Category: Inventory and Order Management
Packing materials are not things you think about every day. But if you ship orders, you have to consider how important they are to your customers. You have to think about boxes, padding, packing tape, and other supplies to take your merchandise safely to your customers. You need to make sure your packing materials keep your merchandise clean and protect it from damage that may occur from the environment outside the box. Packing is serious business when you ship orders, and it can considerably add to the cost of the merchandise.
One concept to consider in packing materials is advertising. Inserts and catalogs are great, but using packing materials to encourage your customers to place more orders is brilliance. There are many ideas, such as printing pictures of items you sell with taglines. Because of the expense, it might be worth discussing a cost-sharing arrangement with your vendors to purchase boxes printed with their logo. Likewise, vendors might consider printing boxes with their logos and making them available to their distributors.
Often, when I get a package delivered in a plain, unmarked box or simple padded envelope, I see missed opportunities. That unmarked box, which traveled from who-knows-where, could have been broadcasting the brands it carried all along the delivery route. Sometimes, though, when I get a package delivered, I see evidence of a smart business that took advantage of a great opportunity!
The nature of the beast, when it comes to multi-channel distribution services, is an environment that has grown to be out of necessity. It all started with a shipping manifest system. The warehouse grew, and we needed to manage this new warehouse, so we brought in a WMS, which, by the way, had some great features we needed for building our kits. We needed to handle more calls, so the order management system was brought in for consumer direct orders, and then a contact management system for the B2B sales people’s orders. This was so successful for the business overall, but the accounting was becoming a nightmare, so the Accounting people put in some systems they knew already, for receivables and payables, payroll, and oh, a commission system for sales.
Then emails became a thing, so the growing IT Department acquired a customer service email system for that, and eventually found a vendor to do their email marketing. Finally, the Internet happened, so now we keep our inventory on a web store too. Half our customers and orders are coming from there, and going to different places.
When the websites took off, the Purchasing Department had its own PO system brought in, but then they grew and added some hosted forecasting software to use with the Marketing people, who also have a library of spreadsheets and apps for promotion analysis, key code tracking, web specials, and even a cross-sell/up-sell system.
What just happened? Now each of these systems has its own “experts” that the company relies heavily on, but anyone else (especially management) who does not use one particular system every day feels like they are in a foreign country if they need to access it instead of their own department’s system. Management across the board needs to have information from the other systems, so naturally they protect their own data that they have access to. This is their hostage, to use in the daily political negotiations to trade for the data they need from everyone else. Silos of data, built tall throughout the organization, can be a dangerous thing.
I.T. may step in to help with this problem by (guess what?) setting up another system, called a “data warehouse.” A system to sit on top of all the other systems, and pull data from them into one place. (Yes, unfortunately more data feeds, but for the greater good, right?) So eighteen systems now. Much to the dismay of the Accounting department, the numbers never seem to match across systems, but Marketing usually does not mind.
To make matters worse, the eighteen systems we listed above all have monthly or annual maintenance costs, occasional required upgrades just to keep them working properly on the latest version of Windows or with each other, and these crazy “feeds of data” going back and forth all over the place. The I.T. Department is always trying to keep these feeds going successfully, some as if they were donkeys going up a steep mountain trail. Worse yet is when data needs to be entered or regularly corrected in two or more places manually, such as the WMS and the Website.
Is there a better way? What if we combined some of these systems into one “enterprise wide” system (and maybe two or three add-ons)? In most cases, the argument made by the individual departments, for this type of environment, (cherishingly referred to as “best of breed”) is that each system has some compelling feature that we cannot live without (like the WMS’s kitting feature). Features we would lose if we paired down to a single system across several departments. This is rarely true. In most cases, the combined system either already has the feature (if you dig deep enough) or the feature can be added to an enterprise system. But ask yourself, if this compelling feature was reviewed by upper management, could it be deemed a “sacred cow”, which no longer “aligns with the overall goals of our organization?”
Another argument that could be made against having a single system is that we would be putting too many eggs into one basket. If the single system goes down, would the entire organization be stuck? Anyone familiar with the Theory of Constraints understands that any of these systems could be causing a bottleneck. As it turns out, keeping eighteen systems up and running is eighteen times harder than keeping one system up and running. It also turns out that enterprise level systems are built to be more disaster-proof because they know from the ground up how much more they are relied on.
A true enterprise distribution system breaks down the silos of hostage data, requires less overall maintenance costs and resources, and most importantly, it gives management direct access to a clearer, more accurate picture of what is happening at any point in time across all departments, vital for best informed management decision making.
Several RF processes provide lists from which items are picked or putaway one at a time. After the RF task is complete, the RF user is redirected to the list for the next item. This guides the RF user through the process with the intended path options selected by default.
The RF Bypass features allow your RF personnel to switch between two basic modes of operation, each equally useful depending on the RF task. Here is an example of how this would make your warehouse personnel more efficient:
For Inventory “Manual Putaway:” We have a large amount of inventory (in “general bin XYX”) and need to put it all away to respective bins for each SKU. When loading some of this inventory onto a cart or skid, there are two modes of operation:
- Mode A=”USER TELLS COMPUTER NEXT ITEM” – The RF device shows a list of the items to putaway. The RF user picks each item to load onto the transport device one after another until all items are loaded.
- Mode B=”COMPUTER TELLS USER NEXT ITEM” – The RF device tells the RF user the next item on the list to put away. The RF user finds the item to load onto the transport device one after another until all items are loaded.
Using security privileges, you can allow your RF users to switch between both methods. To switch from Mode A to B, the “Bypass” button is used. To switch from Mode B to A, the “Go Back” button is used. The Mode used might be based on personal preference, or it might be based on how the inventory to be arranged or handled.
When using Mode B =”Computer tells user next item,” an item may also be skipped, which moves the item to the end of the list. If the skipped item is found while the batch is still open, the item can be un-skipped, and putaway or received.
This feature may be used for all of these RF operations:
- Guided Putaway
- Manual Putaway
- Guided Picking
- Physical Counts
Each of these RF operations has a separate security privilege to determine which mode a user/group will automatically be in, as well as a host of privileges to control which buttons or options they get in each operation.
The InOrder RF Receiving functionality is useful when you’re expecting a purchase order to be filled, or when a surprise delivery is made to your dock. After purchase orders are created and printed, they are immediately available for RF receiving. When material is delivered, any RF user (with the appropriate user permissions) may enter or lookup the purchase order with the RF device and begin the receiving process. Multiple RF users may receive items for the same purchase order, which is useful for large purchase orders. RF users may leave their transaction while other RF users continue to receive items on the purchase order, or the user who started the transaction may pause it.The RF user is guided through the receiving process to first select or lookup a purchase order. The RF User then selects a receiving bin location. Buttons for common receiving bins and hold codes may be configured to represent your specific bins and codes.
If there are existing, open receipt transactions for the same purchase order (these may be receipt transactions that were paused by the current user or a receipt transaction started by another RF user for a team receiving scenario), the InOrder RF user chooses whether to receive on an existing receipt transaction or start a new receipt transaction.
The receiving section lists open purchase order line items. This section is useful for receiving small purchase orders (few line items). The open PO line items are presented and may be received one at a time via a button click and confirmation.
Options are also provided to manually receive the purchase order. This option is useful when receiving very large purchase orders with many line items. The item to receive is scanned and the quantity is entered.
A “Receive All” option automatically receives all open line items / quantities for the purchase order. The “View Received Items” button displays a list of line items received for the current purchase order.Check out these other great InOrder WMS RF features:
While you might expect ERP systems to backorder or cancel an out of stock item, InOrder can see stock available at a nearby location. If that stock can be brought to the warehouse in time to fill the line item, it is allocated to the order.
To do this, InOrder generates an inventory transfer to transfer the stock from the remote location back to the warehouse from where the order shipment needs to ship. Personnel at the remote location print the “transfer out” order and pull the stock as soon as possible. The stock is transferred, and the transfer is posted.
Stock can be pulled from any designated facility that may have the stock on hand, such as a remote storage location, a point of sale store or merchandise exhibit, or even a consignment location. In some cases there is a risk that the stock is sold to a point of sale customer before it can be transferred. Therefore, InOrder keeps the order from printing in the ship-from warehouse until the transfer is posted to confirm the stock was retrieved.
Employee theft goes well beyond loss of cash or product to get to your bottom line. It can affect your customers by way of higher prices and inferior shopping experiences, which can have a direct impact on your reputation. Imagine what your customer thinks of your business when he or she is promised an item by a specific date because you think you have it in stock. Although your (paper) records showed you had the item, it was ultimately backordered. Unfortunately, the item was stolen by an employee and you were not aware until the customer was already disappointed.
And speaking of your reputation, you don’t want to invite even more shoplifting because your business is known as an easy target.
Employee theft can also affect other employees. Stealing from you indirectly steals from them. How many times will it happen before other employees question whether you’re competent enough to keep the business strong and safe? After it happens, will you unfairly limit the freedoms of the rest of your staff?
The survey questioned U.S. retail employees about store types, job titles, inventory management methods, theft perception, and outright stealing from their employers.
According to the report, the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that employee theft accounted for almost 44% of total losses for US retailers. Some of the data revealed from responses to the survey from Software Advice™ included the following:
- 85% of national retail chains, 53% of local and regional retail chains, and 37% of small stores surveyed use inventory management software.
- Only 28% of employees whose stores use inventory management software said internal theft is a problem, compared to 37% of employees whose stores use other methods for managing inventory.
- 22% of employees at stores without inventory management software openly admitted to stealing products, compared to 15% of employees whose stores use inventory management software.
As explained in the report, modern inventory management systems can be integrated with other software and hardware to detect suspicious patterns, providing data for management involvement.
For example, when you use a quality ERP system, your inventory availability is tied directly to your order system. The InOrder ERP system includes audit logging, which provides dates, user names, and tasks each user performs. The inventory on hand is tracked for the duration of its time in the warehouse. Any inventory transactions including receipts, sales, returns, as well as all types of adjustments, such as kit assemblies, facility transfers, inter-facility bin moves and replenishments, cycle count adjustments, damaged write-offs, etc. are tracked to allow precise SKU audits. Additionally, full warehouse “snapshots” of quantity and value on hand are taken whenever an accounting period is closed, allowing reports to show beginning on hand, activity, and ending on hand for an accounting period. Inventory accuracy typically approaches 99.9%.
How else can InOrder help detect theft?
Because InOrder’s Purchasing, Payables, and Inventory systems are all connected, you can compare what was ordered to what was received, to what you are paying your vendors.
The system tracks all purchase orders placed with your vendors, and any subsequent changes to those orders. Inventory receipt transactions are linked to purchase orders, recording what happened to each carton entering the facility. Vendor bills are entered into the system before or after inventory receipt. These bills get linked to the receipt and the purchase order. Any inventory that is received damaged is tracked as it gets routed back to the vendor for credit, and the credits are tracked. These processes enable control over what you receive and approve for payment with your vendors, stopping vendor billing fraud in its tracks.
Then these processes directly feed G/L, thwarting the rogue accountant who tries to skim by charging higher expenses on the G/L than the expenses actually incurred on your vendor bills, and then pocketing the difference.
Finally, InOrder’s tracking auditing enables you to isolate and trace other types of employee theft, such as generation of bogus customer refunds, gift cards, or credit memos issued to friends of employees. Seeing who performed a transaction and when is helpful, but forensic analysis of suspicious transaction patterns in the database can also help to isolate the employee(s) involved.
With a good ERP system, employees discover that they can trust the system, and you in the process. With their trust comes respect and confidence that their jobs will be secure and the business will continue to grow. A good ERP system helps you improve your customers’ shopping experience, achieve their trust that you keep your word about your products, and you take their business seriously.
When entering Transfer transactions, InOrder users may have already noticed the new Transfer All From Bin button on the Transactions window.
This new function generates an inventory transfer to move all contents from the specified bin to their final destination en masse (rather than individual bin moves) to facilitate guided putaway transactions.
This function is useful for companies that participate in exhibits or use other temporary storage, manually moving stock from one place to another. Now you can update InOrder with the new information with the push of a button.
If you take a trailer out on the road, use Reorder List and Local Reorder Points (as usual) to load the trailer. This loads from multiple bins in the main warehouse to the trailer. When you return to the warehouse and putaway your stock, use the Transfer All from Bin button to generate a transfer to move all stock from the trailer (single location / single bin) back into the warehouse. The Transfer All feature is also useful when you have many items in a bin designated as a “staging area” and you are ready to move them all to the destination. In this case, the staging area bin can be transferred to a remote storage location or exhibit/trailer.
This eliminates the need for individual bin moves and allows transfers across locations from one warehouse to another. You can also print your transaction and use it as a work order.
Previously, when stock was transferred, InOrder identified the From-Bins. Now, you can also select the bin from where you want to transfer your stock, which is also very useful.
How much time will this new feature save you?
If your company is a 3rdParty Logistics Company (3PL) or a 3rd Party Fulfillment Company (3PF), then you need to do Warehouse Management and Order Fulfillment for each of your clients, and they all have their own unique discounts, charges, and business rules. If you are reading this, then you’ve found the right software to manage this problem! InOrder Software is one database, but it lets you define these rules for each company that you process orders for.
With one login, your call center reps, warehouse people, and accountants can view the data from each company that they want to work with. Your clients can also connect to securely view their own data.
Just a few of the business rules you can define for each company include shipping methods and shipping rates, customer types with pricing and discount rules for B2B and B2C shipments, taxes, warehouse forms and forms routing, integrated shopping cart websites, EDI rules, promotions, integrated loyalty reward programs and gift card processing, payment rules such as PA DSS certified credit card processing, and even installment plans.
Of course, since it is so flexible, there is a lot to learn if you wish to fully take advantage of this. The saying “With great power comes great responsibility” applies here. However, if you are up to this challenge, then the more you learn up front to understand how the rules are defined and what they can be used for, then the more you will be able to take advantage of these virtually endless capabilities.
Warehouse Management, in part, means controlling where inventory is put away and how it gets to the correct storage location in the most efficient way possible. InOrder does it with precision and innovation using tried and true logic while keeping up with the latest technology.
Guided putaway tasks are generated by inventory transactions. An item being received may be put away directly using the inventory receipt transaction, by processing received inventory in the Receipt QC window to generate a put-away inventory transfer, or by manually entering an inventory transfer after the receipt.
Inventory transfers may also be generated to move all contents of a selected warehouse bin, to their final destination, en masse (rather than individual bin moves).
As with Guided Picking, these tasks are also assigned by the warehouse manager.
The Guided Putaway process includes scanning the item in the receiving area (picking), entering the quantity being putaway, and scanning the label of the putaway bin as the item is put away into the bin. One or more of these scans may be bypassed using security privileges.
The following options are available for RF Putaway:
- Pick and Putaway Items in Batch – This process directs the RF user to first pick all items in the batch, if applicable, then the RF user is directed to putaway the items.
- Pick Entire Batch – This option is available if your batch includes items being picked from a single bin location (such as the dock, for example). Then items may be putaway.
If your company buys lots of parts, and then puts them together before shipping them to customers, InOrder Software is the Warehouse Management System for you!
If your company has trouble keeping enough quantity on hand for your common components, or does not know how many parts to keep in stock, then InOrder is for you.
InOrder solves so many problems for Kit Assembly Companies:
- Managing and tracking work orders to Pre-assemble kits
- Nested kit definitions, with sub-assemblies to sub-assemblies and so on
- Kits on the fly that are built to order
- Easy Kit Definition Access for Customer Service and On-Line, enabling assistance with replacement parts orders
- Part substitutions in a kit or a customer order for replacement parts
- Kit dis-assemblies are also supported, for example, to free up common components needed elsewhere.
- Inventory forecasting and vendor reordering
- Multi-Dimensional Inventory
- Full featured warehouse RF capabilities, including guided or manual put away, and guided cart picking
- Warehouse employee time capture and job costing
- Multi-client support for Kit Service Companies doing Third Party Logistics
InOrder delivers the capabilities you need to improve your warehouse automation, and to increase your warehouse throughput, for the best Return on Investment you will find.