A Warehouse Management System (WMS), such as SAP Warehouse Management (SAP WM), can be modernized with the integration of a mobile solution, enabling warehouse teams to reduce costs and increase the visibility and accuracy of stock movements and inventory levels.
In this article, we’ll first examine the challenges of utilizing SAP WM without a mobile device. Then we’ll discuss the process improvements that can be made and the benefits companies using SAP may expect by modernizing their warehouse and inventory processes with a mobile solution.
Mobile Warehouse & Inventory Management with SAP
To begin, let’s cover some definitions to frame the SAP modules that can benefit from a mobile warehouse and inventory software solution.
- SAP Warehouse Management (WM). The SAP WM module allows for the definition and mapping of the physical warehousing structure in the system, processing goods movements, and maintaining up-to-date stock inventories in the warehouse at the storage bin level.
- SAP Inventory Management (MM-IM). – Inventory management is a component of the SAP material management module. SAP MM-IM is used for the management of stock levels, tracking the movement of goods, and generating various reports.
- SAP Quality Management (QM). The SAP QM module helps companies implement and run quality control processes. It is designed to prevent defects, enable continuous process improvement, and establish sustained quality control programs.
- SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM). SAP EWM is the next generation of warehouse management in SAP and is expected to replace SAP WM by 2025.
Challenges of Utilizing SAP WM Without Mobile Devices
While SAP WM manages critical information regarding inventory and stock movements. But working with SAP requires access to a computer and tedious data entry tasks. Providing a mobile interface to SAP with a Warehouse & Inventory software application can make a material difference. Let’s look at some of the opportunities to improve working with SAP.
Utilizing SAP WM without a mobile device forces employees to complete their tasks using inefficient paper-based processes. Workers must manually capture information on paper and then enter it into a computer workstation to update SAP. Each data entry task requires knowledge of SAP and clicking through multiple screens to complete the update. Not only is this data entry itself time-consuming but making multiple trips back and forth between the warehouse stocking locations and the workstation also wastes time. Imagine how this situation is compounded when several employees need to use the same workstation and need to wait to make their updates instead of being able to move on to the next task.
Manual data entry prevents real-time visibility into the status of warehouse movements. Imagine someone monitoring a critical order for a part to fix a crucial piece of equipment. SAP might show that the part hasn’t yet been picked when in reality it has already been delivered to the maintenance technician. Real-time stock information is critical to employees across the organization. Think how troublesome this can be when there are changes to a task or customer service is trying to provide the status of an order to a customer.
Data quality can also be negatively impacted by manual data entry. These errors can occur anywhere along the process from goods receipt to goods issue, inventory cycle counting, as well as during stock transfers and returns. Poor data quality could lead to not having enough stock on hand to fulfill a critical order, for maintenance parts, or for enough raw materials to continue production. In any event, unexpected downtime can be exacerbated, ultimately impacting customer satisfaction. On the flip side, data quality issues can cause companies to carry excess inventory unnecessarily, needlessly increasing inventory carrying costs.
With manual processes, there is an increased risk in losing materials and shrinkage. And without the ability to easily capture and submit photos of problems, damage reporting and returns processes take longer.
Improving SAP Warehouse Management
Similar to how mobile enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions can improve maintenance processes, equipping your warehouse staff with mobile devices can significantly enhance many warehouse and inventory workflows. Your employees already use smartphones to manage their personal lives every day. So, using mobile devices on the job generally requires little training.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of a mobile warehouse and inventory solution:
- More efficient use of warehouse staff. With a mobile device, workers can capture information and update tasks without having to walk to a computer station and manually input data, saving time. Data can be captured quickly and more accurately with barcodes, RFID or QR codes. With a mobile device, employees can more rapidly move from one task to the next from where they finished their last task. Changes in orders and tasks can be communicated immediately, eliminating the need to re-pick orders that have changed and allowing more urgent requests to be prioritized.
- Real-time visibility. With data being captured instantaneously, everyone in the warehouse has visibility to the movement of goods and inventory at their fingertips. With mobile apps, tasks and data can be updated in SAP WM in seconds. Rather than taking inventory manually on paper and then manually updating each item in SAP, workers can update inventory as they go with mobile apps that immediately update SAP MM-IM. Similarly, employees can report quality issues through a mobile app as they come upon them, which will update SAP QM. Workers can quickly upload pictures of damaged shipments or spoiled goods on the shelf to a task without having to enter a detailed description.
- Faster movements from goods receipt to goods issue. Mobile solutions allow workers to receive and count goods in the yard and quickly post a goods receipt. The goods receipt can be verified through a purchase order. Workers can evaluate and count materials, attach photos, print labels, confirm, and easily record changes. Goods issue or transfers can then be seamlessly made while automatically collecting digital signatures and confirming updates.
- Improved data accuracy in SAP. The use of a mobile warehousing and inventory solution virtually eliminates the human errors that can occur with manual data entry. Sensors, beacons, code readers, and RFID tags can be used instead to record, locate, identify, and dispatch materials and record these movements error free in SAP.
The Benefits for Your Company
Not only can mobile inventory management and warehouse solutions deliver improvements to your processes, but they can also translate into tangible benefits for your organization.
- 100% paper cost savings. Mobile apps can cut paper use in the warehouse 100%, which can represent significant savings. Cenibra, a manufacturer of bleached eucalyptus pulp, was able to eliminate the use of over 36,000 sheets of paper each year by using mobile devices.
- Reduced labor costs. A mobile warehouse and inventory solution reduces the amount of administrative work and manual data entry required, saving time and related labor costs. Mobile apps also optimize processes for speed and efficiency allowing workers to complete more tasks in less time. Cenibra experienced a 50% increase in pick rate productivity due to workers knowing exactly where materials were stored.
- Increased visibility and accuracy. With mobile solutions, real-time goods status is always available in SAP across the organization. Timely and accurate data on goods receipts and deliveries reduce problem-resolution processes for the procurement staff. Better inventory accuracy results in lower inventory carrying costs.
- Increased customer satisfaction. Real-time visibility into the movement of goods and improved inventory and data accuracy lead to a better customer experience. Better data means backorders can be reduced and more orders can be shipped complete. Customer service can respond to inquiries with real-time information, leading to more satisfied customers.
- Improved product security. Mobile solutions can be invaluable in providing an audit trail on transactions and movement by users, minimizing shrinkage and lost materials.
Important Factors in Selecting a Mobile Warehouse & Inventory Solution
Many organizations look to companies that specialize in mobile technologies to optimize SAP. When faced with choosing a mobile warehouse and inventory solution, warehouse operations managers may feel overwhelmed by the number of options. Many mobile warehouse and inventory applications offer similar functionality. Choosing a trustworthy company that can become a reliable long-term strategic partner should be among the criteria considered when selecting a mobile vendor.
One important mobile app feature to consider is whether or not the solution is a native app. Native apps are built specifically for mobile platforms, such as iPhone or Android, and offer many benefits over web-based apps. Native apps allow users to access the mobile device's hardware features, like the camera or GPS from within the app. Native apps are designed to display properly on a small screen and are more secure, responsive and user-friendly than web-based apps.
Given warehouse locations can often have issues with connectivity, consider a mobile app that offers a full offline experience and automatically syncs when online to maintain information availability as soon as possible.
After evaluating their manual warehouse and inventory processes with SAP WM, Cenibra originally intended to develop an internal solution to automate their processes. After conducting some research, this option was deemed to be impractical. Not only would the development be time-consuming and expensive, but there was no way to guarantee the ongoing maintenance of the system or provide structured support.
Why Consider Sigga for Your Mobile Warehouse & Inventory Needs?
Here at Sigga, we have been helping asset-intensive industries with SAP to drive digital transformation and mobile initiatives for 20 years. Our SAP Certified software solutions improve the capture, structure, and quality of the data needed to modernize enterprise asset and warehouse management.
Our Mobile Warehouse & Inventory app digitalizes the end-to-end workflow of stockroom personnel, from inbound to outbound transactions. With an intuitive user interface, the native mobile app works online and offline with an auto-sync feature that doesn’t disrupt the use of the app. The solution is SAP-certified to integrate with SAP WM, SAP MM-IM, and SAP QM in SAP S/4HANA.
Key features include:
- Goods Movement. Fulfill reservations and create material documents for goods issue, transfer posting, and other main processes inside the warehouse.
- Stock Overview. Check stock information anytime, anywhere, and take immediate action on critical components.
- Inventory. Perform faster and more accurate inventory cycle counts and create inventory documents directly from the mobile application. Validate, approve, and submit adjustments to SAP.
- Quality Inspection. Execute quality inspections for materials, evaluate characteristics, record defects, and make usage decisions.
Let us help you modernize your company’s use of SAP with our Mobile Warehouse & Inventory app today.
Learn more about how Sigga Solutions can help you optimize working with SAP.