While hindsight may be 20/20, when applied to an enterprise supply chain, it’s not as impactful as foresight. In order to reduce supply chain costs, particularly around logistics, we need the ability to see beyond our walls, and that is precisely what Advance Ship Notices (ASN) give us.
So, what is an ASN? An ASN is an electronic document sent ahead to the receiver that details the soon-to-be-delivered shipment of goods from a supplier, third-party logistics provider (3PL), or fulfillment agent. The document usually contains the same information found in the original purchase order (PO), plus logistics information like carton ID’s, content descriptions, and transportation specifics.
Widespread use of ASNs facilitates business initiatives like Efficient Customer Response (ECR), Just-in-Time Inventory (JIT), and Cross-Docking. ASNs coupled with carton barcodes provide the biggest impact on the supply chain. The former provides a “heads up” on the contents of the shipment, and the latter enables that information to be used for quick routing of those products.
For retailers, wholesalers, and others on the receiving end of goods, the ASN and barcode combination provides substantial benefits including:
- Receipt Planning – Because the ASN arrives before the goods do, logistics and operational staff can plan for delivery and schedule accordingly.
- Fast and Accurate Stock Receipt – Because contents can be quickly identified using barcodes and matched with PO numbers, item numbers, and quantities, data quality is higher and received goods are processed faster.
- Warehouse Carton Routing – The receiver’s warehouse management system (WMS) can often use the label to route cartons internally through automated conveyor systems.
Shippers will also benefit from ASN use. Here are some examples:
- Product Tracking – Because freight carriers scan bar codes upon acceptance, transfer points, and delivery, shipments can be tracked en route.
- Loss Claims – All parties know the contents of each shipment, so missing cartons can easily be tracked, and claims can be made accordingly. This advance notice of a loss also enables replacement content to be expedited, so customer service is improved.
- Faster Distribution – Because the products are moved quicker through distribution centers, they arrive on the sales floor in less time.
Supply chain visibility is a critical element of effective supply chain management and ASNs contribute significantly to this goal. According to Auburn University’s 2011 ASN Study, “The benefits of quality ASN data are many, including increases of 20-40% in receiving productivity, support for flow-through DC processing, the ability to pre-allocate merchandise to stores, improved supply chain visibility, and other enhancements to supply chain performance.”