Inbound Processing: The right warehouse management software adds an adaptive layer to inbound processing of goods. It starts long before the trucks even arrive with automated at predetermined times set by Appointment Scheduling functionality embedded in wholesale distribution ERP systems. Rather than swing between idle times and congested lines of trucks waiting hours for their chance to unload, appointment scheduling software provide transportation carriers with an assigned time to arrive and even at which dock to pull up to or which part of the yard to leave their trailers. Transportation companies are under great pressure to maximize the productivity of their trucks and drivers, especially in the light of government regulations that, for example, now count unload times as part of the driver’s daily available work hours. And soaring fuel costs make hours of engine idling a practice to be avoided.
Wholesale Distributors Embrace Adaptive Supply Chain Networks (Part 3)
In the adaptive supply chain model, shippers and carriers collaborate through appointment setting. Trucks are no longer told to show up in a certain time window and then forced to idle for hours waiting to get to the head of the line. Distributors benefit when orders that arrive at predetermined times, so that personnel can anticipate the arrival and pre-stage inbound processing. The ERP system will even alert workers of cross docking opportunities and reawaken dormant orders awaiting the arrival of a back-ordered item. Put-away activities can be staged to group incoming orders from different trucks headed to the same aisle or bin location, reducing movement and congestion and saving time and money. Chaos is replaced with predictability and smooth-running yard operations get inbound processing off on the right foot.
Yard management is part of today’s adaptive fulfillment network, too, with warehouse management system functions dedicated to directing the movement of full trailers for inbound processing and empty trailers for outbound processing. Transportation management and carriers collaborate to achieve smooth running, on time offloading and profitable load levels for outbound shipments. RFID tags enable to know what products are in which trucks before they even open the gates, so unloads can be prioritized by which goods are needed most urgently to fill waiting orders. Carriers bask in being brought into the loop and reward shippers by keeping down costs. Customers enjoy faster, more complete deliveries, even when their demand unexpectedly spikes. Since distribution personnel have visibility into all inventory on trucks in all yards and even know what’s arriving later in the day, they can dynamically restructure offload priorities to adapt to changes in demand.
Such proactive, big-picture yard management benefits everyone. Carriers and shippers are finally on the same team, rather than at each other’s throats. Capacity-constrained trailers are utilized to the max with optimized load balancing. Shippers have better visibility into what’s expected of them and when, and can manage their businesses to rise to the challenge. Distributors keep their docks and people active all shift long, managing the incoming flow of goods without disruptive backlogs.
In Part 4 of this series, we’ll look at the adaptive network take on inbound receiving, cross docking and replenishment processes in the wholesale distribution warehouse.