk (pallets or cases) in dense storage locations. Pick labor productivity is improved by keeping pickers working in smaller forward pick zones that typically hold smaller inventory volumes (days on hand vs. months on hand) with the inventory, eaches, or cases, in more easily accessible and ergonomically friendly locations referred to as the “strike” zones.

When using this approach it is common practice to setup a replenishment strategy to move inventory from the (reserve) storage locations into the forward pick locations. The timing of the replenishment activity is driven by a predetermined reorder point and the amount of inventory to replenish is typically driven by a pre-determined inventory level set at the forward pick location.

The same basic storage and picking principles apply when using Replenishment Picking – Forward Pick with minor variation to reorder point and quantity. With Replenishment Picking, a dedicated forward pick zone is setup to allow operators to work in a smaller area and the inventory is replenished from bulk reserve storage locations. However, replenishment quantity and timing is driven by the projected number of orders over a given time frame (typically a day). Once a group of orders for the day is created, the orders are replenished, in batch, to the forward pick area. At the end of the day, the forward pick area is picked clean and ready for the next pick cycle.

Another form of Replenishment Picking is replenishing to a pack station rather than a dedicated forward pick zone. In this process, all inventory for a group of orders is replenished in batch from reserve storage locations and deposited at a pack station. At the pack station, the inventory is picked to specific orders for shipment processing as outlined in the Batch Picking process.

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Posted by iCepts Technology Group, Inc. An Accellos Highjump WMS ReSeller

Operationally Considerations for a WMS System

It has been around long enough to be considered one of those “classic debates”: ERP warehouse management module or best-of-breed warehouse management system? One would think that by now this debate would have been settled. The facts and opinions have been examined for well over a decade, surely there must be a clear winner by now. If only it were that simple.

There are many reasons why this debate persists. One of the primary reasons is that companies are made up of departments and people that often have differing, or even conflicting, priorities. Sprinkled in among these differences are often strong opinions.  Opinions are not easily altered and the people that hold them didn’t get to where they are by quickly letting go of theirs in the face of debate.

Another key factor that keeps this debate fresh is the expansion of the dilemma to small and medium size companies. Early in the debate, most of the buzz was around SAP and Oracle ERP versus tier 1 best-of-breed warehouse management systems (WMS). Today, many ERP providers to small and medium businesses (SMBs) are also venturing down the path of expanding their suites to include warehouse management functionality.

Although still playing catch-up, the likes of SAP and Oracle have made gains in the last few years and are closing the functionality gap versus best-of-breed warehouse management systems. Due to a later start, the same cannot be said of ERP providers to SMBs. In this space there still exists a significant gap with respect to warehouse management system functionality. If the debate were solely focused on functionality, it would be short-lived for SMBs. Since there are other factors to consider, the debate endures.

Operationally Considerations: Workers In Warehouse Preparing Goods For Dispatch

The operations team will ultimately use the system to run their business so their primary focus will be on the system’s functionality. They will be looking for a system that not only meets their complex requirements today, but also a system that will enable them to grow, meet new requirements in the future, and that will provide tools to differentiate themselves from the competition.

The operations team will also be looking for a system that will ensure gains in operational efficiency. Maintaining the status quo in this area will be unacceptable. Systems implementations are difficult as there is a learning curve with new technology. Without the real benefits of increased operational efficiency and cost control, operations may resist the change and therefore adoption will be hindered. There will be the pervasive feeling of having fixed something that wasn’t broken.

So let’s take a closer look at functionality. ERP providers to SMB’s are in the early phases of creating warehouse management functionality. Naturally, any software company that is building a new product is going to start with the foundational elements. Just like constructing a building, if there isn’t a sound foundation, then anything else built on will be of no value. This is an important point. While it is clearly necessary to have a solid foundation and it is the correct place to start, it is not where the core value will be delivered from the system.

As an example, take picking rules. A best of breed system will have dozens of different rules that can be applied in each operation. These rules have been built up over time from implementations of the system across many industries and customers. This functionality not only provides a much higher level of flexibility, but it also provides the assurance that the functionality has been exercised and proven in the field many times

Contrarily, an SMB ERP has far fewer options in this area so the customer has a choice, they can make do with the existing functionality and forego the operational efficiency gains; or, they can implement customizations or workarounds each of which will increase cost and risk.

The list is actually quite long when one scrutinizes the functionality gaps between an SMB ERP warehouse module and a best-of-breed warehouse management system.

The following highlights those that will have the biggest impact on the operation:

 WMS Functionality  

Container  Management:

ERP:  Single Level; often only pallet.

Best-In-Breed WMS:  Multiple levels; including nesting (i.e. case on pallet and eaches in cases).

Business Impact:  Multi-level container management enables varied movements to be created and executed in warehouse and provides the ability to ship customers in multiple units of measure .  With multi-level, ASN information can be provided to customers since item level container detail will be available. 

Picking Rules:

ERP-Generally a single sortable code on locations to define pick paths.

Best-In-Breed WMS-Dozens of pre-existing picking rules as well as the ability to create user defined rules.  Some examples include, both Wave and Batch Picking.

Business Impact:  Advanced picking rules enable increased efficiency and inventory accuracy through order batching, optimized pick patterns, and proper execution of inventory strategies (i.e. FIFO).

Put Away Logic:

ERP-Usually a single primary put away location for each product.

Best-In-Breed WMS-Advanced put away logic and the ability to create user defined rules.

Business Impact:  Advanced put away logic ensures better space utilization and increased efficiency through the ability to top off pick locations, segment inventory across zones, and comingling of products.

Value Added Services :

ERP-No ability to preform value added services in base products.

Best-In-Breed WMS-Numerous value added service capabilities such as Kitting/Light Manufacturing.

Business Impact:  The ability to provide value added services for customers fosters innovation, provides operational flexibility and is a key differentiator. 

Ancillary Tools:

ERP-Not available in base product

Best-In-Breed WMS-Integrated functionality  in warehouse management systems such as Dock Scheduling, Transportation Optimization, LTL/Parcel Shipping Integration

Business Impact:  These are key inventory tools in delivering value from the warehouse management system through increased efficiency, and reduced errors from the manual processes

These are but a few important examples where functionality gaps exist. As highlighted in the introduction, if it were solely functionality based, the decision would be easy. However, there are other key stakeholders, so the discussion must move beyond functionality. For the system to deliver value and foster confidence with the operations team, it must function without failure and have near 100 percent up time. That is where the IT team comes into the discussion.

Learn more about Best-In-Breed Warehouse Management Systems

Find about Microsoft Dynamics NAV to AccellosOne WMS Integration

3 Warehouse Management Fundamentals for better Automation

In the tough global economy that we find ourselves in, companies are increasingly looking for tools to help them do more with less. It’s not OK anymore to simply get the job done, we have to find ways to continue to increase responsiveness, drive down cost and not grow resources at the same time. Not a job for the faint of heart!

Automating operations in your warehouse attacks many of the variable costs that a distribution company or center controls:

1. Labor

2. Physical space

3. Inventory

This post addresses how automating warehouse processes, such in Warehouse Management Systems, can help companies like yours do more with less. It focuses on how system directed processes, like put away, can allow you to maximize the use of your warehouse labor pool, improve the utilization of your warehouse space and assist you in stocking and locating your high velocity items.

Fundamentals of Warehouse Automation:

Let’s start with ensuring that we’re speaking a common language. Many people view the use of a handheld computer as warehouse automation. In some respects, it is hard to argue with that definition as they are unquestionably taking intelligence to the warehouse floor. But, it doesn’t truly provide the gains that can be achieved through the use of a fully featured warehouse system. Generally, warehouse automation falls into three categories:

1. Automated data collection – the use of handheld computer to “record” manually assigned activities on the warehouse floor. Examples would be picking, receiving and counting.

2. Warehouse management – the use of business rules and algorithms to determine the optimal way of picking, receiving, storing and counting and the subsequent of assignment of those tasks by the system to individuals using handheld computers in the warehouse

3. Warehouse control or automation – the incorporation of sophisticated hardware, such as conveyors, diverters, carousels, vertical lift stations, etc, to supplement the capabilities of warehouse workers in completing system directed tasks

System Directed Putaway:

We’re going to focus on the benefits to be gained through the use of definable business rules that drive putaway activities in the warehouse.

Putaway is normally thought of as the process of moving received inventory from its current location (the dock, kitting area, or production department) to a bin or overstock location. The putaway process is also used to relocate inventory within the warehouse and to replenish dedicated bins with inventory from overstock. System directed putaway is when the system recommends or chooses the optimal destination bin rather than the operator selecting it.

While the benefits are numerous, from better management of returns to improved customer service, these are the areas that users typically find:

1. Improved use of labor

a. By utilizing predefined business rules, the system eliminates the guess work that a warehouse worker goes through today to locate a bin

2. What partially full bin could this item fit in?

3. How close is this bin to other locations for this item?

4. Based upon the velocity of this item, where should it be located to minimize picking time?

a. The picking process becomes more efficient because all products follow the business rules developed to maximize utilization AND effectiveness of storage

b. The time it takes a new warehouse worker to become effective dramatically diminishes. They don’t need to fully understand nor appreciate the physical layout of the warehouse nor do they need to be familiar with the extensive product catalog that a company may have

5. Maximized use of physical space

a. By following the predefined business rules, the system will better allocate physical space to allow for more products and if needed increased quantities of existing products within the existing space available

b. The system will create a better plan for sensitive items like those that are lot-controlled, serial tracked, hazmat, etc.

While most directed putaway systems allow for a virtually unlimited set of business rules to be defined, there are typically a few key factors that drive the rules:

1. The product or product categories utilization

a. Is the product a raw material that is used in kitting or production? If so, locating it near the production facility along with its peer products will drive better effectiveness in the warehouse

b. Is the product a replacement part used in a warranty and repair operation? Same logic as production. Locate it near the repair facility and minimize the physical movement of the goods within the warehouse

c. Is the product typically sold in “eaches?” If so, locating it in a high velocity location such as a carousel would be advisable

d. Is the product generally shipped on a sales order? And, do sales orders usually include a mix of vendors? If shipments are usually homogeneous by vendor, organizing your warehouse around vendor specific guidelines will net positive results. And, directed put-away rules can systematically enforce that organization

2. The type of packaging and storage requirements for a product

a. Does the product require special handling such as refrigeration?

b. Is the product stored in large spools or in bundles (i.e. lumber)?

c. Is the product typically sold by the case or by the pallet?

d. Does the product have specific weight characteristics that require specialized racking or storage?

3. The product or product category’s sales velocity

a. Does the product have a high number of bin hits, but a limited quantity sold?

b. Does the product have a minimal number of bin hits, but a high quantity sold?

c. Is the product “held” for one specific customer or group of customers?

d. Do different packages of a product exhibit different sales velocity?

In Summary:

A warehouse manager’s job is to ideally locate all of the products within a warehouse taking all of these factors into consideration. You can imagine the level of difficulty when you try to accomplish this manually. A directed put-away system allows you to build rules by product, product category or product and packaging to accommodate the parameters that we’ve just discussed. It allows the warehouse manager to nest rules – meaning that there is a primary rule that would ideally be applied, but in the case where that rule can’t be adhered to there can be secondary or tertiary rules that apply.

At the end of the day, the directed put-away systems’ job is to assess the available space in the warehouse and direct the warehouse worker to locate the product (either initially from receiving, from replenishment or by a move) to the bin that best meets the rules that the warehouse.

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Better Inventory Flow with Warehouse Management Systems; Part 5 Picking

From order entry to fulfillment, Accellos One Warehouse works together with your ERP system to provide the end-to-end solution for the materials handling management and real-time inventory visibility throughout the enterprise.  Accellos One integrates with many popular ERP systems including the Microsoft Dynamics Suite of ERP Systems. The following highlights a high-level process flow, derived from a subset of available functionality within Accellos One Warehouse focusing on Picking:

The Accellos One Warehouse picking process needs to remain flexible to accommodate widely differing environments.  No two warehouse operations are exactly the same.  Warehouses come in different shapes and sizes. Some are “wide open” in a square shaped space.  Others are contained in buildings on multiple floorsworker holds package in warehouse of forwarding, utilizing elevators to transport materials.  Warehouses will have varying ceiling heights. Some might have yard space.

Materials handling will differ by product shape and size. As a result, the warehouse racking infrastructure will vary by product size.  Many warehouses keep large products in bulk stacks or pallet racks.  While with small products, picking efficiency may be increased by storing smaller products in flow racking or static shelving.

Product velocity and order types also affect warehouse layout and consequently the picking strategies.  Companies that ship single-sku pallets of product to customers will have significantly different warehouse operations than ones that ship trailer loads of mixed-sku pallets (grocery is a good example of this).

Even subtle differences in customer requirements for consumer products wholesalers will have substantial effects on the materials handling and picking. Operations that ship to retail distribution centers will have different fulfillment requirements than those that ship directly to stores.

Accellos One Warehouse has an abundance of picking styles that will accommodate a warehouse manager’s fulfillment strategy independent of warehouse layout, product size, velocity and order characteristics.

Download the entire White Paper: How Goods Flow Through the Warehouse

Contact us for additional questions about Warehouse Management Software

How Warehouse Technology can Help Reduce Inventory Errors

Companies, such as Wholesale Distributors, that carry a lot of inventory realize that mistakes are extremely expensive.  Mistakes cost your customer’s productivity, time, money lost sales and customer dissatisfaction.  It costs you lost productivity, lost sales, lost freight and shipping costs, inventory problems and the distinct possibility of lost customers. A small simple error can cost your company in a big way by a loss of future income from customer who is not happy.  New customers are hard to come by so taking care of the ones you have is imperative.  Mistakes are a very big problem for distributors whose net profits are already razor thin. It is imperative, therefore, to find ways and methods for reducing inventory errors with warehouse technology.Tracking Labor Management

What does your customer want? The product(s) they ordered, on time, in the quantity they needed, delivered as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

In manually, “paper-driven” run warehouses it is very possible to reduce mistakes by creating rigid processes that while they may work at reducing mistakes greatly increases your overhead and reduces productivity.  Many of the manual processes I see distributors using look good on paper but when the orders begin to pile up shortcuts are taken and many of the steps that are in place get overlooked in order to ship the orders.

A well implemented warehouse management system will help you create highly efficient processes for handling inventory and picking orders that will eliminate the inefficiencies and mistake riddled processes that plague most distributors.  This will enhance your customer satisfaction numbers and most likely help you attract new customers without adding to your workforce.

Happy customers and lower costs equal higher profits.  Inventory is probably one of your biggest assets as a distributor; what not optimize the entire shipping, receiving, picking, and packing process to streamline the flow of inventory in and out of your warehouse.

Learn more here about Warehouse Management Systems Features:

Posted by iCepts Technology Group, Inc. An Accellos Highjump Warehouse Management System Partner in Pennsylvania.

 

Ways Warehouse Management Systems Increase Inventory Accuracy

The proper movement of inventory in a warehouse is increasing becoming very complicated as there are more demands from your customers and volume.  As more and more transactions occur, so does the odds for errors.  Errors with inventory picking, packing or shipping always equate to loss revenue, increased labor cost and potentially unhappy or lost customers.

Wholesale Distribution organizations frequently turn to technology to solve this supply chain management challenge to keep errors at an absolute minimum through a high inventory transaction accuracy level.  Such a technology exist with Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), which are designed to ensure the highest level of inventory accuracy and efficient inventory flow through the use of advanced inventory tracking software and systems.  Below are some examples of ways warehouse management technology can increase accuracy:Warehouse Man with Scanner

1. Product Codes:  Whether you chose RFID or barcoding as a means of identifying various products, product coding greatly adds to warehouse accuracy. Pickers and packers can simply scan the items they are looking for to fill an order and immediately known if they are correct. This contributes to less accidental switches and confusion when picking and packing order.

2. Product Location:  Using a WMS solution to help design your warehouse for efficiency will help your pickers know exactly where they need to go for a product location. This reduces misplacement of items. In addition, pick times are lessened when items are arranged so that quick turnover products are close to packing and slow moving inventory is placed in lower traffic areas of the warehouse.

3. Inventory Management:  Having exact product codes and locations greatly improve the quality of the inventory data your company has for inventory management. Knowing exactly how many items are in exactly which bins, to be placed in exactly which orders, can aid in managing stock-outs, misplacements, mis-shipments and even potential theft within the warehouse. With better inventory visibility, orders can be sent faster without back-orders and costs can be cut by less inventory loss.

4. Filling Orders:  Knowing exactly where a product is in a warehouse and knowing how many are left in the bin help pickers fill orders faster. Packing can be expedited with fast-moving products closer to packing locations. In addition, scanning products help to get the orders filled correctly the first time and almost completely eliminate returns due to picking and packing mistakes.

5. Bin Replenishment:  With product data made available by scanning, bin replenishment can be made easy. The system keeps track of how many items are in each bin and slot and can be programmed with rules so that certain product numbers never drop below a certain amount. This removes the guessing from the reordering of inventory and the back-order problem when there are not enough items to fill a customer’s order.

6.  Big Retailer EDI:  When supplying products to a large retailer, it is important to provide them with correctly labeled items that will be read by the retailer’s computer system. Having incorrectly formatted labeling or no Advance Shipment Notice can result in the return of the order and a charge-back for that returned order. With product codes and inventory tracking in conjunction with EDI capabilities, order accuracy can be increased to 99.9%.

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Achieve over 99% Picking Accuracy with WMS

Warehouse Management System (WMS) allow you optimize your business processes, space and labor in order to achieve tremendous inventory movement efficiency.  Warehousing technology can have a surprising short return on investment (ROI) once fully implemented and utilized along a company’s warehouse(s).

Although there are typically “non-quantitative” results from choosing a Warehouse Management System such as a boost in customer service levels, for example, or keeping personnel cost down and an increase in warehouse operations.   There are, however, several measurable numbers on how this technology can help the movement of goods in your warehouse such as:

Order Accuracy:  Achieving over 99% AccuracyWarehouse Man with Scanner

Outbound Shipments:  Volume increases 15%; double your orders per day Inventory

Accuracy: Over 99% and up to 85% less inventory loss

Picking Times and Lines:  Reduced time 20% and triple number of lines picked

Directed Put-away: Replenish accuracy over 99%

In addition, Warehouse Management Systems generally have seamless Integrations to many Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERP) and other supply chain management technology such as EDI solutions.

Warehousing technology, such as HighJump AccellosOne WMS, can play a vital role in completing and optimizing your supply chain to achieve a total optimize solution with measurable results.  In our technology-driven business environment, customers are increasing demanding these solutions to properly support their requirements.

Learn more about Warehouse Management Systems

Posted by iCepts Technology group, Inc. An Accellos Warehouse Management Systems partner in Pennsylvania.

Top reasons to use Accellos Warehouse with Microsoft Dynamics NAV

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Better Inventory Flow with Warehouse Management Systems; Part 4-Wave Picking

From order entry to fulfillment, Accellos One Warehouse works together with your ERP system to provide the end-to-end solution for the materials handling management and real-time inventory visibility throughout the enterprise.  Accellos One integrates with many popular ERP systems including the Microsoft Dynamics Suite of ERP Systems. The following highlights a high-level process flow, derived from a subset of available functionality within Accellos One Warehouse  focusing on Wave Functionality and Picking:

Once an order is ready to pick, it may be issued for picking using the Wave function.

Worker Scanning Package In Warehouse

Worker Scanning Package In Warehouse

The Warehouse Manager will typically sort and select order groups for picking using the Sales Order Grid, then issue the orders for picking using the Wave function.   As a result, warehouse managers have unlimited flexibility when determining their picking strategies:

• Order lines may be split by pack-size for optimal productivity (pallet quantities picked from pallet locations, units from pick-bins).

• Customer specific labels may be printed for EDI / ASN compliance and integrated into the pick process. UCC128 serial container codes are created and scanned to build a detailed pallet or carton level ASNs.

• Orders may be grouped together for picking directly into serialized shipping cartons.

• Batch pick documents may be issued to enable the picking of multiple orders simultaneously with subsequent break-down in an order staging area.

• Paper pick-tickets may be printed for paper picking, with scanpack validation.

• Pick documents may be printed in multiple zones for simultaneous zone picking.

• One label per unit/carton/pallet may be printed with a bin location for ‘label picking’

Once the pick strategy has been determined, Accellos One Warehouse will print picking documents according to the configured rules; pickers will be directed to the pre-assigned pick locations that were automatically assigned during the allocation process.

To guarantee accuracy, hand held computers should be used during the picking process to validate the picked product and its bin location as well as the shipping container / sales order.

Finally, packing slips are printed as a result of the workflow defined in Accellos One Warehouse. Packing slips may be printed after the last item on the order has been picked or once the shipment has been scanned before loading on to a truck.

Download the entire White Paper: How Goods Flow Through the Warehouse

Contact us for additional questions about Warehouse Management Software

Better Inventory Flow with Warehouse Management Systems; Part 3-Order Management

From order entry to fulfillment, Accellos One Warehouse works together with your ERP system to provide the end-to-end solution for the materials handling management and real-time inventory visibility throughout the enterprise.  Accellos One integrates with many popular ERP systems including the Microsoft Dynamics Suite of ERP Systems. The following highlights a high-level process flow, derived from a subset of available functionality within Accellos One Warehouse  focusing on Order Allocation.

Warehouse allocation is responsible for the logical reservation of product for sales orders. Allocation may be based on specific criteria such as FIFO, LIFO, FEFO, batch, pack-size, zone and warehouse.Above Warehouse Pic

As items are received into the warehouse, they are immediately available for order allocation, eliminating any time delay or sequencing issues between receipts, receipt confirmation and pick-list creation.

While orders may be allocated on a first come first serve basis, the warehouse manager will more likely want to assert control over the warehouse process by prioritizing which orders are selected for allocation using the Sales Order Grid.

After an order is allocated it will fall into one of several statuses, depending on the availability of inventory and where the inventory is located in the warehouse. A few common examples include:

Held Short– There is not enough stock to satisfy the order

Ready to Wave– There is enough stock and the order is ready for picking

Held for Replenishment– There is enough stock, but there is not enough units in pick locations to fill the order, a replenishment task needs to be completed before the order can be picked.

Learn more about Warehouse Management Systems Functionality here

Request a free Estimate on WMS Software

Posted by iCepts Technology Group, Inc. A Pennsylvania Partner for Accellos One Warehouse Management Systems