In this changing world in which technological advances set the standard, a new software is here to stay. Through this article, we want to introduce our Warehouse Management System (WMS) that has just been added to our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), as well as explain how the orders are processed.
What happens with the order since the reception until the delivery? Well, this process is not simple when you have over 1,000 different products, an average of 90 orders per day, and more than 6,000 m2 of warehouse.
Let´s start with some remarks to understand better the technological terms.
¿WHAT IS AN ERP?
The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a computer program that virtually combines every aspect that needs to be controlled, such as production, logistics, distribution, stock control, technical information of the products, shipments, invoices and delivery notes, customer information, etc.
This system is classified within the back office called systems, because the company and the customer are not interconnected, unlike the so-called front office where they are (as is the case for example of online shopping, intranets or client areas, etc. through a CRM, Custom Relationship Management). A system that also involve suppliers is called SRM (Supplier Relationship Management).
In our case, we have an ERP software called Logic, from Sage Company.
¿WHAT IS A WMS?
It is a Warehouse Management System, better known by its acronym WMS. This system must be connected with the previous one.
But, how does it work?
A) Warehouse organization
Not every organization of the warehouse is acceptable, and without this step, any improvement would be as ineffective as not having a WMS.
First of all, the inventory of all products has to be done, if it has not been done before. Then, we obtain the list of the most sold products, and therefore, the more replenished ones, what it is called product rotation.
Subsequently, a study of the available space has to be done, considering where the entrances are, counting off the hallways, shelves, its height and the corresponding available area, and giving them a code number. But, for what purpose? Because the purpose is to reorder the entire warehouse (remember we have 6,000 m2) on criterias of rotation and accessibility. As a consequence, the closest access to the warehouse from the loading dock hall, and the lowest point of the shelves, will contain products with higher rotation, and products will be organized decreasingly according to this system.
B) Human Resources Organization
Here is where we start with the technical part. For each person a WMS user is created, only valid for her/him, as it has voice recognition. Each user is associated to a device with headphones and microphone, a barcode reader, a forklift or pallet jack with a mini label printer.
Each user has 3 modes: incoming of goods, outgoing of goods and replacement. When the workday starts, the warehouse managers assign one of these profiles to each worker to start the WMS system, which automatically begins to distribute the work orders, through another software application: voice picking, a technological miracle that transforms the written orders into voice. It is true that, this kind of picking, is not very common, at least in a company of our size. Most of the companies use either paper or an electronic device or PDA. The voice picking means a great improvement, as the worker has always his hands free, so he/she can operate in a better, safer and faster way when taking heavy loads. There is no need to read the order, so there is no possible mistake. The device gives the location of where the product has to be taken, and the user confirms that he/she is in the correct position by repeating aloud the code assigned to that location. Then, the device dictates the number of cartons required, and the user scans the corresponding codes in the moment he/she takes them, to confirm it is correct . The procedure is repeated till the order or task is completed and if something is wrong, the system does not continue to the next order or task. Moreover, the WMS generates the picking order of the products optimizing the route, to save time: That is why the previous organization of the warehouse is so important .
- Incoming of goods or goods reception: The container is unloaded, goods are palletized as the master template (previously recorded in the system) indicates; lot number, expiration date and barcodes are recorded with the reader and the stock is updated automatically in our ERP and WMS. At that moment, labels are printed associated to a particular pallet and a particular location of the warehouse. The “earpiece” shows you where you should place these products. This system has a great advantage: the orders of the clients can be done before goods are located.
- Outgoing of goods or orders preparation: we will explain it on the next paragraph.
- Replacement of goods: While the orders are prepared, empty areas on the shelves with more rotation appear, so there is a person permanently filling these gaps, what makes the preparation of orders even more quickly, as products are always available in the most accessible spaces.
Having clarified this, let’s begin with the explanation of the orders preparation.
1º Generation of the order:
Administration Department’s workmates introduce the order in our ERP.
2º It connects via interface to the WMS at the moment.
3º Assignment of the orders:
Warehouse managers receive the orders in real time, and have the option to distribute among WMS users, or let the system distribute by default, in order of reception, although this can also be changed in case of any emergency. When any order is assigned to a person and he/she gives the OK to the system through the microphone, a label is printed on the machine that he is associated to him/her, and the voice stars to work, telling the user what, where and in what order he/she has to collect the goods.
4º Order preparation:
The WMS device dictates the user where to go, through the corresponding numerical code which indicates the number of aisle, shelf, and gap. The user must then read the 3-digit code number assigned to that particular gap via voice. Them, the “earpeace” dictates the number of boxes that should get in there (the program automatically calculates it) and the user has to record the codes with the reader, to have the system´s OK, as he/she can go to pick up the next product of the list, till it is finished. Once the order is completed, the user tells the system the number of packages, and labels for shipping and packing list are automatically printed. There is no need to weigh the package, as the system has all the weights recorded and it is calculated instantly.
In addition, the order is automatically exported to our ERP, and products are deducted of the system, always having guaranteed real-time stock.
5º Collection by the shipping company.
In conclusion, this system gives us an incredible speed preparing orders; the stock is always in real time; it is virtually impossible to make a mistake and if any, it is easy to detect it and correct it. Workers do not need to know either the product or the warehouse, because the system (with the earpiece) guides them through their work. It is no longer necessary to weigh and measure each order, as it is automated. Last but not least, we reduce environmental impact, decreasing the use of paper in a 50%.
Of course, not everything can be positive. This system has a little drawback, though it is not up to us: once the orders are done, modifications are difficult. Sometimes it happens that the customer calls 20 minutes after placing the order, because he/she had forgotten to include some product, and he/she wants to see if we can add it to the order. Well, orders are normally prepared and inside the truck in a few minutes, because the warehouse colleagues receive them instantly, what makes modification of the orders nearly impossible. That is why we ask our clients to check properly the orders before sending them.
As you can see, it has not been an easy work. Big efforts of many workmates have been required to implement this system without stopping our activity. Therefore, we do not want to miss this chance to thank them all for their time and dedication. This new system for organizing the warehouse and the orders has been a very important improvement for our day to day, for our company and for our customers.