In any Supply Chain, Inventory Management and Warehousing form a part of operations intensive function and is one of the key building blocks in the entire chain. Most of the inventory is held at the warehouses as compared to the pipeline, and the efficiency of the warehouse operations will determine the further supply chain efficiency.
Though it is a normal industry practice now to outsource the warehousing operations to a 3PL Logistics service provider, the SCM managers who are the decision makers and network owners would need to know the intricacies of warehouse operations and get actively involved in choosing the right partner and right facility.
A distribution centre or a warehouse is the key to the entire model as it holds the inventories and also manages other operations like bundling, packing, labelling, co-packing, knitting, etc. as per buyer requirement. Most of the marketing and buyers requirements are met with from the warehouses.
Many factors and elements contribute to successful operations of a distribution centre. The time was taken to detail the project and build a model taking into account all considerations will go a long way in ensuring operational efficiency of the supply chain.
The building blocks or operational criteria of an ideal Warehouse Management System includes location, structure, roof height and flooring, design and layout external, utilities and facilities in the premise, internal layout design, storage infrastructure, material handling equipment, lighting and safety equipment and mechanisms, office infrastructure, IT and communications infrastructure, power and backup services and finally accessibility of the location and availability of labor. The list can be exhaustive and depends upon specific needs of each buyer’s business.
The efficiency of warehousing operations is highly dependent not only upon the physical infrastructure but the system and intelligence that controls, directs and manages the physical transactions. A robust WMS capable of managing inventory and locations which are RF driven or enabled would be the backbone of a good efficient warehouse.
The Warehouse Management System controls two sets of operations:
- On the inventory front, the system maintains inventory in the warehouse at Zone & individual location level, SKU level, pallet wise, carton wise and unit level inventories for multiple customers and allows specific inventory attributes and parameters to be built in to manage, allocate or block the inventory. The system also provides options to adapt FIFO, LIFO or other methods of inventory flow.
- On the Operations front, the system manages, controls and directs all operations including receiving processes, put away processes, order processing, inventory allocation, picking process, packing process and finally shipment along with inventory updating. The intelligent system guides and helps operations manager to schedule and manage all operations for various groups and teams simultaneously depending upon the workload and pattern and thereby manage resource allocation too.
Another critical function of WMS is the cycle count process that is required to maintain the health of the inventory. WMS initiates daily cycle count and wall to wall counts as per user specification and attributes.
Lastly, WMS can provide various types and categories of reports and information related to inventory, shipments, transactions, timings of transactions and many more parameters.