“A virtual warehouse on the ocean.” That’s how Shannon Freise, senior vice president, operations, with Sager Electronics, a North American distributor of power products, describes the solutions and processes she and her team use to monitor products coming from multiple overseas carriers.
and moved into storage, a separate audit is performed to ensure the product was placed in the correct location and with the valid quantity. “Operations that perform put-away audits see better cycle count results,” says Gary Meador, chief operating ofcer with third-party logistics provider ODW Logistics. “They also have fewer issues with inventory that can’t be found.” INVENTORY LEVELS Given recent delays in products coming from overseas, more organizations are boosting inventory levels. With warehouse space generally tighter than it has been in the past, however, DCs need a solid handle on the goods they’re receiving. They should scan at least one of each case to understand quantity and size, suggests Greg Meyne, senior director of automation with enVista, a provider of supply chain technology and services. For instance, storage and picking needs will differ for a shipment of 1,000 units that consists of 100 cases of 10 units each, versus a shipment of 200 cases of ve units each. “We can’t overstate the importance of data,” says Rob Thyen, senior vice president-solutions engineering with GXO Logistics.
Until a few years ago, Freise and her colleagues lacked solid visibility into the products headed to their North American distribution centers from abroad. That changed when they implemented a solution that consolidates shipment information to offer visibility into arriving shipments. Now, as soon as a bill of lading shows a product has shipped from a supplier, Sager Electronics receives notice and logs the inventory into its virtual warehouse. At the same time, the sales staff can let customers know approximately when their orders can be lled. When products arrive at the physical warehouse, they’re moved through an efcient bin-to-bin transfer. Accounting is streamlined, because Sager has already identied the inventory it owns. Like Sager, many companies are enhancing and automating their distribution center (DC) operations. “Pressure for distribution and fulllment (D&F) operations to perform has never been greater,” says Keith Fisher, president of Honeywell Intelligrated, a warehouse automation solutions provider. Multiple factors—exponential growth in stockkeeping units, the labor shortage, and rising customer expectations—are driving factors. INBOUND PROCESSES “The optimization of inbound operations is an area that is easily overlooked,” says Billy Carter, vice president with Tompkins Solutions, a supply chain services rm. Yet more efcient processes here can rein in fulllment and other costs. For example, a robust vendor compliance program can streamline
inbound processes. Suppliers who’ve earned high grades for historical performance and reliability generally require less auditing and their pallets can quickly be received and put away from the dock. Several other common-sense tactics can boost receiving efciency. For fast-moving products, BroadRange Logistics, a global consolidation services provider, allocates dedicated space close to the dock doors and away from any heavy products. It also implements efcient receiving processes, such as cross-docking for products that need minimal handling. The BroadRange team regularly updates customers on their inventory levels, reducing the risk of overstocks, stockouts, and obsolescence, says Amit Agrawal, marketing manager. An inbound put-away audit is another best practice. After product is received
Avnet is expanding the business analytics capabilities of its logistics operations to gain greater visibility into the volume and type of inbound deliveries received at its warehouses.
May 2023 • Inbound Logistics 41
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