As published online at Savannah CEO; December 9, 2016 – Do you remember the tile-matching puzzle video game Tetris made popular in the 1980s? In it, geometric shapes composed of four randomly arranged square blocks fall down the screen. The player’s objective is to manipulate these shapes by moving them sideways or rotating the pieces 90 degrees in order to create a horizontal line of 10 like units. Once the player lines up 10 blocks in a row, they would disappear, making more room for the next blocks falling from the sky.
Making more room for additional puzzle pieces is one thing when you have three lives and you’re playing a game. It’s another thing entirely when it comes to your international supply chain and its efficient cargo movement. At Page International, we’ve developed a proprietary warehouse management system that increases inventory visibility, optimizes weight per shipping container, reduces transportation costs and minimizes handling and re-handling of a customer’s product.
We start with EDI — electronic data interchange. Advanced EDI transactions allow us to transfer data to and from our computer system and our client’s operating and production systems without the need for human intervention.
That means that, when cargo is moving from the customer’s premises to the warehouse near the intended departure seaport, railcar and truck data is received as it exits the manufacturer, listing all details to include sizes and weights to the unit level. This data is automatically sent to the container freight station’s systems to alert the staff there of exact details of the incoming product prior to cargo arrival. Upon arrival, packages are already designated and then pre-stowed into temporary container numbers based on what part of the world it’s going to and for each pending booking number. This is opposed to the traditional method of stowing the product — referred to as block stowing — that lumps all the product together regardless of size, weight or ultimate destination and requires additional handling prior to loading into an outbound shipping container for US. export.
As cars are unloaded, packages are positioned on the warehouse floor as designated. This is the only time they are handled prior to loading out to the appropriate shipping container, thus eliminating the increased possibility of damages resulting from additional movements associated with the block stowing method. When all designated packages for that container are received, the container freight station loads them into a carrier’s container – carefully arranging the different sizes (similar to the Tetris game) and maximizing weight loads per container — and advises Page of the actual container numbers. Any overages are automatically transferred to storage and any damaged packages unsuitable for shipping are transferred to damaged inventory.
Usable inventory is then viewable online in real time from Page’s system to be monitored by the cargo owner for future orders. From the time product leaves the manufacturer until the time it is loaded aboard a vessel or disposed of, customers are kept aware of all packages at all times.
While this is the system we use, there are many ways for warehouse management systems to improve efficiency in the order picking process, ultimately saving you money. Make sure your logistics provider and warehouse do the following:
– Touch product twice or as few times as possible, inbound and outbound.
– Rely on system verifications and online monitoring of inventory for accuracy.
– Compare different storage strategies (pre-staging versus block stowing, for example).
– Create a warehouse within a warehouse (group together the 20 percent of your stock keeping units or SKUs that complete 80 percent of your orders).
– Consider various picking methods.
Warehouse management not only impacts the immediate arrivals and departures of railcars and trucks, but it can also affect the entire supply chain. The best logistics providers ensure upstream visibility and save time, decrease costs, and minimize damages for their clients.
Patrick Page is the president and Chief Operating Officer of Page International. His primary responsibilities focus on sustaining the development of all operations conducted by Page International including international logistics services, U.S. customs services, administration, human resources, sales, and finance. He can be reached at 912-964-PAGE or firstname.lastname@example.org.