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Challenges and Opportunities in Inbound Logistics

Posted by Zebra Global

October 7, 2014 at 11:47 AM

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As large organizations realize the importance of the pan-regional supply chain and begin looking toward automation, visibility and traceability become increasingly important to their success. More companies are also demanding granularity – the ability to track assets at a package or item level, rather than only by the pallet. Combined with a growing pool of mobile-empowered consumers, there’s great pressure on the supply chain to be speedy and effective.   

In response, wholesale distributors, online retailers, third-party logistics providers, and transportation companies are required to adopt evolving technologies to streamline their work.  In addition, ongoing increases in fuel and labor costs are driving the necessity for suppliers to operate more efficiently.  

“In the transportation and logistics industry, it is crucial that load capacities be maximized,” noted Juan Carlos Garcia, T&L vertical lead, NALA. “Shipping air, so to speak, is no longer acceptable. The goal is that all loads be full.”

The Receiving Process

Scannable and traceable labels create expediency and efficiency in inbound flow operations. Best practices call for the use of labels for different applications.

“In order to have an efficient supply chain, goods entering the transportation and logistics stream need to be identified,” Juan Carlos said. “Most goods pass through warehouses, and several processes could be executed depending on the business model.”

When goods become misplaced, the mistake typically occurs during the time when workers are unloading and placing goods somewhere in the warehouse.  A load that is not identified with barcoded labels reduces the efficacy expected from a WMS investment.

“Efficiency is evident when organizations assure goods are identified as soon as they’re removed from vehicles in connection with Advanced Shipping Notice and shipment reception process, with put-away barcode or RFID labels,” Juan Carlos explained. “When workers at the receiving dock are enabled with real-time access to a purchase order database, along with either barcode scanning or the ability to read RFID labels, incoming shipments can be automatically identified and quickly reconciled.”

Put-Away Processing

Put-away is an internal logistics process that involves the receipt of a load to the time it reaches its final destination within a warehouse. Manual processes, however, produce issues like congestion in the aisles and processing backlogs. Before they’re put away, these products are not yet included in the inventory – and that lack of visibility can translate into a false ‘out-of-stock’ situation that ultimately results in unnecessary lost sales.

“With real-time access to inventory systems, organizations can automatically deliver to the right storage area,” said Juan Carlos. “They can also deliver the most efficient route to that location to a worker’s mobile device. A scan of the barcode or of an RFID rack tag ensures items are put in the correct places, and also provides a record of the location of the exact shipment.”

Reverse Logistics – Processing Returned Goods

Returned goods present unique challenges when it comes to delivering a good customer experiences and optimizing logistics. Most of the time, the parcels are received without identification labels. This makes receiving and processing in the warehouse more time-consuming. Process-related issues don’t only affect the efficiency of the returns process, but impacts customer service. The resulting backlog of returns and the associated delays translates into slower processing of customer credits, reduction of customer satisfaction and retention, and slower return of products to warehouse shelves, which in turn impacts the velocity of availability for new order fulfillment.

With a barcode or RFID mobility solution, workers in the returns area have instant access to inventory, accounting and systems, improving visibility and customer service.

“This eliminates potential customer disputes because handheld computer imaging can provide proof of condition for returns records,” Juan Carlos said. “In addition, customer credit, if due, can be issued immediately along with instant customer notification. In the event the item is returned to inventory, it is automatically noted in the inventory systems, instantly available for fulfillment of new orders.”

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Topics: APAC, North America, Latin America, EMEA, T&L