The ASN is a useful document if you are looking to support cost-saving business processes like Cross-Docking.
Cross-Docking is a logistical practice of transferring materials from an incoming truck or railcar directly into an outbound vehicle. As the products spend no time being stored, shipping costs are reduced and inventory costs are minimized.
So, how does the ASN help this process? It provides distribution centers and warehouses with the data they need for advance planning of the shipping and receiving processes. Without the data, Cross-Docking would simply not work.
Here are some of what I consider to be key benefits of Cross-Docking:
- Accelerated Speed-to-market – handling is minimized and products spend no time on the warehouse floor, so overall end-to-end time is reduced.
- Bottom Line Improved – because the products spend no time as “inventory”, storage requirements are reduced, and inventory, Labor and other associated costs are decreased.
- Increase of Retail Floor Space – Because shipments arrive in a timely way, fewer inventories need to be held, so space can be apportioned to the retail floor.
- Better Customer Service – Because the end-to-end time is minimized, customer costs are minimized while service levels are maximized.
The Cross-Docking Process
The process of Cross-Docking is relatively straightforward, so let’s spend some time examining its flow.
First, the supplier receives an order, which may supply several stores or company locations. The supplier then sends an advance ship notice (ASN) to the distributor when products are available. The ASN describes what is being shipped before the products arrive at the distribution center. Next, using the ASN information, the distributor’s warehouse management system (WMS) determines what is to be done with the incoming products once they arrive. The products can be directed to the outbound door in order to ship to the retailer; they can be directed to another trailer for combination with products from other manufacturers; or they may be temporarily stored in the warehouse.
The products are shipped, received at the distribution center and unloaded; product barcode information is automatically scanned and verified against the information provided from the ASN; products are then loaded according to the barcode information.
The ASN is one of the key components necessary to make the entire process a fast, automated one rather than a slow, error-prone, manual one.
So, how do you optimize ASN’s and cross-docking?
- Electronic Purchase Order Collaboration – enable 100% of suppliers to receive electronic purchase orders. Large suppliers may be enabled via traditional EDI, while small and medium-size businesses may be enabled using other technologies, like web forms.
- Advance Ship Notice (ASN) and Bar Code Labels – enable 100% of suppliers with the capabilities to send ASNs via EDI or web forms. Look for solutions that also allow you to generate and print the bar code labels for shipments.
- Data Quality Management – the ASN is one of the most complex supply-chain EDI transactions, so look for a service that helps to collect, clean and feed logistics information to Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). A rules-based engine can help by validating data across all trading partners and integration channels with both standard and customer-specific rules, ensuring every message contains required information and valid system codes.
- Inbound Visibility–by combining the ASN and shipment status EDI message you can get visibility into inbound shipments via dynamic ETAs (estimated time of arrival). This kind of visibility service can be extended so real-time notification about the progress of an expected shipment is available throughout the supply chain.
Click here to read this case study to learn how a major US retailer leveraged ASNs and cross-docking to save more than $1 Million.