ASN Process Automation

Our previous blog post highlighted the growing emphasis retailers are placing on the Advance Ship Notice ( ASN, EDI 856).  If your customers are retailers, they are likely at the leading edge of adoption of advanced logistics systems and technologies.  Retail profit margins are thin and retailers are driven to move goods from supplier to the shelf as efficiently as possible.  Accurate ASNs are a big part of efficient logistics. 

Consequently, achieving ASN accuracy is not an option for you as a supplier—it’s a requirement.  If it’s important to your customer it’s important to you.  While challenging, keeping up with the logistics demands of retailers will drive process efficiency into your operations, improving your own bottom line. 

In our last blog we outlined some areas to focus on to improve ASN accuracy—engagement with your trading partner, education of your team, goal setting and the role of automation.  In this post let’s focus on how increased automation can drive ASN accuracy. 

If you are still using webforms to view and print EDI orders and trigger EDI ASNs your first step toward automation is integration—integration of EDI and your ERP system.  You can reduce errors and cut clerical costs by stepping up to an EDI solution offering integration with your ERP system. 

Those of you who already have some degree of integration between your ERP system and your EDI solution will need to dig deeper.  While customer purchase orders (EDI 850s) may be integrated with your ERP system, how automated is the process of generating an ASN?  If you are capturing carton detail and shipping info in a fulfillment system (the ERP system, a pick-pack-ship system or WMS) that should be the only time the data is entered.  Your EDI solution should be able to recognize that an order’s status has changed to “shipped” and generate an ASN automatically.  The data you captured in the warehouse picking and shipping process feeds the ASN for transmission to your trading partner.  You may choose to “stage” ASNs for review before release, but that step is only for validation, not for data entry.

The initial picking, packing and shipping data capture itself is also an opportunity for automation.  Are you capturing information on paper and keying it in?  If so, a bar code system supporting directed picking or pick/ship data capture could produce significant savings and improve accuracy.  In some cases you could leverage the additional capabilities of a warehouse management system.    

Driving more efficiency via automation will improve customer satisfaction (evidenced by your supplier scorecard) and improve your own bottom line.  It’s nice to win twice with a single investment. 

In our next blog we’ll discuss how to assess your current processes and determine where improvements make sense.  And then we’ll review how to complete a financial or ROI analysis to determine what level of investment in technology makes sense.