Warehouse Management is now more interesting
Warehouse Management productivities partly depend on physical constraints like warehouse layouts which cannot be changed easily and partly on logical constraints where the warehouse management applications can help. Some of the fundamental objective functions of a warehouse management system are to
- Ensure Inventory Accuracies
- Ensure Effective Inventory Tracking
- Ensure the most productive movements (transfers) of the material
- Optimise Costs of Inventory: Reduced Inventory and Carrying Costs
Ensuring Inventory Accuracies and Effective inventory tracking are possible with more advanced technologies in bar code scanning and RFID integration. Inventory tracking has gone to the level of suppliers and end customers with a more enhanced role of warehouse management in Supply Chain.
Ensuring productive material movements is a logical objective that depends to a large extent on the capability of the warehouse management system. Now let us looks into some of the challenges faced by warehouse management systems associated with productive movements of the material.
- Strategies: It looks like we configure a warehouse management system with fixed strategies for material movements as if the A, B, C classification of materials is not going to change over a period of time. What if I am selling seasonal products to a great extent? The volumes and velocities of each product movement are going to change by time. What is stored in the front racks for quick pick need not be applicable tomorrow. In most of the warehouse management systems available today, the stock placement and Stock removal strategies seems to be fixed. The configurations remain the same since the time the system was implemented. Is there a way to make stock placement and removal more dynamic and optimised?
- Efficient Material Handling: Reducing travel time has been a classical objective function for any manufacturing system as physical material transfers are considered non-value adding activity. It is a valid Objective Function in the warehousing environment. What are the means of achieving more efficient material handling?
- Mass Picking Needs: In a high volume distribution environment, reducing planning and execution time between stocks to Dock is very important objective. A Warehouse shipping operator will have to create deliveries, club deliveries/transfer requirements into groups/waves based on similar picking and shipping attributes, create transfer orders for groups and pick them to shipping area. Grouping deliveries/transfer requirements into waves can be a time consuming non-value adding activity. If well optimised, this activity can save significant amount of time in a high volume distribution environment. How can we meet this objective?
Here are some of the interesting features in SAP Extended Warehouse Management as of ECC 6.0 that can address some of the real challenges in Warehouse Management to meet its objective functions.
- Slotting: With SAP EWM you can optimize storage of your warehouse stocks so that each product is stored in the most optimum bin according to size and frequency of access. First you use slotting functions to suggest the best fit for a product within the ware-house and then you reorganize the warehouse, relocating products that are not currently stored in optimum positions. The slotting feature updates master data to ensure proper placement and picking of products in the future.
- Interleaving with TRM: TRM uses task selection, prioritization and interleaving to optimize materials movement while offering the user a transparent view of warehouse processes. Task Interleaving helps to optimise the routes in the warehouse by minimising Operator/material travel time.
- Wave Templates: Warehouse tasks can be grouped into waves based on attributes such as route, product or activity area. A wave template defines the attributes of the wave. It serves as means of wave creation for all the warehouse tasks that have common material movement attributes defined into the wave template. Templates enable the same wave attributes to be reused for different warehouse request items that comply with the same conditions. Wave templates can be used in manual wave creation. In the case of automatic wave creation, templates must be used to assign or split items to existing waves.
- Cross-Docking: Opportunistic Cross Docking redirects material directly from goods receipt area to shipment area. Opportunistic Cross docking will reduce double handling of materials and optimize the flow of materials from inbound receipts to outbound demand while reducing transport paths in the warehouse. This ensures reduction of material carrying costs. Transportation cross docking (TCD) is a form of planned cross docking that allows you to optimize transportation costs. TCD supports the transportation of handling units across different distribution centres or warehouses and up to the final destination.
These new features available in SAP WM/EWM enable a warehouse manger realise the objectives seamlessly.