Supply Chain Visibility is a powerful buzzword in the logistics lexicon–it even has its own acronym (SCV). That is how important it is—and yet there is something as important, maybe even more important than the ability to track parts, sub-assemblies or finished products in transit from the point A to point B. It is at least as important, and even more important to ship the right parts.
Perfectly transparent SCV will not prevent a supply chain failure if you can track every minute of movement of the wrong stuff going from vendor to customer. Ironically, ignoring shipment accuracy makes SCV worse if you agree that a late or lost shipment of the wrong stuff is better than receiving the wrong stuff on time.
Another irony is that in most cases shipment accuracy is so simple and easy. Order items are often barcoded on ERP documents and in the vendor database. Shipment items are often stored in barcoded bins or on barcoded shelves, or packed in barcoded boxes or bags. Master cartons and pallets bear a different but related barcode identifying the shipment hierarchy, as specified in the GS1 standards.
Wait a minute…
Step back a moment and seize a fuller perspective on this activity. Shipment accuracy is not the only operation where items or parts aggregate into a package. A nearly identical thing happens in kitting (like an Ikea furniture package) and fulfillment (like an Amazon shipment containing a new electronic toothbrush, a book and a laptop case). For simplicity, we will refer to all of these activities as “shipments” but in fact this more than just one type of operation.
With all of the technology available, why do shipment inaccuracies occur? Reasons come from a wide spectrum of circumstances, mostly drawn from the world of “always” and “never”, aka the world of experience as opposed to the world of risk management:
- we have always done shipping this way—there is no reason to change
- we have never had a shipping inaccuracy (and therefore we never will)
In the real world, there is no “always” and no “never”. What could happen is unimpressed and not predicted by what has happened in the past. The question is not what has happened; the question is, what would be the ramifications if a shipment mistake does happen?
The answer is as varied as the industries and supply chains that serve them. At the low end of the spectrum, the ramifications are inconvenience, time and money wast
ed. At the high end, serious consequences to just-in-time manufacturing, fines and penalties, fractured trading partner relationships.
Prevention is relatively simple and inexpensive:
- using the barcodes on boxes, bins or shelves to make sure the right item is picked, by matching them to the work order;
- creating a set of various items (represented by their barcodes) to make sure they all belong in a shipment;
- eliminating accidental orphan items that don’t belong in the shipment while also making sure valid items are there in correct quantities.
We have a full range of barcode-match solutions including a powerful and feature-rich Android app for under $100 and a wide spectrum of handheld devices with pre-loaded barcode match software, to pre-packaged inline, fixed mounted systems for $6500 and up. Even our most sophisticated and expensive system will likely pay for itself many times over in mistakes detected and corrected before they become liabilities.
For more information visit us at www.code-match.com to see some of the solutions we offer, and to see some of the problems we have solved.