Archives for Accellos Partner in Pennsylvania

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.

Learn more about Warehouse Management Systems 

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%.

Learn more about Warehouse Management Systems:

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