<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://dc.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=287945&amp;fmt=gif">

Digital Traceability Within Your Warehouse: Extending your WMS

Posted by Samantha Burkart on May 7, 2020 3:46:00 PM

Warehouse worker taking package in the shelf in a large warehouse in a large warehouse

A warehouse, by definition, holds inventory and enterprise workflow software supplements and extends warehouse management software capabilities to create more robust traceability for warehoused assets.  

Warehouse inventory is typically managed through Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) or other systems like Inventory Management Systems.  These systems manage typical processes. For example, when an item is sold, the following process might be executed by a warehouse or inventory management system:

  • Item is located throughout the warehouse using a barcode or another identifier
  • Item is inspected
  • Item is packaged
  • Item is shipped to the buyer

These are important steps, and still there are other important sub-processes that may need to interact with the main process.  For example, when an item from the warehouse is inspected and the item is found defective, then a sub-process manages that defective item differently than if it had been ready to ship.  That sub-process could perform the following functions:

  • Notify manufacturer
  • Update inventory
  • Wait for the replacement part
  • ...or take another item from warehouse for the buyer

These actions are often/usually manually performed and logged, but workflow can be used to orchestrate people and systems to perform these operations and simultaneously create a traceable audit trail.   Workflow helps, too, in the case of an item/order changing location as it is initially located -> inspected -> packaged -> shipped: automated processes updating item location status across various systems (like the WMS) and can simultaneous keeping buyers up-to-date. We can related to this from our experience ordering from Amazon, right?

A modern warehouse today will typically have the following processes in place:

  • Receiving – received from manufacturer at dock
  • Put-Away - move items from receiving dock to warehouse storage location
  • Storage – store items in optimal location within warehouse
  • Picking – pick items from location in warehouse to fulfill order
  • Packing – package item(s) for shipment
  • Shipping – deliver item(s) to the buyer

The above are common in nearly all warehouses and most WMS have functions to manage these common functions.  Where FlowWright and other workflow automation systems provide critical help is in handling exceptions, such as:

  • Managing missing items
  • Item not found
  • Defective items
  • Item security

Digital processes need to not only track location and typical status of items but also to manage the audit trail where exceptions come into play.  For example, a biotechnology company could be making a certain drug that uses many raw and intermediate ingredients.  After final product is tested, quality control finds that the drug is flawed.  Using the data from FlowWright workflow, including steps involving the WMS, it is possible to trace raw ingredients and intermediates that were used and investigate the audit trail and use business intelligence to try to identify issues with elements of the BOM or the process itself.  Final products, intermediates, raw materials, and their handling can all be captured, making CAPA processes easier and repeatable.

Digital traceability beyond what is provided by WMS is important to companies because it reduces operating and compliance risk and results in higher efficiency and throughput.

Are you interested in augmenting your warehouse processes using FlowWright? Let's Talk! 

Start Software Trial