Logistics, managing the flow of products across the supply chain, is generally separated into two categories—inbound and outbound.
Inbound logistics refers to purchasing and arranging the transportation of products, parts, materials and finished inventory from suppliers to a company’s warehouse or manufacturing plant. Outbound logistics refers to the flow of those items through a company’s production line, storage and ultimately to the customer.
Being efficient in managing inbound and outbound logistics demands warehouse inventory management software. Warehouse Management Solutions (WMS) can track software along every part of its journey within the warehouse down to the bin level.
With inbound logistics, the main source of a company’s transportation costs, a warehouse management system can help ensure products meet a company’s requirements by automating inspections and tracking vendor quality with mobile applications for receiving, picking and cycle counting. As employees receive purchase orders, they can track what’s overdue or has been identified as a critical item to follow up. A WMS can also help with quality assurance, providing detailed inspection plans, tracking items that fail and expediting returns. Sophisticated systems will also provide container tracking for inbound shipment management to assist in updating and receiving all purchase orders within the software and providing landed cost calculations. With it, companies can quickly and easily find low-cost carriers and more accurately manage inventory to help avoid stockouts, overstock, overbilling and maximize efficient use of space. Additionally, with a real-time system to track inbound logistics, a company can ensure they are compliant with any rules suppliers may have around storage and handling.
On the outbound logistics side, warehouse inventory management software is critical to a business’s relationship with customers. For most supply chain professionals, on-time delivery is the most important metric when it comes to customer service. Others rely on what is known as “the perfect order,” in which the order is delivered to the right place, at the right time, in the right condition, in the right package, in the right quantity, with the right documentation, to the right customer with the right invoice. Again, delivering the perfect order is made considerably easier with WMS software, particularly software that is tightly integrated with, or even better, built on the same platform as, the manufacturing and inventory management system.
For example, with integrated software, fulfilling an order is streamlined. Once the order is approved, even with a complex workflow, the system can send it straight to fulfillment for efficient pick, pack and ship processes. Picking becomes easier with handheld, mobile devices that show pick locations with easy to use interfaces and advanced systems can allow businesses with multiple subsidiaries to define which locations can fulfill which items under pre-defined conditions. This makes fulfillment both simpler and a more efficient use of inventory. Meanwhile, common warehouse functions such as task management, user defined putaway/pick strategies, cycle counting, work orders and kitting are made simpler and automated, allowing for suggested putaway and multi-order picking within the WMS.
Businesses operating without warehouse inventory management software are already at a disadvantage as cumbersome manual processes can introduce errors, delay shipping, ship incorrect orders and negatively impact customer loyalty. Additionally, cumbersome internal processes can result in poor use of warehouse resources, improper handling of perishable goods and unnecessary expenses.
A WMS tightly integrated with inventory management, manufacturing and financials gives manufacturers, retailers and distributors real-time insight into the business allowing for data driven decisions, streamlined operations and improved cu=stomer satisfaction.