There can be quite a variety around how that is all accomplished. But in general, it is the tracking, monitoring, picking and receiving of all those materials from one site to another.
Sometimes that can be over the ocean, in shipping carriers or as an in-transit location from overseas as well.
However, there’s typically a cost involved in terms of oversight that you have to also consider when you’re talking about the value of the transaction or of the inventory that you’re moving, as well as how easy you want to make it and how high volume those operations are.
The first place we can look at minimizing labor is in the initiation or creation of a site transfer. Sometimes you have somebody in a back office that’s looking at data, analyzing it, and then creating a document in an ERP system which is marked as a transfer order, and then that is sent down into the warehouse management system for the beginning of what happens, which is a pick process.
If you can eliminate that labor to create those documents, that’s obviously one area to look at when you look at optimizing. You can set up, in many cases, system automation around min/max levels so that automatically you can generate one or more transfers based on hitting those minimum levels and trying to fill them back up to their max levels.
That can be a system automation that can help to reduce labor. The other way you can set that up, which can even be a little bit more dynamic in its ability to request transfers is what we call mobile request inventory. You might have an operator at the destination site that needs more inventory for a specific purpose. By using their mobile device, they can create their own site transfers so that they can be picked back at the source location, shipped and delivered off to be ready for receiving.
The last and easiest mechanism to use for transfers is what we call cross-site moves. If you think of a move is really the ability to take a product and move it from one bin location to another bin location. It’s a simple, straightforward move process, which is usually within one site. What we’ve done is we’ve been able to say: “Look, we can track and determine if there’s a bin location that happens to be in a second destination site as the two site. Let’s start from there, and build off of that”.
And if we can identify that, then we can initiate a site transfer from one site to another in the backend of the system without having to overly complicate the creation of documents in the picking up of the material and receiving of the material.
It really turns it into a one-step operation, which is fantastic, because it requires so much less labor to facilitate. But it also means it’s the least oversight that you probably are going to have of any of these types of site transfers. When we first tried to zoom out, and see the big picture for optimization, we looked at barcoding. That’s where license plates come into play. It’s a great way to initiate large numbers of these site transfers.
If you’ve got a label, a small sticker, it could even be a 2D barcode representing the license plate that you stamp on any kind of container or box or pallet, those can be marked and simply scanned at the point of receipt by the operator that’s at the destination site.
You can really save a lot of time from having to manually go through and check all the quantities of those site transfers. But again, you are then taking into consideration that the quantities and items have already been validated by the scanning that’s occurred in the source location, which can oftentimes be a very meaningful assumption that you can make.
Looking at seal numbers is another way to help to ensure that you’ve got the quantities that were on the transfer from the beginning to the end. A seal number is usually a piece of plastic that gets put at the back of a trailer of a truck that has a unique serial number on it, and makes it hard to open it up without knowing that it’s been opened. That gives you that confidence that you have all the material that was put into the truck and has not been disrupted.
Another thing you want to consider is discrepancies. When you do have those scenarios, when you are receiving inventory and there is missing product, there are a couple of different ways you can handle it.
Of course, you can manually put through a process where somebody gets involved and reviews those scenarios and determines what to do and whether there should be an inventory adjustment made at the source location or if we want to create some inventory adjustment at the receipt level.
One other way to optimize site transfers, especially when you’re dealing with third party vendors, is to taking a look at ASN receiving technology. ASNs stand for advanced ship notice. And is a form of EDI document that is used to initiate a receipt to be coming up from a vendor that provides you with a UCC or license plate number to be scanned at the point of receipt.
If you can find those scenarios where you can get labeling of those license plates done by vendors, that, again, is a huge gain from a simplicity perspective and a lack of needing to label incoming material.
With that technology, you’re simply scanning and scanning and scanning those license plates as they come in from that vendor.
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