The client, despite having a well-established operation, was encountering barriers due to their outdated paper-based inbound process. They identified the need for an upgrade to streamline and modernize their workflow.
Their traditional process operated as follows:
Upon receiving a delivery, a paper packing slip would be included with each delivery. These slips often listed the quantities in units of individual pieces, despite the on-the-ground requirement for operators to measure on a carton level. As a result, operators were burdened with the task of manually converting these figures.
Following the calculations, the next step required operators to check and count each pallet. If any discrepancies were found, these were noted down on paper.
Once the checking and counting process was complete, the packing slips, now laden with handwritten notes, were passed onto the administrative department. Their role was to then manually input the data from these slips into the Warehouse Management System (WMS).
The multiple steps that required manual input and paper handling not only heightened the chances of inaccuracies but also slowed down dock-to-stock time. It became apparent that an automated, digital solution was needed to address these inefficiencies.
Adding to these challenges was a high turnover of employees. Frequent changes in personnel meant continual investment in training. Moreover, new employees, unfamiliar with the operations and the range of goods handled by the company, were prone to making errors in counting and checking.
To address these operational challenges, we tailored the Powerhouse AI application to support the company's inbound process.
The revamped inbound process starts by photographing the packing slip. Powerhouse AI then instantaneously scans the image, transforming the information on the slip into structured data, much like an Excel sheet, in less than half a minute. In addition, the application automatically converts units of measurement from individual pieces to cartons.
The next step involves the operator taking photos of the goods included in the delivery. This is a two-step process: capturing the label to extract SKU and lot number information, followed by photographing the pallet for counting purposes.
Once all pallets have been captured, the application performs an automatic cross-check with the packing slip data. This reveals any discrepancies in the delivery, informing the user who can then opt to correct any inconsistencies or notify the supplier. This refined data is then sent to the administrative department for easy upload into their Warehouse Management System (WMS). While the client has not yet chosen to directly connect to the WMS, it's worth noting that Powerhouse AI can function both as a standalone solution and via a direct API with other systems.
Alongside the primary workflow, we incorporated two additional features into the solution. Firstly, given the client's lack of data on units of measurement (UOM) - specifically, the quantity of pieces in a carton - we built a feature that prompts the user to input UOM data whenever it is absent from the database. This feature helps the client gradually build a comprehensive database, eliminating the need to populate all the data in one go.
Secondly, the application was tailored to document defects, such as damage, mold, or leakage, in the received goods. This addition bolsters the client's ability to record and manage potential issues with incoming shipments.
With the implementation of Powerhouse AI in their warehouse process, the client has marked a significant departure from their traditional operational practices, yielding substantial improvements in efficiency. The streamlined process now tackles not only the tasks of counting and checking with greater ease but also manages the diversity of nearly 100 different packing slip formats received from various suppliers.
As per the client's feedback, an important advantage of using Powerhouse AI is the accelerated onboarding process for new employees. Where the traditional system necessitated an extensive learning period for new hires to familiarize themselves with the different goods in the warehouse, Powerhouse AI allows them to quickly adapt and contribute effectively. With this innovative system, new team members can immediately engage in operations, significantly enhancing productivity and minimizing errors right from the start.