Warehousing traceability and visibility

Structured data to improve performance

Warehouse data visibility, transparency and traceability

Warehousing in the supply chain

Warehousing traceability enhance the quality of supplying manufacturers and end users alike with the goods and products they require. Manufacturers depend on supplies for their processes and end users just want to receive their purchase. That is why many manufacturers have opted to minimize their own warehouses. With this, they save costs on the facility, and on the other hand depend on a timely supply of goods. Nearby warehouses achieve delivering the goods on time. That is the reason why warehouses in the supply chain act as an intermediary. Such warehouses collect and distribute goods from different companies. With this higher rotation of goods, warehouses experience a higher utilization of their facilities and can offer a lower storage cost per item.

Warehouses in the supply chain manage goods coming from different suppliers, and distribute them to different receivers. Bigger warehouses can achieve even lower storage costs per item. Although a bigger inventory challenges keeping track of the location of a good inside the facility and its associated data. Let’s imagine ourselves inside a big warehouse with the task of finding the item ref. 55280212. Good luck with that. Unless we have more information about such item, it will become a time consuming task. This challenge affect as well its management, because it will bring uncertainty on the time to serve an item and reporting the performance of the warehouse.

Visibility, transparency and traceability in a warehouse

Visibility is the capability of disposing of the required information when it is needed. An example of this is knowing with certainty the current location of an item, or the status of an order. Transparency is sharing making accessible the data to the stakeholders, ranging from the end user to 3PL and the own work team. Lastly, traceability is the collection of the events, locations and updates on the item.

The team will have access to the information they need to complete their tasks. The operations team want to collect, store and dispatch the items as efficient as they can. The accounting department probably is interested in the items characteristics and billing details. The management level is interested in the performance, and so with each department. Each team is looking for clear information on what to do, and what has been done. Data on the different events inside the warehouse provide the information required to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Find in the next paragraph the basic data to collect from the operations to calculate key performance indicators.

Basic data to track in a warehouse

  • A single item reference id number
  • Good type and size
  • Time of entry
  • Time of dispatching
  • Location in the warehouse
  • Documents and billing details
  • Traceability

Having these data available is a great first step. In order to extract the most value out of it, it needs to be structured. That means that it is very easy to understand what has a good gone through, what are its details, and what is it planned to do. We can picture the situation where orders are communicated with emails, the ins and out with barcodes or other technologies, and the team introducing manually the product details into the system. In this example there are 3 different information sources. Unless the data is well structured it will be challenging to gain insights on the overall warehouse performance.

Using data to improve performance

Once we achieve collecting data from different sources, we will be able to gain insights on the performance and have a better planning. Structured information is easier to manage and to extract insights. Otherwise, there can be duplicated entries, or be scattered across different systems. Having in place such information will allow to read what is the current status of operations, and the background of any item. Hence, It can serve to measure the whole organization performance, per department, per area, per team… There are many possibilities here, yet we need first curated data to discover opportunities for improvement.

Firstly, adopting a digital information workflow enables preventing human mistakes the and information in systems is automatically as it is provided. Collecting the updates on the events and manipulations enables measuring the performance of processes and the team. Hence it can help to bring up to speed new team members and partners. Traceability on the items will ease quality control and recall processes, and offer certainty to the end user on the procedures quality. All in all, the traceability data will support continuous improvement insights to better plan operations, reduce costs and have a more satisfied team and customer base.