As supply chains continue to get more automated to streamline inventory, through the use of technology and utilizing best practices in operations, accuracy naturally beings to improve.
However, not every warehouse is automated and for various reason, If the physical inventory “on the books” and the physical inventory in a warehouse do not match, the situation is often chaotic. For example, when a picker goes to retrieve a part and it is not there (or not enough is there), a series of manual checks and back tracking must be completed to fix the problem and get the order out the door.
Inaccurate inventory record accuracy results in having wide impact on other system and areas in warehousing including:
- Poor buying practices and excess safety stock associated to buyers lack of confidence in record accuracy.
- Delays in order fulfillment associated to lost or misplaced product.
- Lost sales due to stock outs and over commitments.
- Costs associated to placing and managing back orders.
- Lower labor productivity associated to searching for lost product.
- Potentially higher freight costs resulting from expediting shipments to customers.
These issues could result in excess inventory, which ties up capital and negatively impacts capacity. The results are higher costs, low productivity and bad customer service. The self-checking nature of advanced warehousing technology such as Warehouse Management Systems or WMS, in addition to a good cycle counting program, ensures inventory accuracy of 99+%. This high level of inventory accuracy is the foundation for a majority of the other benefits realized in using a WMS.
A real-time RF driven WMS is self-checking. As transactions occur, the system verifies the activity and may even prompt the user with a question if the system detects a potential problem. In a paper-based environment, errors are common across all functional areas. The impact of an error in one function is amplified throughout the overall operation. An error in receiving (wrong product number, wrong quantity, etc.) will create potential delays in following operations.
For example, if 20 cases of part A are received as 200 cases, a put-a-way operator may spend considerable time searching for the extra 180 cases. In a non-automated environment, it is common to have operators putting away whatever product is in a staging queue without checking product numbers or quantities. In this instance, the quantity error in receiving will get pushed even further downstream as operators are sent to pick 40 cases from the load with only 20 cases physically on hand. Also, if an automatic payment correction is generated, you may end up requesting approval for payment of an additional 180 ghost cases.
In a paper based manual data entry environment, there is also an increased chance of data entry error. Humans make mistakes; WMS doesn’t. Studies have shown, on average, one out of every 300 keystrokes is an error. The cost of even one such error can be significant. For instance, the cost of miss shipping a piano to Albany, Oregon, instead of Albany, New York, could easily run in the thousands of dollars. And, this does not take into account the added cost in damaged customer relations. The automated data collection nature of an advanced WMS results in process efficiency and data integrity. The benefits of data integrity are numerous including improved inventory accuracy.
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