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Process Change
» TMS and WMS
» Warehouse Management
In some industries warehousing and transportation functions have been considered as separate entities – a notion that has become increasingly impractical in today’s business climate in which both warehousing and transportation have become streamlined through the use of automated systems. It is possible, but not necessarily effective, to automate one part of the supply chain without automating the others. However, when all systems are able to work smoothly together, businesses are seeing the greatest returns on investment and the largest potential enhancements in their shipping processes. Warehousing and transportation management systems need to communicate seamlessly with one another for optimal results.

Distribution centers, in some cases, are the least automated part of the supply chain, and therefore have the largest potential for improvement. In those cases where automation is minimal, it is necessary to provide for both warehouse and transportation systems at the same time, since one cannot work as effectively as possible without the other in place.

Information sharing increases productivity in any supply chain, so it is absolutely necessary that Warehouse Management Software (WMS) and Transportation Management Software (TMS) is able to communicate back and forth. When the systems can talk to each other, customer service is ultimately improved. For example, it becomes much less difficult to find out if, and when, a specific shipment took place or, if it was delayed, what were the exact reasons. And, there are three aspects of TMS that can be interfaced with WMS – route optimization, onboard computers and delivery automation.

Route optimization is a critical component in some industries. When carriers are delivering perishable goods, for example, route optimization is of great importance. Route optimization reduces operator wait times for a load at the shipping facility, thus reducing costs. When multiple trucks are making multiple stops, route optimization can help ensure that they are working most efficiently.

Onboard computers contribute to the integrity of the shipping process by providing data about where the truck stopped and for how long, the vehicle’s location, speed, date and time. Delivery/pick-up manifest information can be included as well as any special handling instructions. The onboard computer can be integrated to communicate with all of a company’s other enterprise resource planning systems. In food distribution systems, for example, it is important to know precisely what the temperature is within the trailer where the shipment resides and to know when and for how long the trailer door was opened at each stop.

Delivery automation occurs through use of a mounted radio frequency scanner or a hand-held computer that scans product being offloaded from a truck. The recipient can sign the hand-held computer device to confirm that the appropriate shipment, in the ordered amounts, has been received. A receipt can be instantly printed and given to the customer. These devices can direct information to the receiving warehouse, giving advance notice of what merchandise is arriving and how it should be stored. Delivery automation provides order accuracy, accounts for variances, and most importantly, provides real-time invoicing ensuring that products are loaded as directed and received as ordered.

Even industries that have been reluctant to automate their warehouse and transportation functions are being wooed by the control and effectiveness that integrated TMS and WMS offers.
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