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Monday, January 17, 2022

[Tutorial] Warehouse management app detours

Feature overview

Warehouse management app detours is a feature we have shipped recently, available as part of 10.0.23, which enables a warehouse worker to park a task they are currently executing, perform another mobile device operation, and then come back to exactly where they left off, once the detour is complete. 

This is feedback we have heard way too often from workers in the warehouse, saying they are afraid to navigate away from their current step for risk of losing their progress, the lock on the work they were performing, etc. 

The detours help reduce that fear, and, what is great about the feature, is that pretty much any mobile device menu item can serve as a detour in another mobile app flow.

Enable feature

Feature management

In order to enable the detours feature, you first need to enable the "Warehouse app step instructions" feature, both shown in the image above. This is what really drives the configuration options for detours, so that you can be flexible in where the various detours show up in a mobile flow.

In addition to enabling the feature, you should also make sure to regenerate the default setup / update the Warehouse app field names configuration, as we've significantly expanded the metadata associated with the fields (aka steps in a flow).

Configuring mobile device steps

You configure detours through the Mobile device steps screen. 

Mobile device steps

First, you need to identify the step in the flow where you would like to show a new detour menu item, and then add configuration for this step for a selected mobile device menu item.

In my examples today, I have decided to show detours on the "Scan a license plate" step as part of the Sales picking flow, as well as in the Item Inquiry screen from each of the cards. 

Adding specific step configuration allows to configure an alternative set of instructions for the user, in case they should be different from the default for the selected menu item, as well as choose (if you enable the corresponding feature) the information that should be prominently shown to the user in the details section, so they don't need to click into the details to view it. And, which is what we are going to do now, it allows to add one or more detours to this step. 

Detour configuration for Scan a License Plate step of Sales picking flow

Detour configuration for Item inquiry list screen

Above is how I have configured detours for Sales picking and Item inquiry flows.


It's not just about invoking another flow. You can actually also pass information back and forth between the main flow and the detour. In the examples above, I'm passing in the Location from the main flow into the detours, and in the Location inquiry detour, I'm also passing back the license plate. Which allows me to select the license plate from a list instead of entering it manually, if I for some reason is not able to scan the value in at the location.

The options with detours are almost limitless, especially when you take custom flows into consideration. Some of the examples could be allowing to do an ad hoc movement of inventory from the receiving flow, or even from a picking flow, so that the worker can clean up the aisle to get past some block. You could do ad hoc replenishments, or perform counting on the spot, if you notice something is off while picking goods. I'd love to hear what you come up with in your warehouse!

Sales picking with location inquiry detour demo

To demonstrate how detours behave on the mobile device, I've created a simple sales order picking work order with 1 line, picking 10 pcs of A0001 from FL-001 location, which is license plate controlled.

After scanning in the work ID created above, we arrive at the step, where the worker needs to specify the license plate to pick from in location FL-001. 

Detour menu items visible for Scan a license plate step

You can clearly see which menu items are detours because of the additional icon (return arrow) shown above the main icon. This signals to the worker that when they are done with the detour, they will be returned to their current step in the current flow.

If we select Location inquiry, we are directed to the first step in the location inquiry flow, and you can see that Location is already pre-populated for us with the value coming from the sales picking flow. I can of course go and change the value to another location if needed.

First step in Location inquiry detour

After I confirm the location, I am presented with the list of license plates and products in the selected location. 

Location inquiry detour - list

Now, because I am in a detour, I can actually select one of the cards displayed, and when clicking back, the selected context is carried back to the main flow, including not only the card header (in this case, Item number), but all/most of the other related information. In this case, I'm interested in the license plate, which is how I have configured the detour above.

Note, also, that when selecting to go back, the first step (for scanning the location) is "skipped", and we go out all the way back to the main flow. 

License plate populated from detour

As you can see, the license plate was transferred back and I can simply go ahead and confirm the entry to proceed. Nice!

Item inquiry flow with spot counting detour demo

Now, I'd like to go into an item inquiry flow and view the on hand available for A0001. You can see I have four locations where this product is available. And let's say I actually want to re-count this location, as upon visual inspection something seems off (or maybe I noticed something fell and broke, for example). That is now possible with detours. 

All I need to do is long-press the card for the specific location I would like to count, and a list of available actions will pop up.

Detours available for BULK-001 card

Selecting one of the detours will pass the current card context into the detour, thus when the spot counting opens, for example, the location to count will already be pre-populated, as shown below:

Spot Counting detour with pre-populated value and step instructions

Note that the step instructions are also displayed, as this is the first time I open this particular flow. I can dismiss the instructions until next time, or for good by selecting the "Don't show again" check box.

In summary, not only do you have detours available in your typical page by page flows, but also on inquiry screens like location or item inquiry, providing even more flexibility.

And, I guess, it makes sense to explicitly call out that both ProcessGuide-based flows as well as WHSWorkExecuteDisplay-based flows are supported.

Want your feedback

Currently, when a detour is opened, we do not automatically confirm the value, even if it's populated based on the main flow. One of the reasons we discussed was that workers might get confused, expecting a particular and familiar step, but instead getting something else. Another is that it would be slower, as we'd still be going step by step on the backend, so the worker might perceive a longer wait time for the detour screen.

I'd like to ask for feedback on this!
  • What detours do you find relevant for your business? 
  • Do workers find it convenient?
  • Is an auto-submit feature necessary?
Leave comments here, in the below Youtube video, or reach out directly!

YouTube video