This is a cry for help we have heard many times. The warehouse worker is tired of reading pages after pages on conducting inventory cycle counts and reconciliation. She is fed up with walking back and forth between that lone terminal in the warehouse to access SAP and then climb up the ladder to count inventory. It is good exercise no doubt but unwanted. And it does not end there. There are goods to be received and moved and more. Often, there is no connectivity in parts of the warehouse. This scenario applies to both Finished Goods and Maintenance warehouses. Many a weekend has been lost, birthdays missed especially at quarter ends. So, is there a cure?
Before we look for the cure, let us examine the disease. There are still a lot of paper-based processes at warehouses. Yes, it is true that companies have implemented SAP, Oracle, and other ERP systems to automate these operations. But, in many cases, these do not extend to the warehouse worker. Here are some pain problems that customers have shared with us that exist even today:
1. Inventory Cycle counts: This is perhaps one of the biggest areas of pain. We have heard complaints from workers who have to climb a ladder and count the pieces of valves for example. They then have to climb down, walk all the way to a terminal from where they access some ERP software like SAP. They enter their counts, and if there is a mismatch between what is in the books/system and at hand, they have to go back up the ladder, recount, walk back to the terminal, and do the reconciliation.
2. Misplaced Finished Goods: A new batch of goods is produced and there is no place for them in the warehouse. So, someone moves some other products temporarily to make space. The problem is that no one registers this movement of storage locations in the ERP system due to no easy access. This results in delayed customer shipments and loss of revenues.
3. Maintenance Backlog: Workers show up for a job and realize that they need an extra part. Unfortunately, they cannot do a material search as they do not have access to the system. So, they have to walk back to the warehouse and then check for parts.
4. Goods Receipt and Goods Issue: When raw material comes in, many times, it has to be inspected for quality. Similarly, the maintenance warehouse will issue spare parts. If these items are not tracked, there is no real-time visibility in the supply chain.
5. Purchase Requisition: Sometimes, the maintenance worker finds that there is a need to procure spare parts. They would love to be able to create a Purchase Requisition right then and there.
The list goes on and on. The good news is that there is a cure. ERP and Warehouse Management systems need to be extended to the edge. Mobile devices are perfect channels for these. At Unvired, we have worked with several customers to deploy mobile apps to enable the warehouse worker to access SAP and integrate with the Material Management and Inventory Management modules. One of them is a chemicals manufacturer in Houston and another a beverage maker in South Africa. For both of these, we have mobilized the Inventory cycle counting process. They access SAP on their tablets, enter the item count, and perform the reconciliation in front of the goods. If there is a discrepancy, they can do the recount immediately—no need to walk back and forth to that lone SAP terminal in the warehouse. They can also record Storage Location movements, Good Receipt, Goods Issue, create a PR in SAP—all from their mobile devices, and work offline too.
Let us know if you have any interesting war stories in warehouse inventory management. If you want to discuss any ideas in this space, please email or send me a LinkedIn message or contact us on our website. Let us give back power and simplify the life of the warehouse worker.