Reducing the number of “touches” an order needs before it ships out the door reduces the complexity inherent in your fulfillment operation. And as complexity is removed, error goes down while speed and efficiency go up.
In most fields of engineering, complexity is the enemy. The more parts something has, the more chances there are for something to break down. The more an item is handled or taken apart, the more space there is for something to go wrong.
A similar principle is at work with any complex operation, including order fulfillment. Although no one step in fulfillment is complicated in itself, orchestrating the many steps, time and again, and ensuring their accuracy, can be a substantial task.
When engineering a software solution for warehouses and fulfillment centers (WMS), organizations must keep this principle in mind. Many of the features of the software can be specifically designed to reduce the day-to-day complexity of operations by reducing the number of touches and automating those steps that are most prone to error and slowdown.
For example, the software can have built-in:
“Directed, optimized workflows” is the new trending term in order fulfillment. The idea is to map out the workflow for every potential kind of order, and then assign appropriate steps to the right parties to make fulfillment happen. In essence, the software itself comes up with the overall “battleplan” in a way that makes optimal use of resources, then directs labor to instantiate the plan, step by step.
These kinds of directed workflows provide several benefits:
- They require minimal training for order fillers.
- They increase order picking accuracy.
- They allow different pick methods, depending on what is most optimal.
And of course, they reduce the number of touches by directing the flow of goods through the most optimal path in your facility, from allocation to pick and pack to shipping.
Scheduled Fulfillment Plans
Plans, in the form of directed workflows, are one thing. Timing is another.
Fulfillment plans can be setup to run automatically at certain times. A fulfillment plan is simply a record with pre-selected allocation, pick, pack, and ship options. These plans are helpful when there are commonly used options in the fulfillment process, and they can be valuable for streamlining the processing of orders.
Scheduling these plans adds a layer of automation to your facility. For example, rush orders might need to be handled more frequently and quickly than regular orders; each type of fulfillment can have its own plan, triggered automatically on its own schedule. Likewise, different options can be set and scheduled for FTL order versus LTL, or for orders sold through channel partners.
Even with automation in place, good operations managers will want to know when tasks are completed, and when something has gone wrong. A WMS solution should have status notifications built into its fulfillment plans. You can see status updates in real time in a log, receive digests on a regular basis, or get push notifications sent to your email or device.
This is helpful when identifying bottlenecks and diagnosing problems. For example, a single fulfillment plan might be causing problems. What stage is holding things up? Is there an allocation problem, a picking problem, or a packing problem? Or is there an issue across plans? Across channels? These are exactly the kinds of questions an operations manager asks when there is a problem. Infoplus makes answering them much faster and easier. All that said, it is difficult to convey how well thi skind of "hands-off" fulfillment management works, much less how it increases efficiency. To see a demo of these workflows and plans, please contact us. We would love to show you how much time is freed up when you have these features guiding your operations!