Warehouse receiving operations are a critical part in maintaining the integrity of inventory systems and ensuring the availability of products for customers. Without an effective receiving system, items fall through the cracks, are not counted, do not receive adequate inspection and fail to provide evidence of problems with vendors that affect profitability.
A comprehensive management program must be included in any business system to eliminate waste and inefficiencies that can occur at this level of operation. Success in the supply chain at the level of warehouse management can have a direct effect on the profitability of the business as a whole.
Today's Warehouse Receiving Systems
Receiving operations involve the transfer of ownership of goods, which by its nature involves financial responsibility. Ensuring that the documentation is accurate, correct and smoothly and efficient allows the material to be made available to the customer as soon as possible. An accurate reporting of what is received has a direct effect on the accounting and payout for goods.
Inaccuracies in counting or failure to report damaged or missing items means the business will be paying for goods they did not receive, which affects the bottom line on an ongoing basis. Finding ways to improve warehouse systems to make them accurate, foolproof and easy improves profitability for companies in a practical way.
Improving Warehouse Receiving Efficiency
Essentially, the same warehouse decisions are made today as they have been since the beginning of large-scale industrial operations, that is, location, personnel, equipment and schedule.
Though the technology has changed significantly, these primary actions are required in every circumstance. Implementing simple systems such as dock scheduling, which requires shippers to notify the receiving department 24 hours in advance of a delivery can help managers of these operations to ensure that the appropriate systems are available at the time they are needed.
The scheduling operation can make a radical improvement in the ability to manage incoming materials and ensure that accurate inspection, labeling and counts are produced. Another strategy, cross-docking, immediately sends materials to another dock for shipment, when storing the items are not required. This method provides another way to implement efficient use of dock and storage space for better efficiency.
Labeling of received materials has changed dramatically in recent years. Computerization, bar-coding, radio-frequency ID scanners and automated pallet management and storage systems have made warehouse receiving more complex and more accurate than ever before.
However, these systems also require more training of personnel to ensure that they are implemented correctly to maximize the benefits.
Accountability is one of the critical aspects of warehouse receiving operations. Each worker must record his or her actions in the context of the overall operations. In this way, problems of miscounts, defective shipments and incomplete deliveries are not overlooked during a hectic delivery day.
Changing technology often necessitates a change in the process, in by whom, where, and how long materials are handled before they can pass through the system and be available as regular inventory. Exceptions to the standard process should be eliminated as much as possible to reduce both costs and errors.
Inspection is as important to incoming items as it is to outgoing items. It is here, at the beginning of the warehousing process, that problems with vendors, shippers and other handlers can be found.
Because items can be immediately assessed at this point, sufficient time and manpower should be in place for inspection to provide accurate inventory data and report any problems with the vendor or shipper. In this way, inadequate packaging or delays in shipping can be evaluated and addressed, as needed.
Compiling the Right Metrics
Designing and implementing the most effective systems relies on the collection of the right metrics. These generally include:
- Dock to stock time - the total time needed to move materials through the system to usability
- Receiving error reporting - systems should be in place to double check the system through label scans to alert to errors during the warehousing process
- Dock utilization - tracking of the utilization of dock doors, as well as space to ensure maximum efficiency
- Supplier shipping problems - recording errors by the shipper, such as incorrect qualities, the wrong product or paperwork mistakes, so shippers can be alerted to problems
Warehouse receiving processes must all be connected to an accurate replenishment process that ensures re-order of items at least 2 to 4 weeks in advance of being needed.
An efficient warehouse system will eliminate miscounts and warehousing of defective items that disrupt the ability to keep a sufficient amount of suitable materials on hand. In this way, your warehouse receiving system works hand-in-hand with your purchasing department to increase the efficient operation of your business.
Ensuring the best warehouse receiving process requires both regular examination of operations to find problem areas, as well as ongoing effort to implement logistics solutions that increase data collection and improve physical systems.