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The next step to an agile organization

The next step to an agile organization

Change is always around the corner, especially in the logistics industry. As a logistic service provider, you cannot keep doing what you have always done. Like explained in my previous blog, it is important for an organization to be agile and to be able to deal with change. As a result of the corona crisis, this is more important than ever. Before, disruptive changes needed a run-up, but the coronavirus has turned the tables and forced you to make instant and extensive changes quickly. Being an IT minded organization helps you to be agile, to anticipate on these changes, and to improve the service to your customers. However, that’s not all. Besides being an IT minded organization, the choices you make affect how agile your organization is and how you can deal with the change forced upon you this period. So, time for action.
Making choices
Being an IT minded organization often brings you advantage over your 3PL competitors. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that you have an agile organization, nor that you are capable to bring your service and performance to the next level. You must also make the right decisions on what software to use, which partners to cooperate with, and which processes to optimize in your business. With all these choices, you must ask yourself: does it make my organization more agile? Does it provide a better service to my customers? And does it improve the performance of my organization?
A matching software solution
It starts with your software. To become an agile organization, the software you use must be agile as well. It must grow with new innovations. This means that your solution must be set up in such a way that adjustments can be made quickly. Preferably by people within your own organization. However, not in the way that actual programming is needed. That would only make the solution unmaintainable. Furthermore, this would increase your dependence on programmers or suppliers while you try to become more flexible. For that reason, so-called ‘low-code’ and ‘no-code’ solutions were founded, with which companies can realize solutions for processes in their organization, independently. Most of these low-code and no-code solutions are generic and widely applicable. The downside is that there are a lot of possibilities, but in the basis there is nothing. You’ll have to start from scratch. In my experience, a lot of companies struggle to realize the solution. People lose themselves in nice-to-haves and suboptimal solutions which hinder them from going live. That is the reason why it is important to choose a matching solution for the branch you are active in. In that way, you don’t have to decide on obvious matters, because this has already been done by others.  
An agile solution
With that in mind, we choose in 2010 to set up our solution in a similar way. Whatever the name of the solution, in the end, it is important that company processes can be shaped easily to your specific wish as is relevant at that moment. Furthermore, it must be possible to make adjustments with minimal effort or dependence on third parties. All without involving developers or developing customized software.
Integrated communication brings you in front
Furthermore, your software must be able to communicate with other systems. Nowadays, we see more and more integrated systems or even fully integrated supply chain networks. Because of the growing role of information, you as an organization must be capable to compete on this level. In short, the better you can communicate with other systems, the further you’re in the lead.
Role of information
The ‘openness of systems’ is also important to gain insights into the performance of your organization and to provide your customers with information when requested. Or even better: to surprise them with relevant data which they haven’t asked for yet. When we look at the predicted role of data in the future, for example, with machine learning  and artificial intelligence, we can again clearly see the importance of technology and data.
Who do you work with?
Choosing what parties to get in bed with is also of great importance. As stated in my previous blog: the time of doing everything on your own is over. You’ll have to make decisions in what you do yourself and what you hand over to other parties. This relates to the choice of a matching software solution. What do you outsource? And what do you handle yourself? Depending on what type of business you are working in, you may choose to integrate your systems with EDI, optimize your processes in your company yourself, or manage relevant information of your company with BI tools.
Grow in your own organization
When you have found the right software partner, you aren’t there yet. Your software may be hypermodern, but when you do not optimize your processes continuously to the changing circumstances, you won’t reach a higher execution. To illustrate: you may have the newest laptop, but when you only use it as a calculator an abacus would have done. You must keep optimizing your processes. That is a continuous process as well.
Focus within your organization
You are IT minded, your software solution is the right match and you have invested in processes that bring your organization to a higher level. Very good! However, there is still an important choice to be made: focus. As a logistics service provider, or any organization for that matter, it is almost impossible to be active on all fronts. Therefore, focus is crucial. You can excel in one specific thing, instead of aiming for a lot of things a little. Again, making choices is of great importance. When doing so, the biggest traps are the choices you make daily. These decisions are often made by employees that do not see the bigger picture, and therefore cannot correctly consider what is or isn’t important. Again, focus and limitations are the basis of success. Johan Cruijff ones said ‘to play soccer well, you need good soccer players. But a good soccer player almost always has a lack of efficiency. He always wants to do it better than strictly necessary’.
Aim for what is strictly necessary
This is also the way Boltrics does its implementations: a clear focus on the goal, which is successfully going live on the planned date. To do so, our consultants focus from the start of the project on matters that are minimally necessary to successfully support the primary processes. By covering that as quickly as possible, there is plenty of time left to focus on the nice-to-haves and the finishing touch in the same period.
Focus on the essence
Strive for growth and change, but focus on cases that add value. Ask yourself: does this adjustment make my organization more agile, or am I digging a hole for myself? Or, does this increase the performance of my organization, so that I can do more with fewer people, quicker and more efficient? In other words, change is necessary, and choices must be made. It is up to you to make the right choices. Good luck!

To stand still is to regress; dare to change

To stand still is to regress; dare to change

Whether it’s a major income decrease or a growth in business that you can barely live up to, the corona crisis has caused drastic changes in the entire logistics branch. However, change itself is nothing new. Growing competition, a higher demand for information from your customers, new technologies; change is, whether we like it or not, a continuous process. Most of these changes we have seen coming from afar. Even disruptive developments by international players as Amazon, Uber and Tesla – which can flip the entire market at once with the help of new technologies and concepts – can already be foreseen long before they happen. Yet, no one could have foreseen the forced changes as a result of the corona crisis. No slow or predictable innovations, but instant and extensive developments in which you as a logistics service provider must find your way. Whether you like it or not. For example, recently I talked to a logistics service provider who is, among other things, active in the mink business. I’m sure I do not have to explain his perspective, considering the corona infections in his field. Another logistics service provider provides transportation to southern European countries. The impact of corona on his business? An 80% decrease in volume. Furthermore, the ocean freight business has sunk to the bottom, while prices for air transportation go sky high. Whether in a positive or negative context, these developments force you to act. You are forced to be quick on your feet as an organization. Only then, you can stay in business and prevent your organization from losing sight of the peloton. Therefore, you need to be agile. Becoming an agile organization as a logistics service provider One of the most important questions is; how to deal with changes? This is important now, but also 10 years ago. For that reason, our philosophy starts and ends with this and our promises are based on how to coop with changes. In 2010, we asked ourselves; in what way can we be of value by providing logistics service providers a solution that can handle change. A solution that can grow along with new technologies and can make our customers IT driven and agile organizations. Change is necessary, now more than ever To be able to change continuously, or in other words, to be an agile organization, multiple things are important. Now more than ever. IT as the standard mindset for logistics Tech Intensity is a term used by Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, to express the importance of IT for companies in a digital world. In short: for organizations, it becomes more and more important to be IT-minded. Most companies understand that IT is a necessary condition to run your business. Doing your job offline and without any other parties hasn’t been possible for quite some time now. Nevertheless, I regularly bump into organizations that see it as a necessary evil. Some say it out loud, others just think it. When this is the case, you will only change when you have to, in other words reactive. Chances are that with the speed change finds us these days, there comes a moment you will be too late. A moment you will find yourself in the back of the peloton and can’t keep up the pace. That is why you as a logistics service provider must become more IT-minded. That there are people in your organization, who have affinity with IT and continuously search for ways to use IT to optimize your processes. Meet your customers’ wishes When you do that, you will lay the basis to deal with forced changes, you can meet the wishes of your (new) customers in a better way and you can make your company more efficient. The result? An agile organization that can anticipate change, improves its services to customers, and experience an increased profit. The next step Having the right mindset is a great start, but it is not all. The next step is to act accordingly and to do so you need to make the right decisions. Do you want to learn what choices I’m talking about? In the following Blog Post, I will share what choices influence how agile your organization is and how you can deal with forced changes in the aftermath of the corona crisis. This post was written by one of our collaborators, Jan-Cornell Van Ekris. Founder of Boltrics and 3PL Dynamics.

Prevent Financial consequences by declaring transit documents too late

Prevent Financial consequences by declaring transit documents too late

The international trade is slowly gaining strength again. In the last couple of months, it has been nothing but surviving for your company. However, now, it seems there is a glimmer of light on the horizon: foreign productions have started up again, the number of orders is rising and the prices in airfreight are going back to normal. Time for you to set your house in order and to focus on the future again. However, how do you make sure that you will not face any more, unnecessary, financial setbacks? Use cues to prevent extra costs or fines as a result of customs documents you have declared too late. Never miss a deadline again When working with transit documents, it is of great importance that the correct actions are taken on time. Only then, you can prevent financial consequences like extra costs or fines. Insights into the documents that you’ve made or received are of great value. With the help of cues in your role center – and combining the new time functions with the declaration status – you can directly see on your role center what actions need to be done. For example, you immediately have a clear overview of the number of transit arrival documents (NL044) or a transit departure documents with the status NL029. Cues in your role center What tiles you show in your role center, and therefore what information you want to display, is completely up to you. In the example underneath, we will dive deeper into the cues for transit arrival documents and transit departure documents. Cues that you can use in your role center can be found in the image below. The image shows the following tiles: Tr. Arrival 24-48H: documents with the declaration status NL043, of which the arrival notification date is between 24 hours and 48 hours ago. Tr. Arrival >48H: documents with the declaration status NL043, of which the arrival notification date is more than 48 hours ago. Because an NL044 status needs to be sent in less than 72 hours, actions in this tile need to be handled quickly. Tr. Departure >4D: documents with the declaration status NL029, of which the date of acceptance is more than four days ago. Take actions directly When you use these cues, you can directly see which actions need your attention. Furthermore, you can click on the tiles, after which you can complete the activity right away. For example, you can click on the tile ‘Tr. Arrival >48H’, select the desired action, and send an NL044 status in less than a minute. Setup your cues With the use of cues, you gain direct insight into your departure and arrival documents in your role center, but how do you set these up? 1. Select your cues First of all, you have to choose what cues you want to display in your role center. To do so, you go to ‘WMS Processor Activity Setup’. In this example, we have chosen for cue two, three and seven. Preferably, you must set up cues that are not in use yet. If there are no tiles available, then you can use a specific user-id or profile-id to set up cues specifically for that user or profile. Furthermore, you can choose the label of the tile yourself. 2. Request the correct information To use the right information in your cues, you must link the cues to the correct table and page. To refer to the correct table with transit documents you fill in ‘11154859’ as table number and ‘11191380’/’11191381’ as page id. Now you have set up the cue with the correct lists out of which the information is drawn. To display specific data on your tiles, you must create a filter for relevant documents. 3. Filter your data To set a filter, you go to ‘Process’ > ‘Filter lines’. This opens a new tab. In order to filter, two fields are important: the ‘Declaration status’ and the ‘Arrival Notification Date’ (or ‘date of acceptance’, depending on departure or arrival documents). These fields are filled in under ‘field name’ (1). Then, you distinguish the type of filter (2) and the value of the filter (3). For the field ‘Declaration Status’, the value of the filter is a fixed value. In this case ‘NL043’ (4). When filling in the value for the field ‘Arrival Notification Date’, you use a date/time function as value. The recently developed time functions that you use here, are specifically designed to use filters over a short period of time. For example, over only 48 hours, like in this example. Your filter, always up-to-date As can be seen in the description of the filters in the image above, the filter is applied to the present time of your system. From this time, the function calculates the number of hours before that. When you refresh your role center, the time is refreshed as well. Therefore, your overview contains the most recent information. Give strength to your cues When you have set up all your cues to your preference, you can also choose to color tiles when they fall into a certain filter. For example, you can color a tile red when more than one action is open in the cue. This has also been applied in the first image of this blog. To add colors to your tiles, you can follow these steps: Go to ‘Cue setup’ Fill in the name of the cue Determine the color of the tile, when it has a certain value Determine the threshold for coloring the tile. When you want to color the tile directly when an action is open, you choose a threshold of 1,00. Set up cues in your own 3PL Dynamics environment Do you want to start working with cues for your customs activities? Or do you want to learn more about the possibilities for other customs declarations? Mail to info@solutionspl.ca, we are glad to help. This article was written in collaboration with Tamara Shoeman from our partner Boltrics

How to deal with the consequences of the corona epidemic

How to deal with the consequences of the corona epidemic

Obviously, a lot has changed over the last couple of months. Instead of bringing lunch to work, you eat at your own kitchen table. Your car is not going anywhere besides a trip to the supermarket. You are unable to visit customers and Microsoft Teams is your primary connection to the outside world. A lot has changed, that’s for sure. So, how do you cope with these changes? How do you handle the uncertainties the corona crisis will bring? And what does this mean for your software solution in your logistics operations? No time to do nothing Plans, goals, targets, almost every single one of them can be thrown out the window. The only questions you ask yourself as a logistic service provider are: how do I survive this? And will my company still exist a year from now. However, doing nothing isn’t an option. That will only make the worldwide crisis worse. The logistics sector has never done nothing. It is continuously moving. It is action. The peloton I would like to refer to my favorite metaphor: the peloton. Although there are no courses ridden at the moment, you can imagine the sight. The peloton rides with high speed through the narrow streets, completely widened to benefit from the rear wind. That is exactly the situation we have been in the last years. The logistic sector maximally benefitted from rear wind. Everything moved forward quickly and your volumes grew over the years. Headwind Now, the road has taken a turn. The peloton is facing headwind. Everything seems to go south. And what will you do? Will you stop moving? Will you abandon the race? Of course not! You protect yourself from the wind in the peloton. The perfect place for all cyclists to hide from the difficult headwind. Logically, no one wants to be in front, nor in the back of the peloton. However, the real danger is not in front of the peloton. The danger is to end up in the back. When you cannot stay in the wheel of the cyclist in front of you, you cannot hide from the wind anymore. While battling the headwind alone, you will lose the peloton out of sight, not being able to keep up and return in it again. Look ahead Therefore, keeping up is extremely important. Survive. Look ahead. Focus on the next turn. Focus on the moment when the headwind will change to a side wind or – even better – backwind. Try to enjoy this time. While not only the peloton but the entire economy is moving slower, you have the opportunity to look around, take a step back and see what is really important for your business. Obviously, innovation stays important. However, the time of everything flying by at maximum speed is over. Instead, you can focus on the present. This is the time to build a solid foundation for the future. The Boltrics peloton moves forward So, what does this mean for Boltrics’ software? For example, do you have to switch to the newest version? Microsoft makes beautiful innovations. Most of these innovations have already been announced long before the corona epidemic. The speed in which the innovations are implemented will be slower than the years before. However, Boltrics, as well as Microsoft, does move forward. A new update is around the corner. This update is not to be feared though. The latest version of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central offers the possibilities to not only survive the crisis, but to come out stronger. Possibilities like the new web user interface, which is better than you have seen before. So, make sure you keep up. Hide in the center of the peloton, if not stay in front, but make sure you do not lose the wheel. Keeping up with headwind Facing the headwind, we still develop our software, so you are ensured of an up-to-date software solution. However, the speed of updating all our customers will be reduced. This offers you the possibility to keep up the pace, comfortably. Going back to the metaphor: find the right cadence. Make sure you find stability in your frequency and heartbeat. In other words, don’t drop your work, but find stability in it: focus on profitable customers, serve them convincingly and adjust when necessary. Go back to the basis of your business, stay in the wheel and the wind will turn before you know it. This article was written by Jan Bolks from our partner Boltrics.

Microsoft Azure for Third Party Logistics

Microsoft Azure for Third Party Logistics

Over the last years, we have depended more and more on devices in our lives. We would be unable to do our jobs without our laptops, and we’d lose our minds when we are unable to use our mobile phone for a couple of days. Therefore, we do everything we can to make sure we don’t have to miss these devices. We update our mobile phone regularly, we make sure our data is saved in the cloud, and we only want the safest servers that manage our software. Sounds smart, but do you do the same for the software that supports your logistic processes? Increase your security and flexibility with Software as a Service (SaaS). What are the benefits of SaaS? And what possibilities do you have with this solution as a logistics service provider? Say no to the burdens and yes to the benefits Since the update from Dynamics NAV to the more flexible Dynamics 365 Business Central, the functionalities you are used to are also offered in SaaS. As the name already foreshadows, you use the software as a service. In this way, you do not have to manage the software yourself. The same goes, for example, for Office 365. When using Office 365, you use your programs online without managing it yourself. Reliable, flexible, and always available. Safely manage your data First of all, is your data better protected in the cloud than on your local on-premise environment? Definitely! Microsoft uses the latest technologies, firewalls, antivirus software, and other security tools. Also, Microsoft’s data centers are heavily secured. “How safe is my data in the cloud?” A question we regularly hear when talking about our cloud solution. Does it make you feel uncomfortable to store your most valuable business data “somewhere” in the cloud? Then we can reassure you: Microsoft’s Azure cloud storage guarantees the security of your data. Even much better than you and I could do ourselves. In a video of 2 minutes, Microsoft shows how they do that. When you choose for Software as a Service, the management of your Business Central is completely done by a Microsoft, instead of in a Boltrics environment in Microsoft Azure. Boltrics does stay your first contact. Therefore, when there is an error in your system, you can still escalate it to us. Because of the short lines we have with Microsoft, we can quickly resolve any problems. Boltrics also stays responsible for developing the solution and all functionalities we have added together with our 160 customers. Software that grows with you Besides outsourcing the data management, the SaaS solution also makes it possible to update your system more frequently and with less nuisance. This makes it possible for your solution to automatically evolve to the newest version with all the new functionalities we have added for other customers. Besides that, you can simply increase or decrease the number of users per month. For example, because of seasonal work or the corona crisis. Now you can easily scale down your users and pay less that month. It only takes one mail to scale up your users again. In this way, you are flexible and ready to grow. Access your software where and whenever you want By choosing SaaS, the complete functionality of your solution is available online. Therefore, you can use it on any device that has an internet connection. In this way, you can approve your invoices while on the road or simply check the order status from home. Switch to SaaS Are you already a Microsoft user? And do you want to switch from your on-premise or IaaS solution to SaaS? That is possible! As we speak, we work hard to realize a test environment for our customers in the Microsoft SaaS environment. After you have tested your processes thoroughly, you can go live with the renewed solution. Furthermore, Microsoft offers the opportunity to switch your on-premise license, for which you pay annually, to a SaaS license for which you pay monthly. Without needing an extra investment. Are you unsatisfied with the SaaS solution, then it is possible to switch back to your on-premise environment too. All to optimize your flexibility! Do you want to learn more about Boltrics’ SaaS solution? Or do you want to learn how you can switch to the new environment? Mail to info@solutionspl.ca. We are glad to help you. This article was written in collaboration with our partner Boltrics with Mike Oerlemans

Get insights into your inventory in a blink of an eye

Get insights into your inventory in a blink of an eye

Get insights into your inventory in a blink of an eye
In the last couple of months, the demand, turnover rate, and popularity of goods in your warehouse have been completely twisted. Home sports articles, food, and DIY tools golike hotcakes while other products may stay in your warehouse a lot longer. Your inventory management is tested to its limits. That and the fact that keeping up your inventory is already difficult enough, does not make your job any easier. How can you minimize the delay caused by inventory shortage? And how do you keep your customers satisfied? Our new functionality in 3PL Dynamics can help you. Easily analyze your orders One of your employees tries to clear a batch of orders. However, some orders are directly followed by an error. Though you may have organized your inventory management to perfection and keep your inventory up to date continuously, the situation isn’t unimaginable. With the new functionality, you can efficiently make an inventory analysis and see what causes the error. The cause of the error You open an order and start the analysis. When doing so, you’ll directly find what line is causing the error and, more importantly, why this line is causing the error. Besides the possibility that there is a storage shortage, the error can have many other possible origins. For example, the error can occur because the selection criteria do not match, the status of the batch is inadequate or the articles haven’t been booked in your warehouse yet. So, plenty of possible causes. Execute the inventory analysis To find the cause of the error in a blink of an eye, you use the functionality inventory analysis. You can do this for both outbound and VAL documents. Furthermore, you can execute the analysis on a document line or the entire order.
Analyze per order (h3)
To execute the analysis on an order, you have to follow the following steps: Select the order that you want to analyze Go to ‘Actions’ at the top of your screen Select ‘Analysis’ Click on ‘Inventory Shortage’. In this example, when looking at the ‘shortage analysis’, you can find that two lines have no articles in the inventory. This triggers the error in the order. Analyze per line When you want to execute the analysis per document line, you have selected the order already. Then, you select the line that you want to analyze (1) and you click on ‘Inventory Shortage’ (2). In this way, you get the same results from the analysis. Analyze the inventory yourself Do you want to learn more about the use of this new functionality? Or do you want to learn how to complete orders with insufficient goods in your warehouse? Mail to info@solutionspl.ca and discover the possibilities. This blog post was written by Cleo Boessenkool in collaboration with Boltrics

Optimize your reach truck activities with X-Y Coordinates

Optimize your reach truck activities with X-Y Coordinates

As a logistic service provider, you would want to use your forklifts as efficiently as possible. You want to minimize the “empty” meters, without losing track of the priorities of the different activities. However, the more activities and forklifts are active in your warehouse, the more difficult it will be for your employees to manually determine the right activity for the forklifts. What can you do to still assign the best possible activity to your lifts? The module WMS Advanced X-Y Coordinates helps you with that. The module makes realtime calculations to determine what activity can best be executed by the reach truck, based on the current location, the distance to all open activities, and the activity date/time. In 3PL Dynamics, you can use the Activity Manager to choose what the ratio between the execution date and the distance must be. The activity is then assigned to a reach truck until this activity is completed. After that, a new activity is calculated, based on the new location. By using this module, you make sure your forklifts are put to practice as efficient as possible. In this blog, consultant Jan-Dirk explains in what way the module WMS Advanced X-Y Coordinates can be of value to your warehouse processes, in what way you use the module, and how to set it up. Do you want to learn more about a specific topic of working with X-Y coordinates? Here are the different topics being covered in this article How do you determine distances to open activities? Determine the activity date and time The Activity Manager and calculating the score per activity Setting up parameters Set up the Activity Manager Apply WMS Advanced X-Y Coordinates to your scanners How do you determine distances to open activities? When working with X-Y coordinates, the distance between different locations is a central element of the calculations. To determine the best next activity, and to assign this as efficient as possible, the distance is calculated between locations of open activities on forehand. To be able to calculate the distance per activity, you must capture the following master data in 3PL Dynamics. Step 1: Locations First, you must capture what ground location is linked to what location in the location table. This makes sure not all unique locations need a separate X-Y coordinate, but the ground location is automatically linked to locations above it. Furthermore, it is important to capture the width of the location. Step 2: Nodes Next, you must capture the nodes. A node is a place in the warehouse with a unique X-Y coordinate. The nodes are connected through paths. What are paths? A path is a connection between two nodes. A path may consist of a direct connection between nodes or a connection including different locations along the way. For example, in the image underneath you can see that the nodes KNP1 – KNP2 and the nodes KNP3 – KNP4 are connected to each other. These paths do not include any locations. The path between KNP1 and KNP3 does include locations between the nodes. When paths do have locations along with them, these locations can be assigned to the paths on a specific order. Furthermore, you can include the side on which the locations can be found on the path (left or right). When the (ground)locations are assigned, X-Y coordinates are calculated, based on the location width and the order in the path. Furthermore, the distance per location to the two nodes is calculated. An example of a path between two nodes can be seen in the image below. Step 3: Route matrix Next, you must define the so-called route matrix. The Route Matrix consists of the shortest route between nodes in the database. When you have identified all nodes and paths you can start the calculation. At that moment the route matrix is automatically filled. This is the base of calculating the distance between the current location and the location of an open activity. In the image below, you can find an example of the Route Matrix. Determine the activity date and time Besides the distance, activity date and time are important factors during the calculation of the optimal route for your forklifts. To determine the time of execution for open activities, the module WMS Advanced X-Y Coordinates uses the field activity date/time. This field can be filled in two different ways. When assigning a putaway activity or a replenishment activity, the activity date/time is filled with the date/time on which the activity is originally made. When assigning a DIRECTSHIP the activity date/time is filled with the date/time on which the outbound is expected or planned. It is also possible to link the planned arrival date/time to the module WMS Advanced X-Y Coordinates. The underlying outbound is then automatically filled with this value. To determine the activity date/time, a specific set up is not needed. The fields are automatically filled when the activity is created or when a link has been made to other functionalities in your WMS. However, because of the importance of activity date/time, you must make sure the fields involved in this calculation are filled according to one of the two earlier mentioned options. The Activity Manager and calculating the score per activity It is possible to apply a weighting factor of the components, distance and time, in your calculations. This can be done by using the Activity Manager. The score per activity is then calculated based on the formula underneath. The activity with the lowest score is always assigned first. FORMULA: BASIS SCORE -/- TIME SCORE + DISTANCE SCORE Setting up parameters To use the formula above, the Activity Manager distinguishes five different parameters. These parameters make sure the variables in the formula contain the correct information. 1. Base score The base score is the starting value of the specific activity. The starting value determines what activity gets the highest priority when the following is all true: All distances are equal The activity date is equal for all activities The activity date is equal to the current date/time. A recently created putaway activity normally gets less priority. While a directship activity must executed as soon as possible. Therefore, the putaway activity is assigned a higher base score. 2. Decay (min) This is the factor to which every minute must be taken in to account, using the time since the activity date/time. 3. Expiration (min) This is the factor to which every minute must be taken in to account, using the time until the activity date/time. By using the factor time, you can capture the weighting of the time in comparison to the distance. 4. Time factor The time factor is related to the unit of the factor distance. The time is always determined based on the number of minutes. 5. Distance factor The distance factor is the multiplication factor of the distance to the open activity. This factor is related to the factor time. Within 3PL Dynamics, distances can be captured in any unit. Normally, this is done in centimeters. However, you can also choose to capture the distance in meters or even in kilometers. When you work with the unit centimeters, the distance will get a much higher score than when you would work in meters. Therefore, the smaller the unit for distance, the bigger the factor distance must be. In this way, you can maintain the right balance between distance and time. FORMULA: BASIS SCORE -/- TIME SCORE + DISTANCE SCORE

When you have set up all parameters, the formula above is completed using the following formulas:

TIME SCORE =   ((number of minutes between current date/time and activity date/time x expiration) -/- (number of minutes from activity date/time to current date/time x decay)) x time factor

DISTANCE SCORE = (distance between current location and activity location) x distance factor Set up the Activity Manager When the parameters have been set up you can start working with the Activity Manager. This functionality determines the next activity of the forklifts automatically, based on the parameters and the master data discussed earlier. In the image below you see an example of the Activity Manager set up. It is possible to capture different rules to the Activity Manager. These rules can be active on different times of the day. As an example, the planning in the image below shows that Activity Manager ‘EDE 0-12’ is active from Monday to Sunday, from 12 pm until 12 am. On Monday to Sunday, from 12 am until 12 pm, the Activity Manager ‘EDE 12-0’ is active. In this example, it is possible to set the priorities differently per part of the day. 3PL Dynamics automatically uses the correct calculation to determine the next activity of your forklifts, based on the current date/time. As can be seen in the image below, when you open the schedule, the Activity Manager that is active is bold. Apply WMS Advanced X-Y Coordinates to your scanners Working with X-Y coordinates and the Activity Manager can directly be linked to the scanners used in your warehouse. Therefore, when you are going to use the module, the scan module in 3PL Dynamics is required. In this way, these can be directly linked to assign the most efficient activities for your forklifts. At the beginning of the process, the employee scans his current location to share his whereabouts with the system. Based on his current location, the next activity is assigned. Every scan process results in scanning the location on the carrier. Executing a putaway activity, the location where the carrier is stored is scanned. With a replenishment activity, the location of the new storage location is scanned. And when executing a directship activity, the dock location is scanned. Based on the scanned location, the next activity is calculated and assigned. This continues until all open activities are executed. When you start to use X-Y coordinates, the consultant will prepare your scan screens. Together, you complete a successful implementation in your warehouse processes. The module WMS Advanced X/Y Coordinates Do you want to use your forklifts as efficienty as possible? Or are you thinking about implementing WMS Advanced X-Y Coordinates? Mail to info@solutionspl.ca. Together with our consultant, you will then see what set up and implementation fits your warehouse activities.

Picking orders more efficiently? Stop planning, start assigning

How much time do you usually spent on planning and combining different orders? Do you or your colleagues often lose track of the orders? You are not the only one. Especially when you focus on a lot of small orders, it is difficult not to lose control. But don’t worry. The solution is closer than you might think. In this fourth blog from the e-fulfilment series, we take a closer look at how you can make your process more efficient when you are assigning an orderpick. How does assigning orders work? In the orderpick process, the planning of the orders is usually extremely time-consuming and the planning department is fully occupied doing it. Contrary to the usual methods, in which planning is leading, with orderpick assignment the order pickers decide themselves when they start a new orderpick task. When the warehouse employees are signing in, he or she automatically asks for new assignments. Next, the best set of orders is assigned and the order picking can start. How to define the best set of orders The (set of) orders assigned to the order picker, can be designed and optimized by the key-users themselves. When doing so, the key-user can, for example, keep the inventory in mind, as well as the maximum capacity per set (wave). What opportunities are there when optimizing the best set of orders? Direct assignment As the name says already, direct assignment assigns an order directly to the order picker. In the assignment, different things are taken into consideration. For example, the inventory is automatically checked. When the inventory is adequate and does not cause any bumps in the process, orders can be assigned until the maximum capacity of the wagon used is reached. The maximum capacity can also be optimized by the key-user based on maximum weight per wave or the amount of big/small orders that fit on a wagon. When the set is complete, the assigned documents are cleared and the picking can start. An extra round? Definitely not Besides the capacity, assigning orders makes it possible to assign orders to an employee per zone. In this way orders can be picked from the same part of the warehouse, preventing the order picker from needing long routes through the entire warehouse in just one wave. Taking the routes of the order picker in mind, the time of a wave is drastically reduced. Ordered today, delivered tomorrow Furthermore, assigning orderpick makes it possible to prioritize the orders. This can be done by implementing a time-gap. This function uses the planned end date of an order to prioritize them without conflicting with normal pick orders. The priority orders are sent earlier and therefore picked earlier too. Successful e-fulfilment starts with a good orderpick process. Do you need help with optimizing your warehouse processes? Or would you like to know what assignments would be best for your orderpickers? Or how you can implement this in your WMS? Contact us, we are glad to help! This article was written by Brian Van Middendorp

Insufficient goods in your warehouse? Complete your orders with backorders

Insufficient goods in your warehouse? Complete your orders with backorders

Inventory management is not an easy job. You would know that all too well. One moment a product can be extremely popular, while next month you aren’t delivering any of this product. Thanks to your experience, knowledge and analysis, you can predict certain patterns. However, perfectly managing your inventory is almost impossible. Therefore, you may recognize the situation in which an order comes in but your inventory is inadequate. In that case, using backorders is the right solution to help you on your way. What are backorders? What benefits do they bring? In this sixth blog of the series E-fulfilment, we discuss the use of the functionality backorders. An empty warehouse calls for backorders Backorders are orders of your customer that cannot be delivered because of a shortage in your warehouse. When an order is confirmed, and one or more items aren’t in your inventory, it means you must postpone the delivery until these goods have entered your warehouse again. Using backorders, you can then complete the order quickly and efficiently. Thanks to this new functionality the incoming items aren’t stored in your warehouse but are immediately available for picking. As a result, you can deliver the items to the right address as fast as possible and raise your customer satisfaction. Backorders in your warehouse process When an order is received, a notification can pop up that tells you there is not enough stock in place to complete this order. Using backorders, the order will automatically be set on hold. When the items are received in your warehouse, a check is done to see if any backorders are open for these items. When there are, there is the possibility to continue processing the items or to immediately transport the goods to a dock or an expedition floor. Full or part delivery In the use of backorders there are two possibilities when implementing the functionality: Full delivery: the complete order will be put on hold when the inventory is inadequate. When the missing items are received, the complete order will be delivered. Part delivery: split the order in two. The missing items of the order are extracted and placed in a new order. This document is an exact copy in which we change the customer reference using a SUFFIX (-01). When the items are received this order will be delivered to complete the order. Backorders in your WMS Are you interested in how you can apply backorders in your system? Keep track of our blog. Next week, our consultant Brian will explain step-by-step how to start using this functionality in your own WMS. This article was written by Brian and Herald Van Middendorp from our partner Boltrics

Save kilometers and pick orders per article

Save kilometers and pick orders per article

Order picking is characteristic for the e-fulfilment process. No day is alike and standard supply is therefore rarely the case. So your employees need to pick. And you might read it in earlier blogs: this is a process in which you can book a lot of efficiency. Think about your warehouse design, the desired strategy or the main components of the picking process. Within this strategy, it is important that your employees do not walk unnecessary kilometers. If they are already at one article, it would be a shame to send them to that location five minutes later. That is why you can pick per article now. Pick per article instead of per order This option will boost your efficiency during the picking process. If your order pickers moves towards an article, chances are likely that this article is also needed for other orders. Therefore, you do not want to execute the assignment per order, but per article. So during a pick wave, you can pick multiple orders at the same time, while you only have to stop once at each location. Based on this case, we assembled four different categories. I will mention them below, each with an own example. Batch pick
With the first variant, you deal with five or more orders which include exactly the same articles. So for example, five orders, all including headphones, smartphone cases and felt tip pens. Your colleagues will walk from article location to article location, and will pick the total sum (all orders together) of the needed articles. At the checkout, these numbers are divided over the different orders. This way, for this order batch you only need one colleague. Or one order picker per article, depending on the batch size. Single item batch pick The second “order picking per article” possibility is almost identical to the one above. The difference with single item batch pick is that you have less than five orders with only one type of article in them. So for example, we are talking about three orders with only headphones. Those three orders are quickly collected en your colleague is not wasting any meters. Colli pick
Next, the third version: collo pick. This strategy applies to “difficult” packages, such as very big articles (above 100kg) or ones that are uneasy to move on the picking cart. Your warehouse employees can accept and process these orders individually with their scanners. Because if you look at it realistically, one of those items at a time is more than enough. And when your co-worker is done, he can pay full attention on the next pick wave. Wavepick
Finally, there is the wavepick possibility. Does the order not fit in the solutions above? Then you always have the normal pick order. One order per crate on the pick cart and going down the list. And then again, explaining the wave definition. Wave after wave. If you decide to implement this pick strategy, make sure your warehouse design is flawless. Pick orders per article whenever you want Grouping different orders is – besides our configuration – directed job queue. A job queue is an automated functionality that ensures that specific actions are done at a certain time. Based on this, you can decide when you want to group your orders. Prepared towards e-fulfilment? Pick it up! A good order pick process is the basis of successful e-fulfilment. As you could read in our last blogs, order picking sometimes contains 60% of all labor activities in a warehouse. In other words: you can win much time with a right strategy. If you will pick orders per article instead of only applying wave picks, you will notice that you collect your orders way faster than before. Need help? Reach out to info@solutionspl.ca, we are happy to help. This article was written by Brian Van Middendorp from our partner Boltrics.

Total Cost of ownership

Total Cost of ownership

Changing software solutions can be a challenging game. Do we make the right choice? Does it contain all the functionalities we need? What will the costs be? Because when opting for a new software solution, the main reasons are to increase the productivity, meet customer demands’ and to reduce costs. Costs you make in the logistics process but also when it comes to your investment itself.

In the past couple of months, I've been talking with many companies in the 3PL industry: Cold Stores, 3PL Warehouses, Freight Forwarders, and Road Transportation. Throughout these conversations, one question that comes up every time is “How much does it Cost ?”. A valid question, because people are on the point to make quite an investment. The thing is that to make a sound choice, the cost of the system isn’t limited to the license, and installation costs. A business needs to look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Total Costs of Ownership (TCO): In supply chain management, the total cost of ownership of the supply delivery system is the sum of all the costs associated with every activity of the supply stream. So, how do we calculate the TCO in IT? Well, it's a matter of calculating Direct Costs but also Indirect Costs throughout the entirety of your software systems. To make things a bit easier and help you on your way to make a sound choice on cost when deciding to migrate to an integrated system vs. stay on "Low Cost" Systems, here are some things to consider. To calculate the TCO, take the following 4 cost sections into account: - Initial licence purchase costs - Implementation costs - Annual recurring costs - Opportunity costs. The first three cost types are Direct Costs, and the last Opportunity Cost is the indirect cost. To keep things simple, we’ll concentrate in this blog post on the direct costs. The next blog posts will talk about each opportunity costs individually, which can be a bit more challenging to calculate. To calculate the Direct Costs, we’ll follow these below steps 1) IT Landscape To start, make a list of your IT landscape. Your IT Landscape is all the software you are using and potential software in the future. For a 3PL warehouse, this list might look like the following : - WMS - Accounting software - Website for Customer portal - RF scanners - EDI - Mobile app for taking pictures of damaged stock - Mobile communication with truckers - TMS - Reporting tool for management reports - CRM - Integration tool 2) Initial Licence Purchase Costs The license purchase costs are only to be calculated if you are looking into an on-premise solution. If your solutions are on the Cloud, it means you are renting the solution at a variable monthly cost. If this is the case, we will include the Cloud license costs in the Annual Recurring fees section. For each software system above, pull out the cost for purchasing these licenses or the expected cost if you are not already using this software within your company. Depending on the software provider, this may include a base cost + a cost per user + a cost per module. 3) Implementation Services Implementation costs are all the effort put into analyzing, configuring, developing, testing, data migration, and the go lives of your software systems. This includes the costs your software supplier has charged to you, but also your team's time into implementing the systems. 3.1) External Costs For each software system above, pull out the total cost of implementing the system that was charged by your software supplier. This cost is everything which is linked to labour from your supplier, meaning business analysts, developers, architects, etc. These are the total charges all of your suppliers charged you to implement the system. 3.2) Internal Costs Another cost that must be taken into consideration is your internal cost for implementing the system. How many hours have your super user employees invested into configuring and testing the system ? Typically speaking, for every hour you pay to your supplier, your team invests 2 to 4 hours. If you ask for less implication from your software supplier, the more your team will need to work. 4) Integration Costs If your IT landscape currently includes multiple software, you must also include a cost for integrating these systems together. Or else, there will be a high labour opportunity costs which we will talk about in another blog article. If you calculate these three costs for each software you are currently using, but also an estimation for the potential software you will be using, you will get a total amount for your software landscape. 5) Annual Recurring fees Annual recurring fees are all of the fees that are charged on a recurring basis. Examples of these costs are: - In an On-premise scenario: · The annual fees are typically called Enhancement fees or Maintenance Fees. · HelpDesk or Support costs: These are the annual charges to have access to the support team on your supplier's side. · Update Fees: Does your current supplier charge you for updating your system to the latest version ? Some systems haven't been updated for the past 10 to 20 years. There is a high opportunity cost related to having software systems which aren't up to date. We’ll dive into this topic will in another blog article. [DT1] · Last year's unexpected charges: Have you had unexpected charges last year with your suppliers ? Were these charges associated to do changes to the configuration of your system? - In a cloud scenario: · The monthly license costs. · Optional: - Last year's unexpected charges: Have you had unexpected charges last year with your suppliers ? Were these charges associated to do changes to the configuration of your system? The calculation formula: Once these annual recurring costs are established for every software in your IT landscape : · In an on-premise scenario: multiply the annual costs by 5. In a cloud scenario: multiply the license costs by 2, and the rest of the costs by 5. The reason is simple : in an on-premise scenario, if you do not maintain your system annually, at the pace technology is moving, chances are that you will need to change your system in the next 5 years to stay competitive on the market. But, when EDI file transfers were common 5 to 10 years ago, today, if a system does not support Web API, it is heading to be left out. A cloud scenario is different since the cloud solution also includes hosting, antivirus, servers, etc. When comparing cloud to cn premise, Microsoft's guideline is to multiply the cloud monthly costs by 24. This article is a guideline for calculating the total cost of ownership, and does not compare cloud vs. cn premises. One great article was written by Greg Deckler and can be found here that compares both. Conclusion Once all these costs are calculated for every software in your IT Landscape, sum it all up and you get the Total Cost of Ownership for Direct Costs only. Want to learn more?
In the next couple of weeks, I will post an article for each indirect cost. Want to learn more about the possibilities of 3PL Dynamics in the meantime? Let's take a couple of minutes to introduce and get to know one another. Excited to learn more about business and what your objectives are for this year. Feel free to reach out to us or schedule a quick meeting. We, at PL Solutions, are a Microsoft partner and we focus specifically on the 3PL industry. We accomplish this through our tight partnership with Boltrics for which we are the North American reseller of the 3PL Dynamics ERP Suite. This software system is a modular ERP system which includes a WMS, TMS, and FMS as well as an accounting system, CRM, EDI, Mobile platform, RF Scanning system, Customer portal, and advanced functionality such as voice picking, automated warehouse integrations, and more. Customers can implement one or many modules in different phases. When you look at the TCO, including Indirect costs, 3PL Dynamics has a total cost of ownership much lower than any other system out there for a 3PL company. If you wish, I have an excel spreadsheet that you can download right here

Boost your invoicing options with storage fee per location

Boost your invoicing options with storage fee per location

In my latest e-fulfilment blog, I told you about the changing profile of your customers. This changing profile is characteristic for the changing market. Within e-commerce, there are many small articles that do not occupy an entire carrier – and thus locations – in your warehouse. That is why you need ways to optimally inform your customers and to correctly charge your services to them. So, now you have the option to measure the final storage fee per location per day. Final storage fee per location per day Just as with the last e-fulfilment functionality, calculating location capacity, knowledge is power applies. This new storage fee method measures the situation per occupied location at the end of the day. So to be clear, this is not dependent on the number of carriers on this location. This enlarges your options if you work with shelves or really small articles – and store multiple articles on one location. Besides, you can manage more than one price for each location size. That way, you can make a selling invoice per week, per day, based on the occupied locations of a specific customer. How does it work? The adjustment above is now available due to the fact that you analyze article posts per period in the new situation. This makes it possible to then calculate the final score. So, no storage fee cost posts are used here. Before, 3PL Dynamics did not offer this option, but now it does. How do you set up the storage fee per location? To set up the storage fee per location, you can follow the next three steps. On the location type and location, you will find a new field invoicing class. This will move along with the article posts. Please note: you can only change it when it is empty. Next, you have a new type of number calculation on your service card, namely Periodic. Also, the check mark “no storage fee calculating applied” is added Do you want to process this calculation instantly in your WMS Contract? Create a contact detail line from the type Storage fee. Next, you will select a service with Number Calculation Periodic (see step 2). Select the Number Calculation. Here, you can filter on the invoicing class and if desired other filters. Set the period on Number Calculation and the Period time on 1D (one day). Adjust your services on your e-commerce customers In a changing market, flexibility is the most important survival factor. Are you not able to adjust to the wisher of the customers of today and tomorrow? Then they will not become your customers. With multiple storage fee options, 3PL Dynamics does provide you this flexibility. That way, you can always focus on your current customers and optimize your e-fulfilment service package. Do you want to know more? Please keep an eye out for this blog series or at info@solutionspl.ca This article was written by Brian Van Middendorp from our partner Boltrics