The result can be magnificent or meh, depending on how thoughtfully you’ve lined your dominoes up. Here are five optimizations that can help:
1. Create a receiving checklist
Rather than hoping that the receiving dock personnel remember each step in the receiving process, try creating a process checklist. Accountability is built into the process as team members check off each item, sign the completed checklist, and file it (electronically or on paper). The checklist also helps support a flexible, cross-functional workforce.
2. Use advanced shipping notification (ASN)
Advanced shipping notification (ASN) lets receiving dock personnel know the status of inbound shipments before they arrive at the warehouse so that they can plan how to handle the incoming products for the day. ASN requires that a warehouse’s receiving operations communicate externally with vendors in the supply chain.
Although an ASN can be sent by fax, the use of ASN usually implies that an electronic data interchange (EDI) or a web-based compliance module is used as part of an overall warehouse management system. Without this shared data, warehouses randomly receive product as it arrives, and might end up with some carriers waiting at the receiving dock for hours.
3. Implement a vendor compliance program
If you use ASN, it’s a good idea to develop a vendor compliance program as well. You not only want to know when a shipment is going to arrive at your receiving dock, you also want to specify to the vendors how their products should arrive. This might include custom labeling, standard case quantities, and other shipping specifications that can make putaway easier.
The goal of vendor compliance programs is to establish a cooperative relationship where suppliers take steps to help a warehouse achieve maximum throughput and efficiency.
Note: Some companies have vendor compliance managers who are responsible for monitoring and measuring vendor performance. They look at what percentage of the vendor's purchase orders comply with requirements, and they strive to make further improvements in the vendor compliance program.
4. Use automatic identification technology
Automatic data collection is a way of identifying products using automated technology, such as a barcode scanner or radio frequency identification (RFID). You might have seen a barcode scanner of some sort at your local grocery store. It’s usually a handheld device that an operator waves over a barcode label on a product to detect information about the product. This information can include the product type, weight, size, or quantity.
RFID is a wireless way of collecting data from tags that are attached to products. RFID tags are embedded in or attached to products and contain electronically stored data about the products. RFID readers use electromagnetic fields to transfer the data.
Both barcode scanners and RFID improve accuracy and speed at the receiving dock.
5. Manage backorders and cross-docking
Backordered products are products that have been ordered by a customer, but were not in storage at the warehouse when the order was made. The warehouse waits for shipments of the product from its suppliers so that the orders can be backfilled. For increased efficiency and speed, backfill orders can be managed at the receiving area when the backfilled product is received.
Additionally, any products that were produced by a supplier and need to be shipped directly to a specific customer can be handled by cross-docking at the receiving area.