The main objective is to drive efficiency in the warehouse subject to the quality, customer and regulatory constraints, says Edgett. There are many considerations that that must be made at the receipt of raw materials. Does it need to be quarantined for a quality check? Does it need a lot number? Does the stock need to be refrigerated? Does the stock need to be isolated for allergen, regulatory or religious reasons? An integrated WMS and ERP will address these considerations automatically.
More complex and granular functions can occur on the WMS level, and summaries of that data can be sent through integration to the ERP, says Lambert. Depending on the data requirements of the ERP, integration can be loosely coupled (more summarized) or tightly coupled (more granular). The ERP typically handles data such as the master vendor, customer, and order information, while the WMS handles the granular level of receipts, consumptions and shipments of the inventory.
Regardless of whether a single system covers the production and warehouse operations, or an MES is integrated with a WMS, the need is the same: seamless handling of all the production and warehousing operations, and the interactions between them, says Plex’s Bresler. Plex offers a full, integrated ERP solution including both production and warehousing, but also supports integration to standalone WMSs with a full suite of APIs, either from the Plex ERP system or from a standalone Plex MES solution. To provide the greatest user value, the integration between production and WMS systems must be tight and real time—meaning integrations between MES and WMS systems must be built with care and detailed participation from implementers of both systems to make sure all business processes are handled smoothly and with robust error handling.
Recalls: What system does what?
Recalls—mock or the real thing—are the ultimate system test. So what roles do ERP, MESs and WMSs play when a recall is staged?
Depending on the capabilities, either the WMS or ERP could start a recall, says Plex’s Bresler. However, only the ERP system will have the full genealogy from raw component through WIP to finished goods.
WMS/WES solutions enable the recording of batch movement throughout the recall process, says IFS’s Burton. ERP solutions provide data, which can all be found in one place, providing businesses with the understanding of what needs to be recalled and consumers with the ability to see where the product came from.
In addition, the ERP platform might have CRM capabilities that could identify the potential of a recall based on customer feedback, complaints etc.—and once the need for a recall has been identified, the ERP should be able to provide a list of customers and products that need to be recalled, says Oracle’s Davidson.
The ERP should be the solution for managing traceability and product recall, as well as for performing mock recalls for customers and food safety certification, says Aptean’s Payne. The ERP is the solution that has the complete record from supplier and supplier lots to customer shipments and invoices. For those companies that have elected to use a WMS solution in the warehouse, it is imperative that the integration and synchronization provide the ERP solution with all the necessary warehouse transactions to maintain full traceability and recall.
The WMS system should maintain granular traceability from a vendor lot as well as a production lot perspective, perhaps even down to case serialization, says Lambert. In conjunction with the production systems, the WMS should be able to maintain traceability from material receipt through inventory, production, and shipping. While ERP systems can also maintain traceability at a lot level, a WMS or MES system is typically used as the system of record. The ERP system could be used as well for shipping and customer information.
Finally, for product at the retailers, a call list can be generated from the ERP’s traceability module to contact them, says Sage’s Edgett. Returned Material Authorizations (RMAs) are created with instructions so when the product is returned, warehouse personnel will know where to stock and what QC status it should be. On the back end, all credits and replacement products are processed. FE