Dick Friedman 0000-00-00 00:00:00
The Truth About Warehouse Management Systems >After paying for expensive Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) systems, some distributors learned that their new systems do not include real Warehouse Management System (WMS) functions. They had been told that the ERPs had some warehouse management system functions, which was true – but not the functions that can really increase productivity, reduce mistakes, and enable more cube to be stored in a warehouse. Here are a few key functions of a true WMS, followed by a list of possible benefits and an outline of the obstacles to success. <b>Erp vs. Wms</b> An ERP mainly plans and manages the logical business activities of a distributor (e.g., entering data for sales orders, generating recommended purchase orders). Some ERPs contain a few of the functions that are also in a WMS; after entering receiving data, the ability to print a put away list. A WMS is a separate, optional, extra-cost software package that plans and manages the physical arrangement and activities of a warehouse. Bar code readers or other reading devices are not strictly needed for a WMS to function, but without reading devices productivity would not increase as much. (These devices were described in a previous article). Printers are needed for functions explained later. A WMS must be interfaced with a distributor’s ERP in order to send transactions to the WMS, which uses them to initiate warehouse activities (e.g., generate a suggested re-slotting report, for re-arranging the storage of items). And it must be interfaced so that the ERP can receive from the WMS the data used to update the ERP (e.g., quantity received on a PO) and to initiate ERP activities (e.g., generating invoices for shipped orders). <b>What is a "Warehouse"?</b> Unlike an ERP, a WMS requires that the warehouse in which it is being used be precisely defined, including temporary floor locations. During installation, one step is to define the ID of each bin (aisle, bay, level and slot). Then define “zones”: name and ID numbers of the aisles in each zone. For example, a pallet zone can be defined as those aisles where pallets are stored. Zones can also be characterized as “required” or “prohibited”; e.g., items characterized by an MSDS code must be stored only in zones defined as MSDS. And, there are several other characteristics that can be defined for each zone. For each bin ID, capacities and several characteristics can be defined; e.g., the weight capacity, to preclude WMS-recommendations that would overload a shelf. For each item that might be stored in the warehouse, some characteristics must be defined (e.g., unit weight). Capacities can be defined for each type of truck, forklift, pallet jack, etc., as they can for each type of shipping pallet, carton, etc. Standard labor rates can be defined for various warehouse activities, such as picking. <b>Cohabitating Items</b> Most WMSs allow more than one item to be stored in a given bin location, which reduces storage-space requirements. This can avoid adding shelving/racking — or adding on to the building — as inventory increases. When items are assigned to a shared bin, the WMS uses bin characteristics as well as item data and characteristics to determine if each particular assignment is allowed. <b>Planning For Receipts</b> Some WMSs can store a vendortransmitted EDI transaction called an Advance Shipping Notice (ASN) that is sent before an order arrives. These WMSs use ASN data to determine, by day, which receiving dock will be used by each inbound truck. More sophisticated WMSs can create an hour-by-hour dock-assignment, and determine where each item in an expected receipt will be put away — if an ASN contains the expected time of arrival, and if sales orders will be picked in the ERPdetermined sequence. Using a WMS to determine put away locations may seem unneeded, but a warehouse can be defined with “floating” bulk/overflow storage (not picking) locations, which is another way of reducing storage-space requirements. Of course, if picking locations float, the use of a WMS for dynamic put away assignment provides even more benefits. Furthermore, a WMS can generate a “license plate” label for each expected pallet. Each label shows the intended put away location ID(s) and quantity for each item; data that is also stored in the WMS, and used to validate the put away locations that are reported during put away. <b>Receiving, Qc And Put Away</b> If ASN and license plates are used, receiving with a WMS is much faster than with an ERP — scan the license plate, check for any warning/adjustments from the WMS, then move it out. But most distributors cannot take advantage of either ASN or license plates, so all WMSs allow for capturing receiving data by keying it in (against the PO) or scanning bar code labels on the received cartons or pallet wrap. Even without ASN and license plates, a WMS can dynamically determine where to put bulk/overflow that is not stored in fixed locations, which saves time and can save on space utilization.
Published by SupplyHouseTimes. View All Articles.
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