Purchase Order Receiving and Put Away using RF Plus™ for VISUAL Manufacturing Telnet Screens

As easy as 123. Learn how to do Purchase Order (PO) Receiving and Purchase Order Put Away for traceable and non-traceable parts using Telnet handheld screens of RF Plus™ Warehouse Management System for VISUAL Manufacturing. 

 

Top Inventory Tips for Infor Visual Manufacturing Users- Part 2

Picking up where we left off. Below are some more tips which you must consider before starting a barcoding project. These important tips will help you ensure that your resources are used in the most lucrative way possible.

For First Five Inventory Tips Click Here

6. Unavailable Locations VISUAL allows you to designate certain locations as being unavailable, meaning any product in that location is not available for your MRP processes. Examples of product that go into this location include goods waiting for inspection, expired product, product on hold for a special order, or consignment goods.

7. Units of Measurement Visual allows you to keep multiple UOM for the same part. So you can have an UOM for supplier ordering purposes, a stock keeping, UOM, and a picking or selling UOM.

8. Allowing Locations to go Negative This option allows you to take out more than what is in the location according to Visual – this drives the location to a negative number. Useful for backflushing activities or products that are JIT and get taken directly to the shop floor and not an inventory location.

9. Backflush With a barcoding system in place you may want to review which parts remain as backflush parts. Tracking parts that are used frequently as opposed to using backflush processes will result in cost savings and less money being tied up in that part.

10. Demand Supply Link Certain parts are issued automatically to a WO upon receipt. Like Tip #9, you may want to review this procedure and consider having the barcoding system track this item individually especially if it’s high value.

You can find the first 5 inventory tips in our previous post

Top Inventory Tips for Infor Visual Manufacturing Users- Part 1

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

For more information on other such tips and tricks head over to our blog

Top Inventory Tips for Infor Visual Manufacturing Users- Part 1

These tips have saved our customers both time and money over the years. Consider them, before starting your barcoding project.

1. Locations Turn it on. Don’t use Main as your default warehouse location for all products. You won’t be able to find much stuff if it’s all in Main.

2. Trace If you’re going to trace product such as Lot # or Serial # buy Lot Serial Trace. Third party products like RF Plus require this module to be installed. Also, any additional trace fields you add and are designated as data entry fields are automatically shown on RF Plus’ screens.

3. Part Alias To support scanning of barcode labeled product that comes in from your supplier with a different part # from yours, enter this as its part alias.

4. Kitting Use this when you have finished goods products that are ‘kitted’ together during the picking process. You have to indicate a particular part is part of a kit by updating the Parts table directly in Visual. You need your database administrator to do this. Also, a kit has to be part of your Engineering BOM.

5. Actual Cost If you can’t go with standard costing, Visual allows you to customize how you calculate the cost of your finished goods. This puts you into the category of those who use actual cost to track costs of finished goods. You’ll need to make sure your inventory control vendor can follow this formula for calculating this actual cost whenever finished goods are received into Visual. Often this is a chargeable change.

More inventory tips coming up next week! Stay tuned!

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Labeling for Success in your Warehouse’s Inbound Process Area

This week’s article is about labeling on inbound goods – both raw materials and goods for resale.

Let’s start by looking at the basic anatomy of a label which can have at a minimum any one of the following:

-        Part Number

-        Purchase Number (typically your PO #)

-        Sales Order

-        Production Date

-        Lot # and/or serial #

-        Quantity

-        Unit of Measurement how the above quantity is expressed e.g. each, pieces, kg, lb

We are not considering specific label formats for automotive, retail, drug, food, and electronics industries to name a few. 

However, once the product and labels arrive at your destination the question becomes what can you do with them?

Here are 5 basic rules for efficient inbound labeling:

1)     Support for the Supplier’s Part # 

Unless you use the same part number schema as the manufacturer, you’ll need your systems group to build an alias table which cross references the manufacturer’s part # to yours. The alternative, of course, is to get the supplier to put your part # on the label – this is not typical as we have seen it done for only very large buyers e.g. Wal-Mart.

2)     Make sure the barcode font is readable by your barcoding equipment

There are two areas where you need to be mindful. The barcode symbology and the width of the white and black lines as measured in thousands of inches or millimeter.  Generally, a 10-15 mil* barcode will get you a 1 foot scanning distance.  We have seen suppliers (as in ours) send in labels with the part # half that size, that can’t be scanned by our existing equipment.  As for symbology, don’t assume all barcodes are equal. A barcode is basically a font and not everyone uses the same font. For example, suppliers from Europe and Japan still use EAN-13 which is very different from our UPC-A standard in North America.

3)     Parse the Barcode

Often the part # or other information you need is contained in one super long barcode like a UCC label which comprises 42 characters and contains everything you need to know about the product including expiry date, weight, part #, date of manufacture, etc.

This is a relatively simple programming exercise to strip out the characters you don’t need and only populate the fields with the data you need. This becomes more challenging when you have to parse a variety of long barcodes and making sure your equipment can scan those barcodes consistently.

4)     Re-labeling

Ok, you’re stuck re-labeling because perhaps you have to put your own traceability data on the label, perform QA tests on the incoming product, capture its weight, or the supplier won’t play ball. Consider technologies such as portable printers to minimize travel time, printing the labels in advance based on ASN, make sure your warehouse application supports printing of the label WHILE you are performing a receiving activity this will save a lot of operator time, and lastly only print a minimum amount of information if there is already a lot of useful data already on the supplier’s label. Also remember to remove or label over the supplier’s label if it’s not going to be used. 

5)     Create a Labels Action Committee

This is often left to the project manager or IT person to figure out the labeling standard. It’s been our experience that they don’t have the clout or expertise to fully understand the range and impact of all these labels coming into your facility. Suggest a team comprising of individuals from IT, operations, purchasing, and sales – as the label coming in is in most cases the same label going out to your customers.

Since the Inbound process is one of the most important warehouse activity, labeling of incoming goods is an essential part of that process. These five steps will help you implement your inbound labeling program with a minimum of drama and angst.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

For more information on other such warehouse processes and how you can optimize them, head over to our website www.portable-intelligence.com.

                                                     

 

5 Practices That Best-In-Class Warehouses Follow

Wireless warehouse transaction processing is widely used in large warehouse operations (over 50,000 square ft.). But when we consider all warehouses in North America (more than 800,000), it is actually used by only 30% of them.

Irrespective of size, all warehouses must have barcoding and/or wireless technologies to support paper sparse or preferably paperless warehouse transactions. As far as large warehouses are concerned, they can’t rest on their laurels for long. The next level for their operation is getting more visibility for their products, Outside the four walls. This includes products in the yard, in transit, at off-site third-party warehouses and the ones sitting on the shelves of their customers.

A common trait amongst Best in Class (BiC) warehouses is the sharing of electronic data with supply chain partners. Before BiC warehouses had this capability, they first perfected electronic sharing of data within their own four walls – a “walk before you run” development process.

Besides endangering the environment, using paper for warehouse transactions involves data risk, delays and errors. Below are just a few issues associated with paper usage.

Gets written down wrong – we’ve all been guilty of writing down the wrong number either in the right sequence or not at all. 

Gets read wrong – do your 5’s look like an eight or your 7’s look like a two? You may have no problem reading your own writing but others may complain that your writing looks like a doctor’s prescription.

Gets entered wrong – 1 every 200 keystrokes is the error rate associated with data entry practices.

Gets Lost – perhaps a politically correct term would be misplaced, someone puts down the completed pick list by the water cooler or leaves it in the lunch room, only for it to turn up a few days later. 

All of these issues contribute to a major problem: lack of timely and accurate information within your warehouse operations. No surprise that most warehouse management system (WMS) providers including ourselves usually find a 1 to 1 ½ year ROI on WMS by simply driving out paper.

Given the cost of Wi-Fi routers and barcode scanners, there is really no financial excuse for making this investment; your real ‘cost’ is putting in the time to make it happen. In keeping with the “walk before you run” philosophy here are four suggestions for getting started with barcoding and wireless technologies.

1)  Inventory Counts- Ingredients are: barcoded locations, parts, and scanner (could even be your smartphone). Scan and download the file to an excel spreadsheet and then reconcile to your accounting system. At a minimum do it every month if you have 12 turns a year, more frequently the more turns you have.

2)  Inventory Moves- A good librarian will tell you that having the book in the library is worthless unless they know exactly where it is.  Likewise knowing the product is ‘somewhere’ in the warehouse makes you reliant on someone’s memory or luck in terms of finding stuff. Track product in and out of locations and back up those moves with regular counts.

3)  Labeling- Make sure that every incoming product has a barcode that is scan-able. This endeavor is not costly but does require a reworking of your receiving processes to include re-labelling and/or making the sure the barcoded part number on the product is compatible with your existing part numbering schema.

4)  Reward System - Creating a reward system for accurate inventory capture and maintenance doesn’t have to cost you much. It could be a pizza lunch, movie tickets, or just recognition. Making new work processes into habits is much easier with an incentive system. A 5% improvement in inventory accuracy on $100,000 of inventory is $5,000 less in inventory you won’t need to write-off or order because you can’t find it in the warehouse.

These suggestions will not only ensure that inventory is accurately captured and maintained but also help you contribute, even if it is in a small way, towards a better world for future generations.

As we march towards online inventory to support customer queries and/or shopping, inventory accuracies must be in the high 90’s, anything less means you’re throwing away money developing great looking websites and marketing promotions driving online demand. Websites are only as good as the inventory and warehouse processes supporting that data.

We hope this article helps you move to paper-free operations in your warehouse.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Visit our website for more insights on increasing warehouse efficiency and inventory accuracy.

5 Ways to Integrate Customer Service with Warehouse Operations

Are your customer service representatives (CSR) unfamiliar with your warehouse operations? Are they even aware as to where your warehouse is? If you think your CSRs should only know how to use the UPS tracking site, then you may want to reconsider their training!

Often times CSRs and your warehouse team are only vaguely aware of the other's presence. It's of great benefit to have them working more closely together for the sake of your customers.

Here are top 5 ways you can take customer service to the next level by integrating your two teams.

1.   Inventory Reports:

“What do you mean you don't have this in stock!” 

Every organization has experienced this scenario, where a customer is enraged because your website promises the availability of an item but the actual product has been EOL(End-of-Life) since last quarter. And of course, your frontline CSRs have to do damage control when the front is breached. Hence, it is beneficial to have your warehouse team send a daily or weekly inventory report to your CSR team leader, so that customer hopes are not raised and then dashed.

2.    Logistics Training

“Shipping = Point A to Point B. Oh, and here's your tracking. Please call UPS/FedEx/ (insert shipping courier) if you have any questions!”

Let's be honest, your customers are not going to be happy to hear that. They don't want to be the ones taking care of the logistics of their order and honestly, they shouldn't have to. Have your CSRs learn the ins and outs of traces, brokerage fees, international surcharges and to get friendly with the courier by signing up for preferred services. This will help them achieve customer service excellence.

3.   Warehouse tours

“Is the packaging destroyed constantly while in transit? Are shipments often late? Which products are often returned due to defect?”

If at all possible, have new and veteran CSRs tour your warehouse facilities. As they are constantly getting feedback about products received by customers, they will provide your company with valuable information (like the number of products often returned due to defect or damage) regarding your warehousing practices. They would know and they should share!

4.   Latest news on products and services

“What's new, doc”

A good customer service team is updated on the fly whenever new products are launched, but so should your team in the warehouse. Teach them, how the products work and why customers should and will be excited. Get them pumped about the brand and you'll be surprised by the increase in efficiency and productivity! Much more exciting than brown boxes, right?

5.    Teamwork

“Together!”

While this applies to all departments in your company, it's especially essential for your customer service team and your warehouse team. During holidays and anticipated product launches, make sure they have each other's backs because you want those shipments going out on time and friendly service for post-delivery. As they help each other out, the integration of these two very crucial departments will really amplify the services your customers will receive which will lead to overall encouraging and positive work environment.

We are sure, these 5 steps will guide you to get both these departments onboard. 

Inventory Optimization-A journey

We at Portable Intelligence Inc., view Inventory Optimization as a journey and not a destination.  While the journey is certainly different for every warehouse, the factors that result in optimized inventory are common across the board. We use a simple framework while conducting a warehouse review. Ultimately, it is this effective framework, that allows us to not only apply our technology successfully but also to optimize inventory management.

A warehouse is not just a brick and mortar structure. It is an ecosystem which runs on 5 crucial components: Business Outcomes, People, Processes, Resources, and Technology. We have discovered that success of any new system or program depends on its understanding of this ecosystem and hence, it has to work in cooperation with these components to be beneficial.

So, what are these 5 important components of a warehouse that influence inventory optimization so deeply?

People: What is the level of skills and experience of your warehouse team? How would they handle the changes to their jobs and/or need to upgrade their skills in support of the new technologies and processes? Also training an older workforce can be much different from training millennials who grew up using iPads and smartphones. And don't forget safety and need for equipment certification that may result from any warehouse changes. It is essential that your team members are trained to understand the impact of their daily actions on your inventory optimization goals.

Processes: Many times, processes in warehouses are paper driven or a number of in-house systems have been created to augment the existing enterprise resource planning (ERP).  So, it's not uncommon to see workers writing down production information onto paper that are later keyed into these home-grown systems. Also, it not uncommon to see a very limited use of bin or warehouse locations which negates any need to record stock picks or transfers. Thus, processes may reflect a quantity orientation around recording the in/out movement of product and not location changes. This could lead to disparity and greatly affect inventory optimization.

Resources: This speaks to the assets within the warehouse and includes racking, material handling equipment. If a company is adding more stock keeping units (SKUs), it may result in having to reslot pickfaces or create new pickfaces. What happens if all the first level pickfaces are full? Thus, companies will have to add additional shelving or create a second level of picking which may imply the use of new material handling equipment (MHE). Ultimately, this means moving inventory around such as consolidating slower moving products into the same location, getting rid of obsolete product, and or looking at 3PL providers.  Lack of proper resources, be it equipment or warehouse capacity will certainly hamper inventory optimization efforts.

Technology: This is almost a review of company's existing IT infrastructure from its wireless network, operating system versions, and server capacity and software systems (ERP) along with any third-party bolt-on products to homegrown systems). The presence of these systems may dictate the need to integrate any new systems - this is often the costliest and most risky of any IT project.

Business Outcomes: This may be the last factor but it is the most important. Business outcomes provide purpose to any inventory optimization efforts. For example; if the company is hoping to reduce its cycle time from order entry to manufacturing to shipment, then inventory accuracy plays a key role. The key to inventory accuracy is the use of locations, regular cycle counts, and real-time data collection. Likewise, if the goal is to support an increase in online sales, then your inventory optimization processes have to support the creation of split cases, each or less than case picking, and replenishment programs that ‘speak’ in the quantity of an each or multiples thereof.

It is often said; the journey is just as important as the destination. We agree. Achieving optimal inventory balances is the ultimate goal. However, enjoy the journey because when done properly, Inventory Optimization will turn your warehouse into a competitive advantage.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

4 Tips for Supply Chain Management Success

Supply chain management is an important part of many businesses and its efficiency is essential to the organization’s financial success and customer satisfaction. If done correctly, it helps an organization reduce costs, streamline processes, manage the workforce and increase customer service quality. However, most organizations in this volatile market, fail to understand the need to change and upgrade their supply chain tactics, which in turn, results in a waste of time, money and effort.

Are you looking for ways to turn your supply chain more lucrative? Then, below are 4 tips that will help you attain success in your supply chain management efforts.

1.     Get into Cycle Counts

It’s surprising how many companies still rely on quarterly and annual counts instead of cycle counts. Yet, the benefits of doing regular cycle counts are:  it is less disruptive operationally, less resource intensive and it helps identify warehouse process issues, sooner than later. An easy way to implement a cycle is to count all your pick locations at least once per week where, typically, you need the greatest accuracy.  Another method is, to use ABC Categories based on sales volume. ‘A’ category products account for 80% of your sales, ‘B’ products represent the next 16%, and ‘C’ represents the final 4%.  Count all your A’s every month, B’s every 6 months, and C’s once every year – adjust your count frequency based on inventory turns.  It is best to not let a product turnover too many times before cycle counting it.

2.     Get Mobility as in Real Time Data

Real Time Data means, collecting the data and uploading it to your inventory system at the point of transaction and this means using mobile technologies.  Today, there is simply no excuse from a cost or choice perspective.  Supply chain managers today can choose from traditional ruggedized handheld terminals to consumer devices like smartphones and tablets. Also, keep on the lookout for Cloud-based solutions based on BLE (Bluetooth low emission) Beacons, this is truly progressive technology and promises to light up the supply chain to levels of visibility never thought possible. 

3.     Get Connected

It is no longer sufficient to only track inventory within the four walls of your distribution center. Therefore, many best in class supply chains are investing in electronic technologies to enable communications and to allow tracking a product with key suppliers and customers.  The supply chain of the future will become the DC of the future.  Communications will compress supply chains and this will give distributors and retailers the ability to deliver products to your door the same day it’s ordered no matter your location. No supply chain can afford to be an island. The internet is the greatest supply chain for data on the planet.  Not contributing to or drawing from it, means, you will be left out on the vast majority of purchasing decisions

4.     Get Frugal

Get rid of the paper.  If you want to be more cost efficient, drive out the paper first and operations will be a lot easier to streamline.  And as the business grows you won’t have to buy more filing cabinets!

In this volatile market, where competition is running rampant, it is crucial to charge ahead, embrace and adopt the change to stay profitable. We sure hope these tips help you ensure that your supply chain management helps your organization achieve its financial goals.

If we missed out any tips or if you feel you have tried something that helped your organization achieve supply chain success then please share in the comment section below.

2016 in Review - WHAT a YEAR

2016 will go down as a year of surprises and change. Yet lost in the many headlines is the emergence of the new industrial revolution: Industry 4.0 and the continued double digit growth of online ordering and supply chain excellence as its principal enabler. 

For Pi, it was a great year. Here are my top highlights and what’s in store for 2017.

2016 Highlights:

·       New Releases - RF Plus V6.1 and TM Plus V2.41

·       Attendance at Infor’s customer conference: Inforum, NY

·       Attendance at Synergy’s customer conference in Mississauga, ON

·       Joining the steering committee of Visual Manufacturers Canadian User Group

·       Becoming the Director of Education for the Material Handling Society of Ontario

·       Product roadmaps for 2017 and 2018 – a comprehensive plan ensuring our solutions continue to provide value to our customers

·       Go Lives at key customer sites: Bio Botanica, Pharmasol, Ardisam, CP Supply, Stemcell

·       Opening our Spin Studio and new employee wellness program

·       24 Spin of Hope Raising $2,800 for a cancer cure

·       Substantial investment in R&D representing close to 30% of sales

·       Launch of our Industry 4.0 solutions (see what’s in store below)

What’s in Store for 2017

1.     New Pick module using location based services and augmented reality

2.     New demo facility featuring game changing Industry 4.0 technologies for the supply chain

3.     HTML5 web based screens for RF Plus

4.     TM Plus standalone version

5.     Merging TM Plus with RF Plus to create a unified control center with visibility and scheduling of purchase orders, work orders, and customer orders.

6.     New enhanced features for RF Plus including WIP Tracking, picture capture, and document display

7.     Attendance at Visual Connect user conference in Kentucky

8.  Release of new Customer Portal

I’m sure come this time next year I’ll likely be adding few more items to this list. As the late great Ted Rogers said: “The best is yet to come”.

Happy Holidays and Only the Best in 2017!

- Jeff Lem

President - Portable Intelligence Inc.

Pi Customer Quotes and one of our Core Values: Continuous Learning

Recently we brought a prospective customer to one of our existing customer locations so they can see the RF Plus software live in action. Amidst the discussions, inventory and material handling personnel from our existing customer made the following comments:

“increases productivity like you wouldn’t believe - you can’t imagine how much time I save every day” -Bobby

“I’m 57 and I’ve learned it, it’s simple, at first it was scary, but it didn’t take long at all, I want to go further with it at this point…” -Warren

They weren't prompted to say these things, they were interacting directly with the prospective customer and speaking from the heart. While preparing this blog, I made the connection of their quotes to one of Portable Intelligence's Core Values: Continuous Learning. Below is a description of that core value.

Continuous Learning

The LCBO was our first major project, from that experience we learned the importance of developing in house skills around our core competencies. If we didn’t teach ourselves system design, coding, project implementation, network installation and integration we would never would have made that project a success and that success launched the software group.  

Continuous learning means not allowing a lack of knowledge or experience from venturing forward rather it is the bell we answer when we face new challenges. It also means we will continue to invest in ourselves as we are truly only as good as what we know but also knowing what we don’t know.

Despite all our degrees, certifications, and accomplishments, we will always remain humble. Confident in our knowledge and experience - we embrace the future making change and uncertainty our strength. 

As Ted Rogers said: “You can never be the smartest person in the room but you can always be the most prepared.” 

- - - - - - - - - - 

Bobby and Warren were not afraid to continue their learning despite uncertainty and embraced their company's vision to succeed. 

We are happy to provide on site live demonstrations at nearby existing customers wherever appropriate. If you are interested in such a demonstration, we look forward to coordinating such an event for you. Please contact us at your convenience.

Daily Cycle Counts – Inventory Accuracy Insurance

It can be said that your health is a function of a number of daily disciplines such as getting enough sleep, eating right, and even flossing. Similarly your warehouse health is a function of daily habits such as labeling, receiving, putaway, picking, shipping, and cycle counting

In theory if you practise perfect warehouse processes, the need for cycle counts is eliminated. However we live in the real world and stuff happens or doesn’t. Just as we buy insurance to protect our property and valuables, daily cycle counts are your insurance against losing inventory accuracy.

Daily cycle counts.   There are several considerations and approaches for performing a cycle count.

ABC Categories- This consists of categorizing your inventory into three categories. The ‘A’ category products are counted most frequently and account for 80% of your sales, while the ‘B’ products represent the next 16%, and ‘C’ represent the final 4%. However this approach makes sense if your sales fall into the 80/20 rule whereby 20% of your products represent 80% of your sales. The number of inventory turns for those products will determine how frequently you count those products.

Pick Location- A simpler approach is to count every pick location at least once per month.  Locations with greater through-put should be counted more frequently. When counting pick locations it is important to not have any picking or replenishment activities being performed. 

Raw Materials- You can take a value based approach whereby the most valuable items are counted more frequently or a volume based approach which counts the items most frequently used. I prefer a hybrid approach of counting items that are the most valuable and most frequently used. However even the lowest value items are important in that their sudden absence can affect production.

Trace- When counting it is also important to note trace information such as expiry dates and lot numbers. As result cycle counts is often followed by turning over inventory that has expired or about to expire.  

Schedule It- Whatever way you decide to count your inventory requires that you create a schedule and execute daily on that schedule. Choose a time during the day that you are not picking or performing replenishment activities. In fact replenishment activities should be performed after the daily cycle.

 If performed correctly and consistently, cycle counts allow you to maintain a high level of inventory accuracy with a minimum of disruption to warehouse operations. 

Truly cycle counts are that ‘stitch in time that saves nine.’

All the best!

Jeff Lem

Inventory Best Practises for Shipping

As the economy improves and more shopping moves through the internet, companies are seeing an increase in shipping volumes and are looking to scale their operations. However many shipping processes in warehouses today are manually based and will result in a disproportionate cost increase if shipping operations are merely expanded based on current businesses practices. 

Shipping is the warehouse activity where the ‘rubber meets the road’. This function typically generates your invoice, ASN (advanced ship notice), a series of EDI transactions, and numerous metrics such as cases/totes shipped, inventory turns, on-time shipments or lines shipped vs scheduled.

Nothing less than 100% shipping accuracy and execution is acceptable; the general viability of your business is at stake.

With that in mind here 10 best practises to consider:

1.      Two Stage Shipping – at first this may sound like we’re imposing an extra step. However we’re advocating that the order be staged before it is shipped.  Too often warehouses don’t recognize the staging function as a critical part of the shipping processes. Staging is used to consolidate an order, pre-plan a load into a trailer, inspect the order, generate labels, and other documentation.

2.      Shipping Processes - take steps to automate basic shipping processing as a means of leveraging existing shipping resources as volumes increase. This could include functions such as automatic generation of the shipping and packing slip when picking is done or picking direct into the carton to be used for shipping.

3.      Hot Loading – increase flow through the warehouse by having product coming off the manufacturing line go direct to shipping. This involves developing the appropriate systems to divert picks to the production area and coordinated scheduling between shipping and production.

4.      Cross Docking – goods arriving in the receiving area where there isn’t sufficient quantity in the warehouse, means diverting picks to that area. Also certain products by their nature and value e.g. bread and dairy products must be cross docked. In any event systems, must support the cross dock processes and the shipping area or receiving area personnel must be trained to support this pick/ship process.

5.      Packing materials – kraft paper, foam, bubble wrap, and lined bags, allow for general re-use and are recyclable. Being green in the shipping area is an expectation by today’s environmentally conscious consumer. If you must use Styrofoam peanuts consider putting them a plastic bag.

6.      Rate Shopping Systems – Evaluate rate shopping software sometimes called Transportation Management Solutions to make carrier choices for each shipment. These solutions take into account cost, delivery time and daily shipment volume to arrive at the lowest overall cost.

7.      Packing Slip – Perhaps my biggest shipping pet peeve is that many companies pick by a packing slip and not a true pick ticket which would show locations to pick from, order of picking, and any instructions. Much happens during the pick processes such as substitutions, short picks and even over picks. Any change to the order means manually re-entering what was picked and re-printing the pack slip thus creating re-work and inefficiencies. The packing slip should only be generated upon completion of the picking and inspection functions.  

8.      Labelling – cases and pallets should be clearly labelled with scannable barcodes (smudges or badly printed barcodes) for proper identification by downstream workers and by the customer.  Amazon’s best practise for labels placement is no less than 1.25” from any natural edge. Multiple pallets belonging to the same shipment should have identifiers such as “1 of X.”

9.      Shipping Weights – for safety purposes cartons weighing no more than 50 pounds (and if over clearly marked with warning label). Pallets no more than 1500 pounds gross weight and pallet contents should be secured with stretch wrap or twine.

10.   Parcel and LTL Automation – Many solutions from freight forwarders and transport companies provide the means to develop a transportation strategy that encompasses optimal shipment of parcel and LTL/freight shipments. In fact many transportation consultants earn their living by keeping a portion of any savings when they develop a cost saving shipping strategy.

The exponential growth of online and mobile technologies has changed the way we shop and buy. Driven by omni-channel marketing and 24/7availability, same day fulfillment and delivery will become the new benchmark of warehouse performance.  

Warehouses today must absolutely evaluate, automate, and adopt best practices if they are to stay relevant in this new paradigm. 

 

All the best!

Jeff Lem

 

7 Ways to Minimize Inventory Obsolescence and Get a Proper Inventory Turnover during Replenishment

Replenishment is the physical act of moving product from a bulk or storage location to a pick location where product is selected for shipment to a customer. Some call this process a forward pick or letdown and it usually involves breaking down a pallet into the selling unit of measurement such as cases or eaches as part of the re-stocking function.

The replenishment function is critical to getting proper inventory turnover. How and when you replenish will have a direct bearing on the quality of those turns and keep inventory obsolescence to a minimum. Here are some best practices to consider.

1.     Advance Replenishment
Triggers for replenishment of pick locations are typically based on minimum-maximum quantities in a location. Adding the day’s order flow to your replenishment quantity allows you to do advance replenishment. If the day’s picks exceed available spaces in the pick locations, where possible, a temporary pick face will be created at the end of an aisle. Always aim to have enough stock on the floor to support that day’s picking activity. 

2.     FIFO Replenishment
Have your material handlers pull stock from bulk locations that contain the oldest stock. This is often easier said than done as it requires some sort of pallet identifier like license plating, lot number, or even an arrival date in order to differentiate which pallets to select for replenishment. If you’re like many warehouses that use double deep storage racking, which is only accessible from the front, you’re going to use a modified form of FIFO replenishment for the sake of efficiency. 

3.     Directed Putaway
When stock in the pick faces are low or empty, your putaway logic should support receiving to pick location replenishment. This may include the capability to break down pallets in the receiving area into units of measurement acceptable for the pick locations. 

4.     Prioritize Replenishment
Ensure pick faces that need to stock up in support of the day’s picking activities are prioritized ahead of min-max or what can fit into a pick face. Constantly monitor picking backlogs and add additional manpower as needed if replenishment is falling behind.

5.     Multi-Task the Replenisher
Have the person doing replenishment perform cycle counts when a location is zero or near zero. Make that person responsible for ensuring stock is properly arranged, location labels are visible or present, damaged stock is replaced, and inventory is neatly arranged, making sure it is easy to pick.

6.     Replenish Directly to a Staging Location
If a picker can’t find what he needs, don’t make him circle back to the warehouse; instead, send the replenisher directly to the pallet in the staging area. One of our customers designated a person to this function and nicknamed him ‘Shorty’; his job is to fill all orders just by drawing stock from other locations in the warehouse.  

7.     Replenish by Zone
As with picking, over 50% of replenishment activity is spent in transit, moving from location to location. Economize that movement by organizing replenishment by zones or groups of locations in the warehouse.

In summary, replenishment is a balancing act; too much replenish activity means wasting resources, while too little causes fill rates to suffer. You know you’ve achieved the right balance when you’ve scheduled just enough replenishment activity to support that day’s picking.

Jeff Lem

Re-Introduction to Our Blog

After a short hiatus, we’re happy to be starting our blog again. We’ll always do our best to provide you with content that’s interesting and of use to you in your business. You can expect updates every couple of weeks, if not sooner. If there’s a specific topic that you’d like to hear from us on, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

We hope to hear from you soon!

All the best,

Jeff Lem