Information Systems

Information systems are indispensable to the diverse logistics worksites of the present age. In the past, existing systems for sales management may have been customized and used as information systems, but at present there are many cases that can be handled only by WMS (warehouse management systems). This section describes information systems in logistics with an emphasis on WMS.

What Are Information Systems?

As previously mentioned, systems for sales management were conventionally used even in logistics. However, the purpose of sales management systems is to manage commercial distribution, and it is not a system to manage logistics which is the flow of goods. For this reason, even though basic management such as receiving, inventory, and shipping can be performed, location management, date management, and work management that are important in logistics are difficult to perform. If a sales management system is forcibly customized, expenses also increase greatly, and if a problem occurs, there is also the potential that both commercial distribution and logistics will be affected.

What was developed to manage the flow of goods is the specialized warehouse management system (WMS). A system that is specialized for logistics can handle location management, date management, and work management without problems. Adopting an information system that is specialized for logistics can also decrease the load on the sales management system. The biggest advantage of adopting a WMS is that the information systems for commercial distribution and logistics can be separated and each can function at its highest performance. The following diagram is a conceptual image of a WMS in which functions specialized for logistics can be seen.

Conceptual Image of WMS
Conceptual Image of WMS

Advantages of Using Information Systems

Now that we understand an overview of warehouse management systems (WMS), we can explain the advantages of actually using a WMS.

Advantage 1: Location Management

Location numbers are assigned to all locations in a logistics center, such as the pallets, racks, and shelves where products are stored. If this location number is viewed, anyone can easily arrive at the location and find the product. A WMS can manage these important locations inside a logistics center.

Additionally, if barcode readers and handheld computers are used, locations can be changed easily, such as when receiving goods and when goods are moved to different shelves. Data does not need to be entered manually, so there are no worries about entry mistakes. For systems that were customized conventional sales management systems, locations could not be managed so they had to be handwritten on forms or manually entered using PCs which caused omissions and mistakes. These worries are unnecessary with a WMS. And workers no longer need to search for products while relying on their memory. Everyone can work with the same speed and accuracy.

Advantage 2: Simplify Arrival and Receiving Management

In a WMS, data (e.g, when, what, where from, how many items were received, and where the order form is located) can be associated with goods and saved in the database. If ASN (advance shipping notice) is used at that time, entry work can also be greatly eliminated.

When using ASN, receiving information can be known at the logistics center before the goods arrive, so those goods can be handled as inventory and allocated. In particular, this information is essential when performing cross docking at transfer centers (a system in which no inventory is held and goods received from multiple factories or sites are immediately sorted by destination for delivery).

WMS Terms
Advance Shipping Notice (ASN)
Advance Shipping Notice (ASN) is advanced shipping information and pending delivery data so that a supplier can inform the logistics center of shipping information in advance. An ASN informs the logistics center of the pending delivery date, order number, product code, and quantity, and in certain cases, of additional information such as the product lot number and expiration date. ASN is exchanged using electronic data interchange (EDI). When using an ASN, a shipping carton marking (SCM) label is typically used.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the exchange of electronic data between companies. In transactions between companies, information is exchanged (e.g., order placement and acceptance, shipping and receiving, invoicing and payment). EDI is a system that automates this processing by connecting over a dedicated line (including online).
Shipping Carton Marking Label (SCM Label)
Shipping carton marking (SCM) labels are shipping labels with barcodes that are affixed to the delivery boxes of packaged products when shipped. The contents of the box can be checked without opening by displaying the details about the contents and form numbers using the SCM label.

Advantage 3: Simplify Dispatch and Shipping Management

A WMS can use EDI order data as is, so customers no longer need to be phoned or emailed and memos taken from customer conversations do not need to be manually entered, which greatly saves effort and eliminates entry mistakes. Using the EDI order data, shipping picking lists, delivery labels, delivery forms, and delivery statements can be created and passed to the managers of the relevant worksites. Locations are managed by the WMS, so picking can be performed using the shortest routes to achieve speedy and accurate dispatch and shipping.

Advantage 4: Total Management Including Inventory Management, Duplicate Arrivals, and Location Changes

Adopting a WMS can simplify inventory management, duplicate arrivals, and location changes that had to be viewed and checked on site up to now. Using a WMS is extremely efficient because management is performed accurately with barcodes instead of viewing goods.

Major Information Systems Other Than a WMS

Shipping Inspection System Using Barcodes

A shipping inspection system using barcodes is typically the most effective method to prevent shipping mistakes. The shipping list, the products, and the database information are verified by barcodes to inspect the products and prevent omissions and shipping mistakes. This system uses barcode readers and handheld computers because it reads barcodes.

Transportation Management System (TMS)

A transportation management system (TMS) is an information system that automatically creates truck assignments, attendance management, delivery instructions, and daily reports. It also automatically calculates freight charges and centrally manages truck transportation. This system effectively implements truck transportation without requiring specialized knowledge of truck assignments.

Importance of Handheld Computers Reading Barcodes

There are many types of information systems, such as warehouse management systems, and handheld computers are essential for using these information systems to the fullest extent possible.

Handheld computers can not only read barcodes and QR codes, but also dates and text.
Many types available are rugged for use in harsh environments and superior reading performance for usability at worksites.