Why is an efficient warehouse workflow so important?
As the company grows, new needs arise. We start with the invoice workflow, because the invoice is the basic document that we process. Then we want to embrace all purchasing processes, so we implement a workflow of demand documents, orders, contracts… Finally comes the reflection – we need somewhere to store the information about the goods we buy and sell. Excel sheets are no longer enough, we need to implement a workflow of warehouse documents.
The implementation of warehouse document workflow processes allows for the orderly management of the warehouse and their linking to other documents – such as a requisition or an acceptance protocol – to present the full purchasing or sales process from the emergence of a purchase need through its implementation to settlement with the requesting person. Thanks to the electronic form, all participants in the process have easier access to the documents. In addition, thanks to the validation of documents in the ESOD system, we minimize the number of errors that can appear in inventory. And this translates directly into the quality of data and the time it takes to verify it.
Types of warehouse documents
In warehouse workflow processes, we usually deal with four documents divided into two categories: incoming documents and outgoing documents.
Incoming documents include the documents External Receipt and Internal Receipt, i.e. documents that cause an increase in inventory. By far the more common case is the use of an External receipt document – this is nothing more than a receipt of goods from a contractor. If the company carries out production and stores its goods in the warehouse, it is the Internal Receipt document that confirms the placement of goods in the warehouse.
A less commonly used document is the Internal Returns (IR) document. This is a special document that we use, for example, in the case of mistakenly taking goods from the warehouse or the quantities of goods taken do not match (too much was taken). It often happens that a PW document with an appropriate annotation is used instead of an IR document.
Outgoing documents – are documents that result in a decrease in inventory. The first is a release of goods for the company’s needs, such as production materials to the production department, and the second is a release to a contractor, such as goods stored in the warehouse.
If you have a larger number of warehouses then you can also enter an Inter-Manifest Transfer document. An Interwarehouse Transfer does not change the company’s global inventory, but only changes the balances on individual warehouses. You use this document when a batch of goods is transferred between warehouses.
How to improve the workflow in the warehouse?
Implementing an electronic workflow system is a good start to streamlining the workflow in the warehouse. Thanks to such systems, we bring order to the document flow – participants in the process know what is happening with their documents, know their status or expected due date.
However, this is just the beginning. The warehouse document workflow is part of a whole group of processes referred to as purchasing or sales processes. If we implement the whole of the processes and appropriately tie them together in a logical path, the synergistic effect will result in a significant improvement in the user experience. Let’s look at a sample process outline:
- The employee submits a requisition for the purchase of materials
- The verifying person can immediately check if the goods are in stock
- If not – from the demand he generates an order or inquiry to the supplier
- The delivery of goods is accompanied by an External Receipt document. Thanks to this, all interested parties know that the materials are already available in the company
- The External Receipt document can be compared with the order or invoice and verify the status of the delivery
- When materials are released, an Internal Receipt document is generated. The requesting employee, as part of the Internal Receipt document workflow, confirms receipt of the ordered materials. The warehouse has confirmation of the correct transfer of the order
- The Internal Receipt document can be compared with the requisition – which finally completes the entire purchasing process.
What fields should a warehouse document contain?
A warehouse document, in general, is no different from other documents processed in Electronic Document Workflow. It should have a custom number, description, date. In addition to these data, data specific to the warehouse document should also appear:
- Warehouse Indication. Keep in mind that the Interwarehouse Transfer requires the indication of two warehouses. If the Eelcreonic Document Workflow system is coupled with a warehouse system, these fields should be configured accordingly so that the stock levels match.
- Date of operation (receipt or release of goods)
- Assortment list with such fields as description of goods, quantity, unit of measure or price. These data, combined with the date of the operation, are necessary for the correct calculation of the value of goods in the warehouse because different lots of goods may have different prices.
- Details of the person transferring and receiving the goods. If warehouse documents are in paper form, these are usually fields to be signed by both parties. In the case of workflow systems, these fields can be calculated automatically based on the steps of the workflow procedure.
Workflow management tools for the warehouse
There is a whole range of tools for managing the workflow of warehouse documents. If we skip the paper workflow and focus on electronic systems, the first thing we need to do is decide what type of system we will choose. We can choose:
- Warehouse handling system. As a rule, it focuses on proper handling of inventory, calculating the value of the warehouse, often has tools for integration with RFID systems or other mechanisms facilitating storage management. Systems of this class have much weaker capabilities when it comes to modeling of document flow processes or integration with other processes (e.g. invoice or order flow).
- Electronic Document Workflow Systems. This class of products focuses on extensive process management, integration of processes into process paths, integration with external systems such as ERP or CAD/CAM/MES.
As you can see, there is no perfect system. For large installations, it is worth considering the implementation of both classes of systems – a warehouse program for the warehouse itself and an Electronic Document Workflow system for the circulation of warehouse documents – and then integrating these systems with each other.
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Graduate of Jagiellonian University in Kraków with a degree in Informatics, Mathematics and Physics Department. In the company, he plays the role of analyst and quality control specialist. Specializes in modeling business processes, designing IT systems, and describing business requirements. Has over 20 years of experience as an IT systems designer and system analyst, has also run a big project for the construction and implementation of IT systems in the finance-accounting area. He is a lecturer at the College of Economics And Computer Science in Cracow, sharing with students his knowledge of workflow system operations, like NAVIGATOR.