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MANAGING MULTIPLE CLIENT WORKFLOWS

Reliably delivering on unique process and requirements for each client

Managing a varied mix of critical storage requirements, diverse product lines, and discrete packaging, scheduling and shipping demands in an efficient and timely manner that both advances customers’ individual objectives and assures profitable warehouse operations.

The most important benefit delivered by a multiple-client public warehouse or third-party (3PL) logistics operator is a means for production and distribution companies to offload costly and complex logistics functions, thus freeing up valuable resources to focus on the core business. To 3PL operators that assume these responsibilities, the fundamental challenge is to create and manage an operational matrix that can serve the goals and interests of many customers simultaneously. Typically these customers present a mix of often critical storage requirements, diverse product lines, and discrete packaging, scheduling and shipping demands. The 3PL operator must manage this mélange of requirements in an efficient and timely manner that both advances customers’ individual objectives and assures profitable warehouse operations.

While single mission warehouse operations can economize by hardening various functions that follow essentially predictable product and demand patterns, third party logistics operators have no such luxury. The variability and individuality in the types and levels of storage and fulfillment that each customer requires implies a high level of flexibility, precluding the use of much of the automated equipment and streamlined processes available to single client operations.

 

MULTIPLE CLIENT REQUIREMENTS

To manage the matrix of concurrent activities that take place within a successful 3PL warehouse, 3PL management software solutions incorporate powerful tools for analysis, planning, and contemporaneous information gathering and reporting. Key management tools and capabilities for managing and controlling the processes include:

  • Configurable workflow
  • Alert and notification management
  • Key Performance Indicators ( KPIs)
  • Issue management and tracking
  • Client-centric allocation and flow
  • Inventory entity management

Each of these elements is described briefly below, with examples of how AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL software provides power and efficiency to its users.

 

CONFIGURABLE WORKFLOW

Workflow management procedures are designed to control the flow of goods within the entire supply chain life cycle. Product can be managed by shipper, customer and consignee and can be assigned business rules for B2B communications with partners as well as specific business and operational rules required by shippers, customers, consignees and other interested parties.

The workflow process is comprised of a series of managed steps from the receipt and storage of goods to their recovery and shipping. In a 3PL situation, the challenge is to perform each function in the individualized manner that observes the specific needs of each customer, simultaneously and side-by-side with the activities of other customers, all from a single management software platform. The 3PL management software must be able to configure the workflow of each customer independently of all others, whatever level of specificity is required, even to the level of individual units.

AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL software achieves this through use of a workflow configuration profile that can be set at several levels: the customer and inventory owner level; the vendor and shipper level; or the ship-to level. Once the parameters are set, the system makes sure that each step is performed in order. It also accommodates special handling requirements, confirms order fulfillment specifics and captures revision data relating to inbound, inventoried or outbound orders and incorporates it into the workflow process.

The workflow configuration profile includes the ability to establish the following mechanisms, among others:

  • Identify the steps
  • Capture additional information
  • Time stamp work accomplished
  • Capture revenue associated with the service provided
  • Generate confirmations
  • Generate critical alerts

 

ALERT AND NOTIFICATION MANAGEMENT

Customer management and their business partners, as well as warehouse management, need to track key data factors in order to optimize operations and accommodate dynamically occurring changes.

Examples include problems and exceptions (e.g. late shipments that might disrupt production schedules); confirmation of supply chain events (big order shipped on time); analytic events, such as production slowdowns or dropping perfect order percentage; and proactive notification of technical problems or issues. These alerts vary by customer and should be user-definable and communicated via prioritized delivery mechanisms.

AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL provides a central control panel called Active Desktop that enables users to establish alert and notification parameters, even on the fly, and to monitor them in real time. Early detection of deviations from these parameters allows customers to adjust their processes and compensate accordingly. Alerts notifications can also be dispatched to email addresses, smart phones and other mobile devices.

 

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the measurements that 3PL operators set up with their customers in order to (1) establish the standards to be met in receiving, storing, in-house management and processing, retrieval and shipping of goods and (2) evaluate levels of service in terms of these standards, by individual customer.

KPIs can range from the “perfect order” -- one that is delivered complete, on time and accurate -- to others that measure a variety of operational specifics, among them order entry accuracy, warehouse pick accuracy, on-time delivery, damage ratio, dock-to-stock time, units per-hour, product availability, inventory discrepancies, product availability and not least profit by customer.

 

ISSUE MANAGEMENT AND TRACKING

Often warehouses are called upon to provide “free-form” services – jobs that lie outside the normal activities performed for a specific customer. These might include value-added services such as light manufacturing, kitting, repackaging; specialized labeling; price labeling and so on.

AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL provides a mechanism for setting up these requirements in the software under a variety of common variables such as the definition of the job, date established, timetable, project assignment, and positioning in the overall process. When a job is triggered, the software tracks its progress through completion – tracking time, recording the interim details and outcome – and issues the necessary supporting documentation – all while capturing the man-hours involved in successfully executing the required processes.

 

CLIENT-CENTRIC ALLOCATION AND FLOW

Allocation control monitors demand by means of sales orders against specific items in inventory. Standard allocation procedures for order parsing can be applied within single or multiple facilities and can also include user defined rules. The 3PL system should include standard procedures for each customer or shipper, by product.

For example, one technique is to apply attributes to the various items being stored, for example tracking merchandise by SKU codes. Well-designed 3PL solutions enable the use of a single SKU code multiple times simply by applying customer code prefixes to commonly used SKU codes. This concept can be applied from small lots to large stacks and bulk items and which can also eliminate the need for such things as specific pallet addresses.

AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL allows users to create their own lists of routine events in the supply chain cycle and record anomalies experienced in the cycle in order to make the necessary adjustments.

 

INVENTORY ENTITY (IDENTIFICATION) MANAGEMENT

Inventory identification management enables collaboration with ERP inventory systems and warehouse management systems at a level of detail suitable for each. These systems normally supplement each other: ERP systems are not designed for WMS activities and WMS are not oriented toward the primary ERP mission. Rather, the Inventory Entity Management system provides a bridge between the two at a global enterprise network level.

User-defined inventory definitions and hierarchies by customer enable users to configure business logic against a specific identifier and level. Elements might include putaway rules, picking, replenishment, cycle count, physical inventory, billing and reporting.

For example; identifying and configuring for customer A to track their product by Pallet, Lot and Product whereas customer B tracks by Style, Size and Color. Each customer can have its own naming convention, hierarchy and rules associated to its own identifier and level. These features enable 3PL operators to map customers’ standard operating procedures and actually allow them to function as an extension of their customers’ businesses. Among the benefits: when customers view their inventory via the web, they see it in their own language and descriptive terms and when they receive an invoice, it is summarized at the appropriate level according to their requirements.

 

CONCLUSION: A COMPLEX BUT ORDERLY ENVIRONMENT

The ability to manage the supply chain requirements of multiple customers sets 3PL logistics operations apart from conventional warehousing, whether public or private. The challenge is to create an orderly environment in which the requirements of each customer are fulfilled expeditiously and securely, often in the course of multiple touches between the inbound and outbound doors. AccellosOne Enterprise 3PL logistics management systems have been developed from the ground up to address the specific challenges of multiple client operations.