Warehouse management is typically tedious and stressful work. However, it is an aspect of business management that plays a crucial role in the delivery and manufacture of products. Inefficient management of your inventory can waste company dollars through labor costs and even cause delays which can decrease customer satisfaction. Ultimately, warehouse management is something that should be prioritized in running businesses.
Thankfully, technological advancements have made warehouse inventory easier. Some practices are commonly used by businesses for efficient warehouse management. As the market grows, the importance of warehouse management has never been more important. Here are some popular practices in warehouse management:
Best Practices in the implementation of a new system
In the management of your warehouse, you need to know what to do and how to do it. Firstly, you must answer the question “What is it that you want to do?” regarding your warehouse management. What is it that you want to achieve the most with your way of warehouse management? Do you want to decrease delivery times? Or do you want to increase production? Answer that question first before moving on to the next step.
Once you know your goal, you will then have to do some research. Proper knowledge about your business and its warehouse can help you diagnose the problem areas in your business. Study your performance of your current operation in terms of picks per day, quantity of lines picked per day. This will give you a metric to measure success in the future.
Know the size of your warehouse and how much product it can hold. Be aware of how much your warehouse can store by familiarizing yourself with the size and number of your bins and racks. It is also important to research the financial information you may need as well as the number of pieces you are working with.
With proper research, you would have a realistic picture of whether your warehouse can achieve your goal. You can then create a plan to achieve your goal. Formulate a hypothesis using the data from your research. Identify your problem areas and what the model would look like on its best day. It is also crucial to be aware of what mistakes or problems usually occur in your warehouse.
Start by creating a simple plan. Condense your ideas and expectations of the program you are going to use for your inventory. This will help your system work better and automate processes faster.
Once you have a plan, you can then experiment by testing your system. Use your system for a while so you can gather data. If you back out too early by assuming your plan isn’t working, then you may not be able to get accurate data on what your system was able to do for your warehouse. You won’t get accurate data of what’s working and what’s not if you alter the plan. Let it deal with the unexpected, and let it run at peak performance. Work out any bugs.
After testing your plan, then you now have enough data to report to your WMS builders to see if you can retain your plan or create another one that you feel may work better.
Technological Best Practices
Technology is the key to enabling warehouse management to be done more efficiently and successfully. These are the common practices used in the technological application with warehouse management:
Go paperless. Digital transformation of inventory management is easier to access, easier to scale with new team members, and more accurate. Paper transactions are not only wasteful but can get easily lost and cause errors in the business. Bad penmanship and readability can cause miscommunication. Handling inventory management demands accuracy. It also needs to be informed with the latest updates regarding the business. Businesses can reduce errors by using digital systems. It can eliminate 90% of the time used in data entry.
Use wireless devices to improve communication. Communication is imperative in every stage of fulfillment and manufacturing. Emails can be sent late and left unseen. Wireless communication allows for a real-life update on the processes done in the inventory. It is more accurate and can eliminate, or at least decrease, the probability of errors in the business. Order fulfillments and delays can be referred to faster using wireless communication. This speed is critical for real-time inventory visibility.
Automate your return management. As online ordering becomes more and more popular, it’s important to look at the statistics. Approximately 30% of all online orders are returned. Leveraging automation for return management through your WMS is your best safeguard to protect your bottom line. Return Management systems allow businesses to store and track data to what is being returned and who is returning it. It can also assist in advanced allocation practices.
Store your data in the cloud. As stated, digital information can be easily accessed and stored. Storing information digitally is key, but the sheer amount of data can easily overwhelm the largest of hard drives. WithoutWire has built-in cloud storage, so there’s no limit to the amount of data a business can compile. With Microsoft Azure Cloud, you get scaling, security, and monitoring, alongside the benefit of digital storage.
Check the potential Return on Investment (ROI) before adopting new technology. Advancements in technology are powering significant advances in inventory science, but there are caveats. Advertisements for new technology are left and right, and always enticing. Adopting new technology without proper research can be detrimental to your business. It’s best to take a look at the “why behind the why” of your WMS, and consult your support staff to see if the technology is helpful, or if it’s another hurdle.
Look into incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions. AI advancements are showing real promise for inventory management and re-thinking how a supply chain is run. With cloud-based data and machine learning, your WMS could be able to forecast issues and automate processes that save you time and money, with little to no up-front cost.
Focus on visibility. A modern WMS offers dozens of ways to stay vigilant over your supply chain, but they only work if you use them. It is important to train and enlighten your staff on how to use your new system. Taking the time to familiarize employees with all of the options available and helping them customize dashboards so they are able to quickly and efficiently navigate the inventory platform. It will decrease delays inputs and errors in the system. Furthermore, it can also help in your assessment of whether a new system is beneficial for your company.
Save money with wave-picking and cross-docking. If a business is struggling with storage, managing inventory by employing cross-docking through their WMS offers a seamless solution that saves time and makes processes easier for employees. Wave picking is supremely useful for businesses with a particularly complex shipping system, and if an advanced tracking method is adopted, both cross-docking and wave picking can save significant amounts of time and money.
Use forecasting in your budgetary planning. Advanced allocation gives businesses the opportunity to forecast supply needs, seasonal demands, and contribute to avoiding overstocks, or short supply. Forecasting in your budget meetings allows you to strategize and plan, letting your WMS take care of the rest. The algorithms and formulas available within WithoutWire are built to help businesses forecast while automatically updating in real-time.
Operational Best Practices
Utilize Advanced Shipment Notifications (ASNs). ASNs are electronic notifications sent from the buyer to inform the company about an impending delivery. This is a simple solution that can reduce the receiving effort by 70%. ASNs can help with backed-up receiving and reduce delays in the delivery of orders.
Add a Put away Process. Put away refers to the process of moving incoming inventory from the receiving zone to another location that is optimal for storage. More often than not, it is not seen as an urgent priority. However, neglecting this function can negatively affect the management of your inventory. It can result in lower fill rates, congestion in the aisles, and picking obstructions. A WMS will prioritize hot receipts—those that need to be immediately replenished or cross-docked—and help you monitor and manage zone congestion.
Simplify Picking Procedures. Wave picking, batch picking, pick and pack, pick and consolidate, and discrete order picking are some of the things to consider in managing inventories. It's best to keep this process simple by reducing the number of selection methods used and working on a regular schedule. Moreover, the allocation of a few large waves instead of many small ones is preferred. For larger groups of orders, a warehouse management system can select the right assignment size and group orders to optimize the pick paths.
Adapt to changing product demands through re-slotting. It is best to maximize the space of the inventory to maximize storage and ease deliveries. A part of the normal picking or put away process is to move a product to optimal locations.
Map your processes. Mapping your processes is a great way to identify unnecessary activities. Look for ways to streamline, simplify, and eliminate steps that do not add value. Over time, small, incremental improvements can make a big difference.
Those are best practices for warehouse management. As can be seen, digital systems have become a necessity in the efficiency and optimization of your inventory. While inventory management can be downplayed as mere storage of products, it can greatly affect the production and fulfillment of deliveries by the company. It is important to assess all aspects of the business, most especially warehouse management. As your company becomes bigger, management of inventories can become too difficult to handle manually. Making use of a warehouse management system can decrease labor and order delays for your business.
WithoutWire offers a WMS that help with inventory managing. The Inventory Platform WMS can assist with the seasonal allocation of products, using algorithms custom-made from the data provided by your business. It can help with budgetary planning, as well as a myriad of other things. We can help optimize your inventory and increase order fulfillment for your business.
If you are curious, contact us for more information and we’ll be happy to assist!
How important is it to meet the expectations of a promised ship date?
The answer, to most, is complex. Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and thus, the importance of promise-ship dates is also. Just recently, a distributor's primary concern was big-box retailers. In the 21st century, however, you need to include next-day shipping orders based online play just as big of a part.
Not meeting your promise dates can be a reason your company loses its edge. If you're working with promise dates with distributors like Target, Wal-Mart, or Amazon, there are severe penalties if you don't get your product there in a timely fashion. So, your business needs to focus on specific pick orders and the importance of allocating products to those.
Naturally, the other issue is shorting. You don't want to short orders, which in some ways also means you can't meet that promise to ship just because you have an outage in your inventory. Both are problems within themselves.
But can you imagine now how hard it would be to not only allocate and worry about focusing on just a tiny subset of your customers—but now expanding that to tripling and quadrupling your number of customers that you have to meet promised ship dates?
Now, of course, you can use all kinds of techniques to avoid even providing a promise to ship date, like presenting information on the e-commerce user interface or website that indicates when they can expect to receive the shipment. We remember a story many years ago, where a distributor was hiring new forklift drivers, and the guy on his first job took out a forklift and destroyed pallets of product. Those are the kind of products that were required to be used to fulfill orders right then and there. You cannot do much about that other than try to react as quickly as possible, which is what we consider the worst-case scenario.
What steps you're willing to take to address those worst-case scenarios? You have to think about how much money you're ready to put into a problem. It could even mean you're not making any money on this order.
Ultimately, in today's world, keeping a customer happy seems to have more importance in some cases—than actually making money on each order—as crazy as that sounds. It's like the old saying, "the best offense is a good defense."
In other words, you'd love to be able to prevent problems from ever happening in the first place. And, there are certain activities you could do and strategies to minimize those scenarios, like keeping more inventory in stock. But unfortunately, taking time, money, and effort to bear these expenses is not feasible.
You can also help your business by ensuring that you're putting accurate inventory information right on the website when people are ordering. Often, people won't be as upset if they see that you're out of stock as opposed to if you try to tell them you can ship it, but then you can't.
There are tools right in our system that can benefit you if you're looking to plan out when you expect to run out of stock, based on forecasts and incoming PO's and outgoing SO's that give you an end-of-day view into what to expect.
What about retail stores? When an online order is created, and somebody drives to a retail store to pick up their order and sees that a product was out of stock, that's another problem. Huge. Only superior inventory visibility can find you a solution, which is the core issue in some cases around not being able to hit promised dates.
For large retail stores, often one of the solutions to dealing with that worst-case scenario is quickly, dynamically allocate picks and transfers to other retail facilities using Inventory Platform technology. Introducing intelligent transfers is an approach that can be very useful in large retail chains.
We're always happy to help people deal with vendor and supply shortages. And in this scenario, being able to dynamically pull products in purchasing from vendors other than your standard go-to providers is another key to minimizing those shortages. One simple but essential aspect of being ready to do such a thing is to have multiple bar codes that represent your internal items. That way, when a new vendor who sends in new SKUs hits the dock, you're able to continue to scan and use those products throughout your fulfillment, and receiving, and so on.
We could spend days talking about these kinds of optimizations because we've spent days planning, building, and creating resources to help businesses work better. If you're curious about what WithoutWire can do for you, get in touch with us. We're here to make inventory management more manageable.
Damned if you do—damned if you don’t
It’s a common enough phrase, and for most companies today, they are really feeling it in the tech sector. Whether you’re a manufacturing, distribution, or a field service operation, ERP + WMS integration into 21st century tech is both difficult, and necessary. We’re going to cover the “what ifs” in the decision-making process, and go over suggestions.
The integration itself takes time. And depending on your system, it can take a lot of it. Anyone who has been in the industry for a few years knows that projects—especially ones involving tech—can take longer than anticipated. Especially when it deals with an old ERP. Why is that? Well, ERP systems come with a lot of baggage that comes along in the form of code. Layers upon layers, and hours upon hours of troubleshooting.
These older systems were built in a world where you buy one product, and you’re supposed to use it your whole life, until the wheels falls off. They were never designed to have to play nice with any other systems, because no one had the foresight to think about what optimizations another system could have, or how necessary the faster, and faster flow of data becomes a necessary part of the way we conduct business.
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. This is the flip-side of the coin. Like a muscle, or a car engine, if you don’t take it out for a spin, test it and try to make it better, your ERP can seize up, leaving you stuck with innovation rigor mortis. At some point, the need to update comes for us all. If you hold out, you’ve only got one sunk cost: the original ERP. On the other hand, however, you’re missing out on all the optimizations your competition may be making.
The truth sometimes hurts…
For some with early 2000s—or even ‘90s era ERPs, there’s just not a good solution for integration. The cost of adding a WMS can be high, but if your system is too complex and hard to work with from the start, you may be paying more in labor and starting costs just to get it running. Even then, you’re not guaranteed that it’s going to work when the next software update/patch comes.
Sometimes, it’s better to start from scratch. We know how hard this is to hear, because we have to say it fairly often as well. To put it in perspective however, if you put a Lamborghini engine into a ’69 Dodge Dart, you’re going to have some serious problems (The first, mainly being trunk space).
What to look for in an updated ERP system
When we’re speaking to clients about updating their ERP to accommodate a WMS, we try to stress a couple of things:
#1 Look for a cloud-based system that lives & breathes integration.
It might sound like a no-brainer, but just because a system was developed in 2020 doesn’t mean it’s going to work great in 2025 unless it was designed to. The integration of different systems isn’t going away, and it isn’t getting less complex in the next decade either.
Being able to integrate with multiple, specialized systems that are the best at what they do is only going to become more and more important as the differences between you and your competitors gets closer in margin. Look for ERPs that are specialized for your industry, look forward to future iterations, work well with AI and have an agile integration framework are going to be your best friend when it’s time to incorporate the optimizations that we haven’t even heard of yet.
#2 Beware of the 3-in-1 platforms
Just like with grooming products for men—just because it says it does three things at once—doesn’t mean it actually does all three, or that it’s good at any of them. Buying an ERP that has a built-in cookie-cutter WMS may work out fine for you. But, if you have an immediate challenge in supply chian management or need true inventory truth and visibility of your inventory ecosystem, you’re going to be underwhelmed.
Going with a specialist is your best call. There all all kinds of WMS systems built for specific industries, and the experts that build them are focusing on the needs of tomorrow, not just the needs of today.
So, to summarize, customer satisfaction is always a #1 goal for top businesses. Get an ERP and WMS from professionals who are experts in their field, and hold customer satisfaction standards as high as you do.
If you’re having trouble deciding how to integrate a WMS into an existing ERP, you need The Inventory Platform. Contact us and we’ll get you all the information you need to help you hit your business goals this year, and the next.
Use a system that’s best with both.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s a tool for every job. Work smarter, not harder. There’s a million and a half euphamisms about process, building, and fixing something. Today we’re here to say, they’re right. But, it’s about how you use what you’ve got, and use it well. What’s the answer to the inventory management problem? The waters are murky, but we’re here to help you find out.
Paper is easy, cheap, and universal. But, it also has shortcomings. Today, let’s dive into when paper is better, and how to use it in a system that utilizes the best parts of digital as well.
We’re all living in the real world, with real jobs. The best part of it is, this isn’t high school. If somebody else is crushing it, you can copy their crib-notes.
It comes as no surprise that the biggest 3PL in the world is Amazon. They make weird, cylindrical robots that tell you about your groceries and servers that the majority of businesses use; for the most part, they make their money off of shipping other people’s goods. Storing them, transporting them, and doing it faster than the post office.
How did they become the biggest 3PL in the world? Simply by working to be the best at it. They didn’t invent a new plane that can store more products and they certainly didn’t build new roads that only Amazon trucks can drive on. They streamlined processes and made decisions easier to make. They used the best + newest tech that was (and still is) available: Artificial Intelligence. By taking the headache of decision-making out of the picture, they’ve been able to make cross-country shipments daily, hourly, and sometimes, even by the minute--without a sweat.
If there are seven trucks and five of them need to reach a certain weight limit, the machine learning inherent in their programming can do it. And, it can pack it better than the world’s best Tetris player. Got 300,000 packages going to Minnesota? We know which trucks can make it there the quickest.
This point is that at the end of the day it’s about working smarter, not harder. There is no reason you can’t look at your classmate’s notes for this one. In fact, you’ll probably both do better on the test if you do. We know that the biggest 3PL in the world is using AI + Machine Learning to keep things moving. So, why not beat the system?
With our Inventory Platform, you can boost your functionality, save on data entry, and build a better, scan-happy system that works on the same principles as the best in the business.