As for the out flow best practice warehouse management processes using a WMS system.
Most businesses now receive orders from multiple channels. These will including phone, email and online sources such as eBay and Amazon. Many businesses will also operate a trade counter or click and collect facility whereby customers collect orders at short notice.
Each order profile will need to be treated differently. For example, web orders may have a guaranteed next day delivery so need placing ahead of phone orders which are larger shipments with longer lead times.
Using a WMS system to easily manage and release these various order types is the beginning of an outbound best practice warehouse management process.
Best practice dictates that all orders are viewed on a single screen giving users true visibility of the whole operation. Users may then choose to filter and group similar orders using an attribute of that order.
For example, all orders going to a specific postcode area may be grouped or perhaps all urgent orders, such as a trade counter pickup, can be selected and sent immediately for picking.
A modern WMS system should be able to automate an order release to pick process if the logic for order release is available.
Picking the correct items and quantities from stock to fulfil orders is seen as the biggest challenge for many distribution businesses.
Picking methods should be driven by order type. Small web orders will often suit being picked together in bulk to reduce walking distance in the warehouse.
Validating information during picking will reduce errors and provide an audit of each item picked. Scanning barcodes is a well established way to validate but low cost technologies are paving the way for new innovation in the warehouse including tablet picking.
When striving for a best practice warehouse management process, detailed time and motion data will influence decision making for continuous business improvement.
A lot of focus is placed on the picking process within an outbound best practice warehouse management process. What is often overlooked is a smart packing solution to support picking.
A pack or check is often seen as a necessary burden rather than a chance to innovate. A well thought out checking and packing process will often allow for a faster picking process by a team who are stationary, thus saving time in travelling the warehouse.
Not all operations suit traditional packing and checking at a fixed packing desk. Large bulky items or pallet driven distribution will see greater benefit from loading functions.
Best practice packing should be quick and carefully designed to account for the size and weight of items being shipped.
The process of packing should allow a quality WMS system to create documents advising customers of the contents of each box.
Finally, a warehouse management system which passes information to courier systems automatically to create labels is absolutely essential for both delivery accuracy and maximising efficiency.
Implementing a best practice warehouse management process for loading needs 3 main elements.
Sortation, selection and loading. Pallets need to be clearly sorted into lanes or areas associated to a load or vehicle. This should be system driven as an end destination following pick.
Once the load has been collated, each pallet needs to be selected from the floor. If loading directly onto a delivery van or truck, a WMS system will drive the order in which the load takes place. Last pallet on should be first pallet out.
Transport Managers will usually work closely with a load management team/ warehouse manager as the two are so closely linked.
Despatch should be the easy bit! However, despatching stock from the system too early can lead to stock availability issues.
Legacy software, especially ERP or basic finance solutions, will often despatch stock at the point of pick. In reality, the stock may not actually leave the warehouse for many hours or even days after.
A best practice warehouse management process should ensure that a WMS system despatch happens at the same point as physical despatch!
This will ensure any last minute changes or cancellations can be dealt with quickly. The WMS will provide full traceability of pallets and items right up until they leave the building.
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