To an outsider, a warehouse is a place where stuff is stored. A "black box" approach would be:
- Goods come in
- Orders come in
- Orders and goods go out
From a logistics management point of view, a warehouse may be an integral part of the supply chain, (where virtually all orders for the supply chain are processed) or part of a network of warehouses, suppliers and goods handling locations, or perhaps just a small part of a manufacturing facility. However, our "black box" approach can encapsulate the warehouse and its internal order processing systems in such a way that some of its data, for example "Item Stock", is available to the outside and other data such as "Storage Rack Layout" is entirely internal. The internal processes are completely encapsulated inside the warehouse.
Let's take a look at a "Goods In" process:
- The warehouse receives a consignment note - "You are about to receive the following goods."
This may include a table of items with packaging information and optimally lading information.
- The person responsible will now plan the put-away procedures to optimize the future location of the goods.
It may be necessary to also plan a consolidation procedure to clear out slow moving stock locations.
- The required storage bin locations will be reserved.
- A list of warehouse internal put-away transports for the new consignment is generated.
- The goods arrive with a delivery note - hopefully with some machine readable identification such as barcode.
- Each box or palette is scanned and the corresponding information shown.
This will include the items in the box, where they should go, should the contents be unpacked or checked etc.
- Each put-away transport is carried out and confirmed such that the items can be released as available stock.
- The supplier is informed that the goods have been received.
The "Stock Owner" is informed that the new stock is now available.
Now I've perhaps left out a few steps or simplified things a bit, but the gist remains. As you can see from this simple example of one process in the warehouse, it requires quite a number of steps and a disciplined approach to the whole process. A completely different way of doing things than in a CMS - Shopping Cart application. Also, more than one person is usually involved in the process.
Standardized Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems (such as SAP) offer solutions for simple warehousing applications, but these are designed to handle many different types of warehousing systems and offer only basic "black box" applications. In reality, the put-away planning is usually done by an external application (subsystem or spreadsheet application), the internal transport orders are generated by the external application and sent to the ERP system warehousing application, the put-away confirmation done in the ERP system. Not very efficient but that's the way its usually done.