In this post we look at an issue that’s troubling to many of our clients and would-be clients: effective warehouse management. Starting a new year seems to be the perfect time to address this nemesis of many a distribution and manufacturing operation. Many companies use the pre-New Year’s week as a week to wind down and to attend to inventory and warehouse matters… so here goes.
Managing a warehouse accurately can be a multi-faceted and almost overwhelming responsibility, made worse by the fact that most warehouse operations are in a constant state of flux. That’s true even in smaller warehouse operations. So in this post and our next one we’ll take a look at some issues and advice on how warehouse managers can ‘get a grip’ on their operations, and how today’s tools can make the job more manageable.
The better ERP systems (though not nearly all) can act as a repository for warehouse data. But just because you have an integrated ERP system that holds that warehouse data doesn’t mean you have complete control over the operation. You simply have a tool – one that can highlight existing inefficiencies, inaccuracies, bad counts, inventory overstocks and shortages, and a host of other issues.
Warehouse managers face tough challenges that include having capital tied up in too much excess inventory, bad records that too often lead to costly ‘expedited’ purchases, lower than anticipated margins, late shipments and lower customer satisfaction and/or on-time deliveries.
The common problem in all cases is inaccurate data. After all, if it weren’t, you’d have the right inventory, and you’d have what you thought you had (or the reports told you that you had) in your bins and shelves. You’d deliver on-time more often, more accurately.
Often, even with a WMS (Warehouse Management System) in place, warehouses can become beholden to too many slips of paper – handwritten receipt notifications that never quite make it “into the system,” or hand-marked (and re-marked) physical inventory counts, picking tickets and special notes to pickers.
At some point, it all becomes too time-consuming, frustrating and error-prone. And that all comes at a cost. WMS is not enough – you also have to have accurate data to work from.
And that’s where barcode scanning comes into play.
As Brian Neufeld of Insight Works points out (in a post on MSDynamicsWorld):
“In terms of cost and universal acceptance, barcode scanning is the best choice for warehouse goods tracking. Put simply, these software systems allow transactions in a warehouse to be processed much faster and with considerably less errors, with such transactions encompassing everything from inventory counts to put-aways, receipts, picks, shipments, and more.”
We agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Neufeld, and so in our next and concluding post, we’ll take a look at how to put a solution into action. Stay tuned…