In the simplest of terms, cross-docking is the action of unloading materials from an incoming trailer or rail car and almost without delay loading these same goods into outbound trailers or rail cars, thus completely doing away with the need for warehousing or storing the goods. Still, this is not always possible; most cross-docking operations require large staging areas where inbound materials are sorted, consolidated, and stored until the outbound shipment is complete and ready to ship making it important to verify the logic the Warehouse Management Software system uses to facilitate this.
The Benefits of Warehouse Management Software, Part V
Slotting describes the activities associated with optimizing product placement in pick locations within a warehouse. There are software packages designed just for slotting, and many warehouse solutions also have slotting functionality. Slotting software will generally use item velocity (times picked), cube usage, and minimum pick face dimensions to determine best location.
For parcel shippers, pick-to-carton logic uses item dimensions and weights to select the shipping carton prior to the order picking process so that goods can be picked directly into the shipping carton. This logic works best when picking/packing products of similar size and weight. In operations with a very diverse product mix it's much more difficult to get this type of logic to work effectively and the help of warehouse software will be a requisite.
A few warehouse management systems contain functionality to oversee labor reporting and capacity planning. Basically, standard labor hours and machine hours per task are established and then the available labor and machine hours per shift are set. The system utilizes this data to determine capacity and load. Manufacturing has been using capacity planning for decades with mixed results, but it is relevant to note that the need to factor in efficiency and utilization to determine rated capacity is a failing of this process.
Activity-based costing/billing functionality is primarily designed for third-party logistics operators. Activity-based billing allows billable fees to be assessed based upon specific activities. For example, a 3PL can assign transaction fees for each receipt and shipment transaction, as well as fees for storage and other value-added activities. This can be a big help to logistics operators.
It should be mentioned that the above are just a few of the many modules being added to warehouse management software system solutions. Others could include full financials, light manufacturing, transportation management, purchasing, and sales order management. Using ERP systems as a reference, it is doubtful that this add-on functionality can match the functionality offered bt best-of-breed applications that are available separately. Nevertheless, there is room for debate on whether or not warehouse software should continue to evolve into software resembling a warehouse-focused ERP system. Where there is no room for debate, however, is in how there has been a noticeable expansion of the overlap in functionality between Warehouse Management Systems, Enterprise Resource Planning, Distribution Requirements Planning, Transportation Management Systems, Supply Chain Planning, Advanced Planning and Scheduling, and Manufacturing Execution Systems. In fact, if anything, this direction taken in the design of warehouse software appears to be gaining momentum.