Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Tutorial: Locations with open work exceptions in the new release of Microsoft Dynamics AX

Background

Microsoft Dynamics AX or, for that matter, any ERP system relies heavily on the information entered by the users. But, as we all know, in real life the data in the system frequently gets out of sync with the actual state of things.
In the Warehouse management module, when work is created, it is based on the on hand information (what we have and where we have it) as reported in the system. When work is executed, however, a real person, namely a warehouse worker, goes (or drives out) to the specified warehouse location to pick up the goods. But what if the item is not actually there? These kinds of discrepancies in AX 2012 are reported as work exceptions. Depending on your system configuration, the warehouse worker can create a work exception of one of the following types:
  • Override the location and search or directly input a new location, if the worker has knowledge of where else to find this item
  • Register a ‘short pick’, simply picking less than instructed, and rely on AX to handle the remaining pick requirements. You can read about this type of work exception in my previous blog post at http://kashperuk.blogspot.com/2015/07/tutorial-short-pick-goods-on-mobile.html
As a result of these worker actions a work exception would be recorded in the Work exception log. Now, that’s good, but no follow up would happen on these exceptions unless somebody explicitly went in and investigated the log, looking for patterns and possible ways to re-route or cancel the work one entry at a time.

Solution

With the release of new Dynamics AX we decided to do something about that. Relying only on that same information already recorded by the system (a few minor enhancements were done, where we now capture even more info) we have built a form for the Warehouse planner, where he can get an overview of any on-hand discrepancies in warehouse locations and take appropriate action on any exceptional situations right away, potentially avoiding delays in delivery of goods.

In this post I would like to walk you through the capabilities of this advanced form, which we called “Locations with open work exceptions”. Here is what it looks:


Locations with open work exceptions

The form’s primary purpose is to show the locations with problems, so the warehouse planner can do something about them, whether it is re-count, re-route, cancel work, etc. We show locations, where one or more work exceptions have been recorded and the state of the work exception is Open. A work exception is only relevant, if it has not yet been investigated, therefore we only show locations with Open work exceptions, also giving the warehouse planner the ability to mark the work exceptions as ‘investigated’ or ‘resolved’ by closing them.

The focus of this form is to streamline the outbound waves, so we only show work exceptions recorded during Transfer order and Sales order picking, limiting it even further to only the initial picks in the warehouse. So we do not, for example, display purchase order receipts, or exceptions recorded at the baydoor where the worker had to override the location as the lane was already full.

It’s a pretty large form with A LOT of data being shown. Let us walk through it from the warehouse planner’s standpoint, touching upon all of the supported scenarios. Once you get familiar with the different sections in the form, it actually gets pretty easy to navigate it.

Section 1. Understand the urgency

The warehouse planner needs to get an overview of the locations, where open short pick or location override work exceptions are currently logged. He needs to understand the urgency of following up on the exception to ensure the on-hand information is accurate for each of these locations. In order to do so the warehouse planner needs to understand the following:

  • When is the first work order line scheduled to be loaded (The scheduled load shipping date and time)? This is the date and time, when the load containing one of the pending work lines needs to be shipped, which drives how fast you need to ensure sufficient on-hand is available for picking on that location.
  • What is the location Id and which warehouse zone is this location in? For example, we might want to just ignore exceptions in certain zones of the warehouse, relying instead on periodic replenishment jobs.
  • What is the number of open work order lines for this location? That is, what other workers are going to come to pick something from this location in the near future. If there are none, it might mean that the urgency for follow-up on this location is much lower.
  • What is the date and time stamp of the last work exception logged for this location? That is, how recent is the report, maybe it has long since been resolved through other means like periodic (min/max) replenishment.
  • When was this location last counted? If it was counted recently, the work exception might not be relevant any longer. For example, if the date of the last count was after when the last work exception had been reported.
  • How many work exceptions were logged for this location and of which type? This could allow the warehouse planner to determine (depending on the business flows in the company) if there are any shipments that will be short, or if users were able to find on-hand somewhere else through overriding the location, in which case it might not be as urgent to follow up on this.
    • He can also drill down and look at the details of all the open work exceptions for this location, e.g., to see which orders are impacted.

The information described above is available in the grid on the left side and in the topmost fast tab, as shown in the screenshots below. 

You can use the built-in Quick Filter above the grid, as well as the Filter pane to narrow down the list to show only those locations that need an urgent follow-up. 

The Open work exceptions button will open the existing Work exceptions log form pre-filtered to the warehouse location currently selected.



Section 1. Navigation grid



Section 1. Location and Exception details
Section 1. Location and Exception details


The warehouse planner also has the ability to close all the work exceptions for the selected location. This way he can, for example, filter out all the ones that he’s not interested in, and update them to Closed one by one, using the Close work exceptions button above the navigation grid. Multi-selecting records in this grid is, sadly, not available.

Depending on the information presented the warehouse planner might decide that a re-count of the on-hand is in order, as a mitigation step for the work exception. He can create cycle counting work by location or by product, if he thought this would actually take care of the work exception reported. He could then close the exception and move on to the next location with problems.

Section 2. Understand which products have problems


OK, now that the warehouse planner has filtered out the relevant work exceptions, he can start to investigate them one location at a time. 
Each location can have one or more products stored on it. The warehouse planner can in the grid under Released products with exceptions see the list of all the products (the definition of course includes the product dimensions for each of them), as well as the inventory status and tracking dimensions for each product. He can then for each product review additional information to understand what can be done or if anything should be done at all.

Section 2. Released products with exceptions
Section 2. Released products with exceptions

Section 3. Understand immediate product demand

The above section also shows the quantity totals for the selected product on this location, allowing Wayne to quickly estimate the overall product demand and quickly judge if he can actually do something about the shortage:
  • Quantity of this product available on this location, as registered in the system. This might be useful if it was just a worker mistake, and counting could confirm or deny the correctness of the recorded on-hand quantity in the system, for example.
  • Quantity of this product needed on this location, as based on all open work order picking lines.
  • Quantity of this product incoming to this location, e.g. purchase order put away work lines, that could satisfy the pending demand for the product.
  • Quantity of this product available in other locations on the warehouse, that we could use to satisfy the demand directly or replenish the stock in this location.
The warehouse planner can then for the selected product and related inventory dimensions see all pending pick work lines, allowing him a quick overview of potential work exceptions in the near future if nothing is done. Two important pieces of information here, apart from the quantity required, are the Scheduled load shipping date and time, to judge necessary quantity availability, as well as the Blocked wave flag. If the work line is still blocked, it means we have a bit more time before the quantity must be available. 
Wayne can navigate to see the Work details for the selected line, if the information displayed in the grid is not sufficient for making the decision. He can also cancel one or more of the shown work lines using the Cancel work line button. He could choose to cancel the pending picks if, for example, there is in fact no quantity available to pick from / replenish from, meaning we won’t be able to complete this pick anyway, so there is no point in sending a worker over there and just getting a new short pick work exception created.


Section 3. Work order lines for selected product
Section 3. Work order lines for selected product

Section 4. Understand product availability at the warehouse

The warehouse planner needs to understand if he can make an emergency replenishment of the selected product to the selected location, thus satisfying the pending picks from there. The On-hand inventory for selected product fast tab allows him to do that by providing an overview of on-hand inventory available for the selected product (including all above inventory dimensions) at other locations at the same warehouse. 

Section 4. On-hand inventory for selected product

He can then select one of the locations with available on-hand and Create inventory movement work manually scheduling a move of inventory with all the relevant information pre-filled to move the goods to the location that is short. Note that only the on-hand that can actually be moved from the location is shown, meaning on-hand reserved for some other work, for example, is excluded.

Note, that a flag Has open work exceptions is displayed in the grid, which shows if there currently exists an open work exception for that location. The warehouse planner would potentially avoid trying to replenish from such locations, as the inventory on-hand registered in the system for that location seems to be wrong too, so the replenishment might fail, causing even more problems.

Conclusion

As you hopefully can see, this is a new awesome decision center for the Warehouse planner when it comes to handling exceptional situations in the picking flow. It is a very control-heavy form, but hopefully the above description helped clarify the intention behind all of the data shown.

Please let me know if you have questions or suggestions on how to improve the user experience / extend the flow here.

P.S. You can also view this blog post in Word if you want by following this link