With so many facets to the art and science of logistics, each as important as the other, it is easy to overlook some of the less visible areas of supply chain management. While most scholars and clients are likely to focus on the very visible and easy to track process of freighting or shipping deliveries, little thought is given to those in supply chain management that hold cargo in trust and transit before it is moved for delivery. Thus, though crucial to the delivery process, the intricacies that go into warehousing are often overlooked. Today we ask the question, what exactly does warehousing entail?
The warehousing process beings with receipt of goods. When cargo is delivered to a storage facility, it must be checked for quality and damage, ensuring that whatever goes into storage is in optimum condition. Where there are several units of product to be inspected, sampling is utilized with the representative sample being used to determine the condition of the cargo. Records of the goods are then made, with quantity, quality and other necessary parameters being used to create inventory lists. If products had previously been handled by the facility, pre-existing records are amended to represent the current addition of stock, ensuring proper tracking of goods.
An integral part of warehousing is inventory control. Physical management of inventory entails labeling and carefully arranging new arrivals to the warehouse into their respective categories and positions in the grand scheme of the storage facility. This makes it easier to locate the goods and keep track of their availability levels. It is imperative that warehouse managers be constantly aware of stock levels: each product will usually have an ideal inventory level below which stock should never fall. Logistics technology enables personnel in charge of maintaining stock levels to have software monitoring inventory records and sending an automatic request to replenish falling stock levels.
Cargo delivered to a warehouse will eventually be requested for delivery to a secondary location. When such requests come in, order fulfillment becomes a warehousing priority. This means inventory records need to be altered to reflect the intended reduction in stock. Paperwork such as invoices or stock order forms also need to be filed before goods can be released from the warehouse. Products are then retrieved from their respective locations in the warehouse and packaged. Here, goods are treated differently based on their needs: fragile goods receive heavier padding and more careful packaging, goods of abnormal shape or size are packed in specialized containers and so forth. Cargo is also labelled as needed with details such as location, weight and where need be, labels indicating which side is up or calling for careful handling of fragile goods.
Shipping of requested goods is also a function of warehouses. Here properly packaged and labelled goods are assigned and loaded into vehicles for freighting, with warehouse managers working to optimize delivery routes, such as so as to put most goods headed the same direction in one truck, while still adhering to laws regarding legal vehicle weight and cargo freighting safety. As goods leave the storage facility, warehouse managers track cargo until it reaches its final destination. This is done for the sake of internal records regarding time and date of delivery, condition of goods at delivery and so forth, as well as to have information to keep clients updated on the status of their orders.
Though seemingly simple, the effort that goes into ensuring your package is neither lost nor damaged while not in transit is composed of interconnected functions that come together in a harmonious facet of the logistics process. In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, we recognize the effort and skill put into properly managing warehouses. To the men and women tasked with caring for our cargo in between stages of delivery: we salute you.