We have already talked about why choosing proper 3PL logistics services and a trucking company with a modern warehouse management system (WMS) is crucial to any successful supply chain management process. Within the supply chain process, there is a much smaller piece of the puzzle that is arguably the most critical component in maintaining accurate inventory: The Inbound and Outbound Logistics Process.
If your inventory is not initially received and reported accurately during the inbound processes (ex. by the company’s Receiving Department), it becomes nearly impossible to maintain an accurate system or record. This affects all aspects of logistics services and the supply chain.
Also, if the outbound shipping process does not operate correctly, shipments may be incomplete, arrive late, or be sent to the wrong recipient.
For this reason, you should figure out how to choose a logistics and trucking company that focuses a great deal of attention to the inbound and outbound processes. To ensure that this process runs as smoothly as possible, at BR Williams (a 3PL logistics company serving the USA and Canada), we use a top-of-the-line warehouse management system (WMS) with real-time logistics services capabilities.
Inbound & Outbound Logistics Process (Step-by-Step Guide)
To figure out the difference between inbound and outbound logistics, it’s important to first know the basics of an inbound and outbound process. That will help you better understand how it affects the efficiency of your overall supply chain. Let’s take a look at inbound logistics vs outbound logistics (and pay attention to areas your business can improve in).
The Inbound Process:
1. Recording and Receipts
Recording and receipts drive the inbound process. Receipts help supply chain professionals ensure that each step in the process is completed and communicated with accuracy. Basic receipts include items, quantities, units of measurement, and other required information.
Elements that should be tracked throughout the inbound process include: lot numbers, manufacturing dates, expiration dates, serial numbers, P.O. tracking, various inventory receipt statuses, default receipt status rules, emergency re-direction, routing of times to special staging on “short” inventories, immediate availability of items for backorders and cross-docks, and more.
Pre-receipt notification is among the newer and exciting logistics services in use by supply chain companies (like BR Williams). This service speeds up the inbound process by reducing the amount of information entered manually. The pre-receipt process allows for automation, real-time receiving, and put-away functions, reduction of receiving errors, and minimizes cost.
2. Load Arrival
Your receiving process should start immediately after pre-receipts have been loaded into the WMS system.
However, with a highly functional WMS system (like the one BR Williams utilizes), the product is more than simply received. Within minutes, the system can make receipt/load appointments in advance, or reserve docks, doors, and staging areas.
This preliminary inbound planning helps supply chain management companies become more efficient when completing each logistics service. All receipt information should be already entered with minimal human error. Due to this, when a receipt/load arrives, the warehouse coordinator knows exactly which dock door to direct the truck, and then can easily assign an unload staging area.
3. Receiving Real-Time Information
The “receipt” is handed to coordinators, already “bar-coded” with specific instructions for an associate who can begin the receiving activities and real-time reporting.
Checking processes as you go ensures that the inbound process continues to run smoothly. Automated systems used by your logistics and trucking companies should ensure that warehouse associates are at the correct dock door and are unloading the correct shipment based on information from the bar-coded receiver.
Once the inbound receipt and load arrival process are completed, warehouse associates begin detailed receiving. Types of receiving are different for each supply chain and trucking company. (Learn more about how to know if you need a supply chain company)
BR Williams does detail receiving in two ways:
- One-Step Receiving: When customers benefit from eliminating the staging and have their products sent directly to storage
- Two-Step Receiving: When the receipt/load needs to be staged instead of putting directly into storage
4. License Plate Tracking
Having control over your moving product is just as important as having control during storage and warehousing. Trucking companies know this and have started allowing for their license plate numbers to be tracked through WMS systems.
5. Put-Away and Receipt Close
In older systems, once the product was received, it was stocked only by professionals. This is still true today in certain cases. However, new systems provide for other options and automation.
For example, BR Williams’ WMS system specifically allows customer configured settings that help determine whether your product will be put away using an operator-dictated or system-directed method.
The final step for logistics and trucking companies involved in the inbound process is updating in real-time that the trailer or carrier has been emptied.
This is when real-time capabilities allow for review and exceptions.
The process speeds up when receipts and other information can be sent in real-time. It also allows for docks to be immediately labeled “available” for other receipts/lead shipments.
The Outbound Process:
1. Order Entry, Adds, Changes, and Deletions
When the inbound process is handled correctly, it allows for an easier outbound process.
Order entry is similar to the pre-receipt process in the inbound process. The first steps of an outbound system are to validate orders, check for errors or duplications, and handle exceptions immediately.
Up to the point that line item are loaded onto an outbound trailer, customers should have the ability to add, change, or delete specific items or entire orders.
Making these logistics services available to customers is the number one reason why real-time reporting is crucial to the outbound process.
2. Replenishment and Product Picking
Replenishment is essentially planning for future deliveries by establishing pick pre-requisite requirements and scheduling logistics services and activities to be completed before the corresponding pick tasks.
This step allows for your supply chain to continuously operate with minimal manual planning and strategy between steps.
The picking process can be simple or very complex. Your picking process should be unique due to the nature of different businesses, industries, and clients.
Choose logistics and trucking companies that allow for tailored picking capabilities and strategies.
Picking strategies may include:
- Line picking
- Cluster picking
- Batch picking
- Zone picking
- Label-based picking
- Paper-based picking
3. Packing, Staging, Checking, and Loading
Packing is arguably the most important logistics service involved in the outbound process. It includes packing items, inspecting, labeling, routing, and manifesting outbound orders per specific customer requirements.
If this step isn’t managed flawlessly, completed shipments and arrival times can be compromised and the reputation of the business will be at stake.
Staging locations should already be decided if an automated system is involved. While going through the process of staging, checking, and loading each step should be recorded in real-time thorough WMS for accuracy and timeliness.
Once all shipments are loaded and ready to go, a warehouse coordinator should be automatically updated, and a warehouse associate should be directed to load your order onto a trailer.
4. Shipping and Document Generation
The last step to a successful outbound process is shipping the product to its final arrival place and creating a log of the process for your records.
This is another important reason to use trucking companies that utilize a WMS. If every step has been recorded throughout the process, the final reporting is essentially already complete.
If you are considering using a logistics or trucking company, ensure that you are hiring a company that can meet your specific needs in an efficient, highly functional way that is reported to you online and in real-time.
BR Williams proudly uses one of the most powerful warehouse management systems in the industry so that clients have real-time access to the most critical data required to deliver the right product to the right place at the right time.
Our capabilities provide the most options, provide unique and personal solutions, real-time updates and control, as well as an ability to improve our client’s inbound and outbound process.
The Shipping & Receiving Process: A Step-by-Step Infographic Guide
The difference between inbound and outbound logistics is that inbound logistics is receiving products/goods, whereas outbound logistics is shipping products/goods to another destination.
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About BR Williams Trucking & Logistics
BR Williams, a family-owned Trucking, Warehousing, Fulfillment & Logistics Company has been serving customers since 1958. We specialize in removing the supply chain frustrations our customers have by developing custom-made solutions. We offer nationwide transportation services through our fleet and logistics division. Our multiple fulfillment and distribution warehouses in Alabama including the Port of Mobile span over 1.7 million square feet. Our core values are Honesty, Integrity, Service. We still serve our first customer that was established in 1958.