RealTime IT News

SAP Fills Gap in Warehouse Supply Chain

SAP has announced several enhancements to its supply chain management (SCM) software to improve warehouse management and is touting a return on the software investement of less than six months.

New to the SAP plate is more a tightly-integrated RFID and cross-docking to process incoming and outgoing goods in the yard.

The new yard management features are a necessary ingredient in the total warehouse management process, said Christoph Lessmoellmann, SAP director of supply chain execution, and take it beyond the "four walls" of the warehouse.

One of the enhancements, using RFID technology, allows incoming goods to be quickly read and processed immediately - no more waiting for the foreman or supervisor to tell the forklift operator where to put the pallet. As the pallet's label is scanned, operators get a print out that tells them they need to put it on the next truck going out, or needs to be repackaged, or stored in the warehouse.

Telling the operator where to put the pallet is part of SAP's cross-docking software, broken into opportunistic and planned cross-docking. Cross-docking is the process of taking goods received and processing them without the intermediate step of storage.

With planned cross-docking the process is already in place and determined months or weeks in advance by the foreman or supervisor. Opportunistic cross-docking software deals with the inevitable trailer that comes in with cargo unannounced.

Both these enhancements, Lessmoellmann said, generate tremendous cost-savings to the company and fit in well with the overall supply chain management plan.

"With it, warehousing changes from being a warehouse to being a distribution center, and the goal of a distribution center is to be empty," he said.

Another SCM improvement for the warehouse in SAP's new software is value-added services, which cover everything done within the warehouse to packaged goods, from labeling to repackaging. These value-added services are also tied in directly with the RFID and cross-docking software.

RFID is part of SAP's goal for its integrated software down the road. Wednesday's announcement included RFID extensions for things like dynamic cycle counting, which lets the warehouse employee take a physical inventory without having to close the storage bin down for the piece count.

"We have done some research on RFID in the supply chain," said Lessmoellman. "Today's announcement shows our commitment to the new technology. The big concern is that (companies) don't know how to integrate RFID into their operations. Next year, we plan on making more announcements on improving RFID technology."