What Is Stocker WMS?
Stocker is a Warehouse Management System controlling the receipt, storage and selection of product within a warehouse. Stocker can be a very complicated program or it can be simple and easy to use. It was designed around the needs of large companies operating big warehouses with considerable throughput. Smaller operations often need to be more nimble and flexible. Stocker can manage both types of operation.
Stocker can make all the decisions about where stock should be located and which pallet or case should be selected. However, although Stocker can make all the important decisions for you, it also allows for those occasions you need to make your own decisions. With Stocker you are not tied to restrictive computer system that does not permit you to take over. This post will give you a brief insight as to how Stocker works.
How Does Stocker Do It?
Before Stocker can effectively manage any warehouse it must be told about your warehouse structure and your products.
Let’s assume a warehouse is a single physical building. The idea is to split this large building into smaller and smaller, more manageable, chunks. These chunks are called Zones. A warehouse can be split into 36 zones (A – Z, 0 – 9) and it must have at least one.
Some Warehouse Management Systems stop here but with Stocker you can split zones down further. Stocker’s zones can be divided into sub-areas. A zone can have any number of sub-areas and it must have at least one.
So at the most basic level you will have one warehouse, containing one zone, containing one sub-area. If you had two buildings each could be their own warehouse or each could be defined as a zone. The only restriction in defining zones (or indeed sub-areas) is the same location cannot be held within two zones or sub-areas within the same warehouse. That is, location 001 cannot exist in Zone A and Zone B or Sub-area A01 and Sub-area A02. However, location 001 can exist in Warehouse 1 Zone A and Warehouse 2 Zone A.
It is into these sub-areas you enter details of all your warehouse locations. They can represent pallet racking, block stacks, narrow aisle picking locations, live racking, mobile racking, whatever.
The product record is perhaps the single most important record of the whole system. In defining a product record you give Stocker all the information it requires to both store the product and to select the correct pallet when required.
Details recorded against a product record include:
- The standard pallet quantity
- If use by (sell by, BBE) dates apply
- Whether a product can be mixed with other products in a location
- The type of stock selection employed, FIFO, LIFO or product rotation
- Whether part pallet picking employed
Also included are the product’s preferred storage zones and sub-areas. Create your warehouse layout in Stocker first. Then enter your products and provide each product with details of their preferred zones and sub-areas for storage. These are the zones and sub-areas Stocker will search, in sequence, when trying to find a suitable location to store a pallet. A maximum of 6 sub-areas and 3 zones can be provided.
Warehouse receipts are processed via Stocker’s Goods In module. Orders are raised holding details of products expected for delivery. First register the order as received. Now physical warehouse locations can be reserved to take the receipt. To do this Stocker searches each product’s preferred zones and sub-areas.
Stocker first searches the preferred sub-areas listed for a product. It searches each sub-area, in turn, looking for a suitable vacant location. During the search Stocker applies any additional tests to determine if a location is suitable. For example:
- Can the product we are attempting to put away be mixed with product currently stored in the location
- Can the product currently stored in the location be mixed with the one we are attempting to put away
- If both the occupying product and the one we are attempting to put away are the same can we mix different use by dates?
- Is it safe to store the product at this level?
- Is the location on hold?
Stocker does not need to search the whole warehouse. Just those sub-areas and zones assigned to a product. If Stocker does not find a vacant location in any of the sub-areas, it moves on to search the larger zones. If, after searching all the preferred zones and sub-areas, Stocker still fails to find a suitable location it informs you.
Remember if you want place a pallet in a specific location you can always reserve that location for that pallet. For example, there may be occasions you want to quickly unload a vehicle and place all the pallets in a convenient block stack. There is a mechanism to do is in one action – and at the same time tell Stocker it’s already been done.
Stocker records details for all pallets stored in the warehouse. It’s not the case that Stocker only records one summary record stating Product A, 10 pallets, total quantity 500. Although Stocker does have such a product total record, it also records each pallet individually.
These pallet records are primarily ordered by product and use by date. If a product does not utilise use by dates then the date received is used. Other information is recorded against a pallet. For example, any batch (serial, rotation) number, whether it is a full or part pallet, whether the pallet is quarantined or not, and the receiving Goods In order number.
Details of product requirement are entered onto Goods Out orders. When Stocker is told to select stock to satisfy these requests it first retrieves the product record, for each product in turn. By looking at the product record Stocker can decide:
- Should it pick using BBE dates or date received
- Should it use FIFO, LIFO or select stock using product rotation number
- Does the product employ part pallet picking
- If it does, is a replenishment of the picking face required
Stocker just has to be told to select the stock. Stocker then ensures proper stock rotation, ensures the correct stock selection mechanism is employed and ensures quarantined pallets are not selected. In selecting stock it does not use the preferred zones and sub-areas. You can place pallets outside these if you wish. Stocker will still find them.
Remember if you want to use a particular pallet to satisfy a specific request you can always manually select that pallet.
Management Of Picking Faces
Throughout Stocker you will see references to the backup store, picking store, bulk locations, backup locations, picking locations and picking faces
If you have a part pallet picking operation, Stocker views a warehouse as two logically separate entities: the backup or bulk store and the picking store. In this environment, the picking store holds all your picking locations (or picking faces) used to satisfy all your part pallet picks. The backup or bulk store holds all your full pallets. Some of these are backup pallets used to replenish the picking faces as they become depleted. Stocker automatically manages picking locations topping up the stock in a picking face from pallets in the backup store as they are needed.
Products which do not have picking faces are just termed as bulk stock. The terms bulk and backup are used interchangeably and for operations which do not utilise picking faces merely refer to The Warehouse.
One important feature of Stocker is the concept of movements. Movements are fundamental to the system. Whenever Stocker reserves a location to receive a pallet, or reserves a pallet to satisfy a stock request it creates a movement instruction. These movement instructions are given to warehouse operatives telling them what action within the warehouse has to be carried out.
So far we have briefly described how Stocker manages receipts and despatches. Stocker also provides a rich set of enquiries and reports through which you can view your stock holding from different perspectives. Stocker provides a comprehensive breakdown of stock holding by both location and product. It also provides complete movement histories recording all pallet movements in, out and within the warehouse. More on Stocker’s reporting can be found in the section detailing Stocker’s Enquiries.
There are two more areas of Stocker as yet left unexplored. These are:
- Warehouse Manager
- Stocktaking and Stock Check
Warehouse Manager provides a set of functions which, although not all used on a daily bases, are certainly a requirement for the effective warehouse management. It provides such functionality as ad-hoc receipts and despatches, internal movements, stock quarantine and stock adjustments. See Warehouse Manager for more information
The Stocktaking and stock check module provides functions to perform full warehouse stocktakes and partial stock checks. For more on performing stocktakes and stock checks see the sections under Stocktakes and Stock Checking..