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 inventory is not initially received and reported accurately during these processes, 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 process does not operate correctly, shipments may be incomplete, arrive late or 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 process. 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 and Outbound Logistics Process (Step-by-Step Guide)
It is important to know the basics of an inbound and outbound process to better understand how it affects the efficiency of your overall supply chain:
The Inbound Process:
- Recording and Receipts
- Load Arrival
- Receiving Real-Time Information
- 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
- License Plate Tracking
- Put-Away and Receipt Close
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 item, quantity, unit 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.
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), 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.
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 is 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:
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.
This is an important step in managing the entire inbound process, and will become necessary in December, 2017 when ELD compliance becomes mandatory.
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:
- Order Entry, Adds, Changes, and Deletions
- Replenishment and Product Picking
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 is to validate orders, check for errors or duplications, and handle exceptions immediately.
Up to the point that line items 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.
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:
- Order picking
- Line picking
- Cluster picking
- Batch picking
- Zone picking
- Label-based picking
- Paper-based picking
Packing is arguably the most important logistics services 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.
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 who 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.
With humble beginnings back in 1958, BR Williams has grown into an award-winning supply chain management company servicing all 48 contiguous states and Canada. With facilities in Mobile AL; Piedmont, AL; Tallahassee, FL; Anniston, AL (two facilities); Eastaboga, AL; and Oxford, AL, B.R. Williams’ distribution network supports over 50 customers and another 2,550 in the Trucking and Logistics divisions. Industries served include the following: automotive, defense, home improvement, education, food raw materials, textiles, chemical, industrial packaging, metals (finished goods), highway safety and more.