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Answering the Basic Questions of Warehouse Management

Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How? The questioning method. The 5 W1H. It’s important in every aspect of life to help us analyze and get to the heart of all problems and solutions. Warehouse management is no different. Every WMS system should be able to help you provide the answers to these questions to keep your warehouse and inventory beating to the same drum as the organization direction calls for. So, let’s take a look at an example of how Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management fulfills these needs.

  1. Who: Who is performing the task? D365 allows you to assign “work” or warehouse tasks to a user, as well as show who is currently performing or has performed the task. Every Warehouse worker is setup as a Mobile device user and connected to a D365 User account:
  2. What: What work or action needs to be performed? D365 uses a configuration known as Work templates to allow companies to setup controls for the transaction types that need to be handled in the warehouse, which items or product families are associated with those setups, and what steps are required to be performed for those transactions. For example, during sales picking, you may just take a box of a shelf to “pick” it and then take it to the outbound location as a “put” before shipping it. Alternatively, you may have packing or staging operations that occur as part of the work process. A single transaction type could have many Work templates depending on the scenarios your warehouse has to support.
  3. When: When will the activities occur? Depending on the type of work that needs to be performed, the when can be controlled in various ways. This can be an automated process that triggers work creation for someone to perform based on a batch job, inventory level trigger, or transactional trigger. It can also be manually performed either for an individual order or list or queue of transactions to be fulfilled. A manual work creation event may be when goods arrive at the warehouse from a Purchase order or RMA, the user will scan barcodes into a mobile device to register them as arrived at the warehouse. Whereas, a more automated event may be sending pick requests to a warehouse using the Automatic release of sales orders batch job based on inventory availability and order fulfillment criteria, such as ship date, ship complete, or customer priority.
  4. Where: Where is inventory located and where will goods be picked from, moved through, or stored? D365 Warehouse Management controls each transaction through Location directives. These allow us to create advanced rules for where each transaction type and step should occur. For example, if you work in a process industry like food or chemical manufacturing, you likely need to store certain inventory separately from other goods because of temperature control requirements or hazardous materials. Additionally, you could have requirements to direct workers to pick oldest material first (FIFO, FEFO, etc.), empty open boxes or containers before opening full boxes, or have separate areas of the warehouse dedicated to certain customers or special materials. For receiving and putaway, you may want to initiate logic that first looks to consolidate goods to a fixed/permanent location, group incoming inventory with the same part number, or look for empty locations. All of this should be able to be controlled by any modern WMS system, and D365 is no different.
  5. Why: Why should a particular action occur? Is there a main cause or prompt? Most warehouse actions are caused by one of a few reasons: Demand, physical space constraints, or inventory accuracy control. Workers pick inventory because it’s needed for production, sales order fulfillment, or transfer order fulfillment. Movements occur to alleviate replenishment needs, make room for higher priority stock, obsolete expired or damaged material, or place inventory based to a different location based on its usage. The transactions and functionality used in D365 will determine why material needs to be moved, counted, or consumed.
  6. How: How does the work get done? Most warehouses (I say “most” with a grin) these days use some form of mobile device, scan gun, tablet, etc. The D365 Warehouse mobile app runs on Windows 10 (Universal Windows Platform [UWP]) October 2018 update 1809 (build 10.0.17763) or later and Android 4.4 or later. This gives companies the ability to use phones, tablets, or most modern scanner solutions by providers like Honeywell, Zebra, Panasonic, and more. That is just part of the how. The D365 configuration of Mobile device menus and Mobile device menu items control the execution of inquiries and warehouse activities. They are fully configurable so that you can use a nomenclature that resonates with your business, a structure that provides clarity and conformity with security of who should perform those tasks, and flexibility to control what data is presented, how data is presented, options or overrides, and the sizing of the screens. Additionally, the main function to execute inventory work allows you to prescribe or command if transactions are directed by the system, by grouping, chosen by the user, or some sort of hybrid option.

There you have it! D365 Warehouse Management can tick the boxes on the 5W1H questions. This is just the most basic functionality to allow warehouses and supply chains to manage their inventory, there’s much more this post did not touch upon, but hopefully it shows that the needs of companies on a Tier 1 ERP can be met!

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