A warehouse management system is much more than a glorious inventory module in a typical distribution ERP system. It is intended to facilitate high-volume, rapid picking directly for sales orders and for shipments to retail stores.
Fulfillment is a fancy term for filling customer orders. A business that sells directly in high volume such as an online or mail-order retailer will need this too. Often this will include advanced processes such as wave picking where a team will pass through a warehouse selecting items someone has ordered. All of their baskets will be delivered to a central area where specific items are grouped to specific orders by the distribution ERP system.
Orders shipped to customers will often use third-party carriers such as UPS. Tracking within your distribution ERP system will link directly with the carriers’ systems and provide tracking details to the benefit of the customer.
Supply Chain Track
This describes inbound tracking. Something is needed to be delivered to stores for an upcoming promotion. It was made overseas and will flow through trucking in the originating country, overseas shipping in a container, movement through one or more customs, and finally in-country shipping by truck or train. Where is it now? When will it arrive?
Retail businesses products have very short lives. Styles change from season to season. There is always a new model year. Technology advances. Optimizing inventory means having the right amount of the next product ready to sell and moving the remaining inventory of the previous product out the door. Distribution ERP is designed to statistically model the flow and help keep inventory at the right level.
Transportation management systems can be stand-alone or integrated with a WMS. They will help develop the best routes to service stores along the route. Can one truckload service more than a single store? Can we find something to backhaul to avoid an empty truck returning to the distribution center?
Often there are thousands of trailers parked around a distribution center. Which one has the SKU needed to ship to stores for next week’s sales? Which door is closest to the point we want to store the goods? We want to signal the next trailer needed at that door within seconds of the last trailer leaving to keep the door working continuously. We want to bring an empty trailer to the shipping door immediately after a truckload leaves the door. These questions should be answered within your yard management functionality of your distribution ERP.
Inventory that is not moving is inventory that is not making money. In a business that sells perishable goods or to short fashion seasons this quick continuous movement is critical. Systems to facilitate movement from receipt to short-term storage to outbound shipment are the hallmark of distribution ERP.
Final assembly of a product is frequently done within distribution. The manufacturer might make a smart phone and ship the chassis to a distribution center. They will ship difference color cases separately. As actual customers select colors at the retail site, the distributor will package the phone in the fastest moving color cases.
Point of sale interfaces will connect the distribution center to all the retail stores in a chain. Distribution ERP will track which items are selling and automatically generate pick orders and truck scheduling to replenish those items in the right stores.
Automation Bar Code / RFID
Bar codes are those familiar zebra-stripe tags on almost any product. Radio frequency identification uses passive and active transmitters and receivers. Both are important tools within distribution. With the speed and accuracy needed to fill thousands of orders per hour there is no room for errors in handwriting or reading. These tools provide quick, mistake-free processing.