B. Toyota Comprehensive Warehouse Management System (Toyota WMS)
Today, Toyota continues to seek to improve the efficiency of its systems to maintain a high position in the market (Toyota Global Website). Toyota has leveraged a variety of information technologies in establishing its renowned Toyota Production System (TPS), often considered a major precursor of lean manufacturing and a focus on total elimination of waste. The Toyota Comprehensive Warehouse Management System (Toyota WMS) provides widespread management for warehouses and logistics centers of the entire process from the time goods are received, to stocking and location management, and to delivery. People, goods, and information are tightly managed. Muri, mura, and muda (Japanese terms for waste, unevenness, and overburden) are reduced, daily improvements are sustained, and all employees are empowered to manage their own work. These practices are the essence of two concepts, “jidoka” and “just-in-time,” which serve as the pillars at the core of all of Toyota's operations and are expanded on later in this paper. The Toyota WMS generates comprehensive reports from large volumes of warehouse data that would otherwise be meaningless to decision makers. Using these reports, warehouse management officers can verify patterns and trends that would have been indiscernible without analysis and context. Toyota’s WMS has helped improve inventory level accuracy, reduced labor costs, and improved customer service by reducing order-to-delivery cycle times. The implementation of ubiquitous quality control means that the WMS is highly scalable
C. Vehicle Order Management System (VOMS)
Keeping in-line with its just-in time production system, Toyota synchronizes its production with real-time customer demand. For instance, Toyota Motor Europe uses a Vehicle Order Management System which is based on Oracle E-Business Suite software. It encompasses several business processes. It begins with the customer selecting...
In the contemporary business environment, management logistics has become very much machine based. This can be attributed to the introduction of computers in business where these machines come with programs which ease office keeping and management. Some of the ICT programs developed deal with warehouse management, supply management, cash book management and records management (spe.org/spe-site/spe/spe/jpt/2009/04/12Management.pdf).
In logistics management, the main task is to control the supply of products to the final consumer. The business unit acts at the source while the consumer acts as the destination of the products. Supply chain management (logistics management) helps keep in track all activities that occur to the products from time of dispatch to time of consumption. The number of times that the products change hands is also accounted for in the logistics management and plays a very vital role in the whole process (spe.org/spe-site/spe/spe/jpt/2009/04/12Management.pdf).
This ICT system is mainly in a class of information systems known as management information systems. These systems help organize run and effectively carry out managerial functions with minimal human effort. These systems heavily depend on the people, technology used and type of information handled (Russo, 2007).
Looking back at the history of information systems and its influence on business, as business transactions became difficult to keep a close eye on, there cropped a need to develop a computer program that would effectively handle the bulk of information in the business entity and uphold data integrity. The main categories of information systems used in the world are decision making and management support systems (Russo, 2007).
Logistics management is in the category of marketing information systems where the software is used to help ease marketing transactions. This software helps keep in track on all marketing channels and transactions. It helps organize all supply chain chains and organize supply to ensure effective forward and reverse flow of products (Robert, 2005).
Narrowing down to the specific field of logistics management, the main tasks are to plan, implement and control the forward and reverse flow of products in the supply channel. It also covers the storage and disposal of products that prove to be substandard. For a better understanding of this management system, let us look into the functions themselves (Robert, 2005).
From the basic architecture of the information systems, the system must interact with people. To ensure the system does this effectively, it has an interactive interface which enables the system to acquire data and then give an output (feedback or information). The output of the system depends on the second part of the information system. This part deals with processing the input according to a set of rules. This is the technology section of the system thus the output depends on the technology. Briefly looking at the technology itself, this part deals with a bit of programming. The programs developed depend on the intended task of the information system. With this task in mind, the programmer breaks down the whole process into smaller sub processes which can be developed independently. These sub processes lead to development of subprograms called either a procedure or function. The difference between a procedure and a function is only on the output part. Procedures mostly give a non-numerical output thus can be said to have a void output while a function must return an output. In information systems, procedures are used to call function (activate functions). The functions are the actual parts of the supply chain management that helps make decision on the best output depending on the input and the conditions attached to the transaction. The functions mostly make use of iteration thus mostly employ the use of case statements. These statements help reduce repetitive use of ‘if’ and ‘while’ statements. The graphical user interface is developed to enable the management to interact with the program much simply and also to make the system much friendly compared to letting a person who does not understand programming to meet a large code which does not make any sense to the user (Robert, 2005).
One of the main functions of logistics management is planning. This occurs according to the conditions attached to a specific scenario. For example, consider the sale of a vehicle. From the word go, all the costs must be considered before setting the selling price of the product. The conditions to consider may include buying price, shipping costs, profit margin and insurance. For the best selling price and discounts on these products, these conditions must be attached to the product. When feeding data to the logistics system, all these conditions must be fed. The system then come up with a plan of marketing the product at the minimum cost, the anticipated profit, the depreciation rates and even the shelf life of the product. The system also gives a set of rules under which the products may be returned to the source, ways of dealing with the returned goods and how to dispose the already useless products to the dealer (Rangel, 2002).
In this component of the logistics system, the main ICT components are a case based program which accepts the set of conditions and then makes the best decision. This program must have an input and output window which helps in accepting the input and displaying the output. The program has also to incorporate mathematical expressions which help n computations of profit margins, discount rates and the anticipated profit (Rangel, 2002).
Moving on to the next function of the system, analysis is vital. This process is the most crucial thus requires a careful planning. This component must have the ability to accept data and then process the whole bulk of data according to a set of rules making it possible for the transaction to occur. The analysis component is closely related to the planning since it receives data from the planning component for further processing. This component of the system does not interact with human beings thus is entirely dependent on the technology part of the information system (Rangel, 2002).
Back to our illustration, the data about the car is fed to the system from the input window. For the planning to occur, the received data in the system is analyzed according to the set conditions and the best suited option in the case statements provoked. The data is then processed according to the rules and the output is done. However, this is also done for other alternative case statements in the whole program after the case analysis, the outcomes are displayed and the management chooses the best option. This option is then used to analyze the rest of the data pertaining to the product. (tefen.com/uploads/media/Case_Study.pdf).
Lastly, let us move to control component of the system. This component is very important since it is the one that allows only valid information to be entered to the machine. Any data outside the accepted bracket of data is rejected and a message is displayed simultaneously. This part of the system is usually incorporated in programs as exceptional handling strings which help keep the system robust and free from any crashing. Deeper in the control aspect, the system ensures that the stock moves as anticipated. If excess stock flows out, it prompts the people using it input more stock. By this, it controls the movement of stock and produces a report to that effect. This part of the system is the only component in the whole system that prints a report to a peripheral device like a printer. The control aspect deals with the input and output, compares them and uses a part of the master program in the analysis component to come up with a report (Hawks, 2006).
From the actual operation of the logistics management, there exist two logistic management subsystems. These subsystems can be attributed to the fact that supply chain can have products moving in either of the directions. In the forward movement of products, forward logistics management system is evoked. This subsystem helps in computation of the required discounts, anticipated profits and the other facts like shelf life of the products. When a product has been returned to the business unit due to some defects, it has to be considered by the system for the best record updating. This calls for reverse logistics management subsystem which is part of the main logistics system. This subsystem helps keep record of the defective products as well as help in making decision s regarding the best way to repair or deal with the returned products. These two subsystems work in opposition to each other and they are stored on the same main system. They are evoked as one of the very initial steps thus they use almost the same subprograms but call the functions differently or in different orders (Hawks, 2006).
With this technology, management is becoming easier with time and record keeping is becoming much easier than in the past. Many advantages in this sector can be associated with technology use I supply management. Some of the advantages are:
- Fast data manipulation. The main cause of use of technology in business can be said to be speed. The rate at which a compute manipulates data is very fast compared to human manipulation. As business firms became larger, the amount of data that required to be handled increased almost exponentially. Considering sales department under which supply falls, the growth was almost exponential thus a new mechanism had to be developed so as to keep in pace with the increasing business transaction. This is what led to development of logistics management systems which help in all matters pertaining to sales. The number f records that require to be reviewed and data extracted from even in a small firm may take a lot of time to peruse and get the required data. A computer system may only require a single click or a few clicks to help retrieve the same amount of data. In report preparation, it is very easy to use data contained in a system to prepare a report compared to data which has to be extracted from paper records. Thus, the system also helps reduce the time required to prepare and print a report (Baron, 1996).
- Reduced manpower. Looking at the actual function of the logistics system, many people may be required to carry out the required planning, implementation and control of sales. These people would have a lot of work load on their shoulders thus the required manpower may be too much for the business unit to hire. By using this system, only a few employees may be required since most of the sales decisions are made by the system. With this reduced manpower required, the business unit has the ability to hire highly qualified personnel and increase the profit margin since the expenses are reduced (Baron, 1996).
- Better decision making process. A computer system always gives a number of options as output. The management then has a starting pointing their discussion thus the decisions they make are much more precise. The alternatives are listed from the most appropriate to the least appropriate thus the management can easily make the best choice. If the choice is incompatible with the system, then the system gives a number of suggestions thus in the very end, the best decision is arrived.
- Time saving. In any business department, a lot of time is wasted holding meetings which at time do not produce the best results. Instead of holding meetings without any clue of the matter at hand, the logistics department may serve a purpose of giving some information about the point of discussion in the meeting saving time to find preliminary information on the subject of discussion. The decision support ability also enables the system to save time when making sales decisions and profit margins or discount computation.
- Ease of expansion. Critically analyzing any decision making system it can be easily expanded to cover any number of related chores. For example, if the company may have to make a decision on supply of the raw materials, the same logistics system may be used instead of relying on physical manpower or buying a new system (Baron, 1996).
Any technological advancement comes at some expense. These expenses may appear to the people as disadvantages thus many people may remain opposed to the adoption of the new technology. Some of these disadvantages include:
- Capital intensive business unit. In many parts of the world, business units are started with an aim of creating employment. In the process of adopting new technology, the labor intensive structure that the business proprietors had in mind is washed away making the whole investment to be capital intensive. This may result in death of the original dream that the proprietor had. Also, running a capital intensive business unit may be quite more expensive than labor intensive businesses.
- Specialized skills. All these technological advancements require period update of the user skills. Most of the system users might find this quite tasking thus may remain reluctant to adopting the new technology in business. The technology might also require special handling equipment which may be expensive to use and maintain.
- Lack of personal touch in the business. Many of the people who oppose use of technology in business do it mostly due to loss of personal touch in the sales department. This may result in many customers losing trust in the business unit thus the actual says may decline. (Baron, 1996).
These systems can be divided into three categories where each deals with a specific part in the supply chain. These categories are briefly discussed below.
- Conventional department management system. This system deals with the actual office work and mainly deals with records. This system is the one responsible for all record transactions ranging from updating, querying of data to report compilation and printing. It can be claimed as the main system on which the other entire logistics systems crop. This system extends to control activities where it monitors the forward logistics and reverse logistics. It serves as the main sales decision support mechanism thus acts as the control of sales department (Hugh, 2002).
- Warehousing management system. This system deals with monitoring the rates at which the products are fed into and fetched from the warehouse. It is part of the conventional department system which precisely deals with warehouse activities and then gives a feedback to the main system for report compilation. However, this system still has capability of report compilation (Hugh, 2002).
- Transport management system. This system may appear as only tracking system that is not part of the sales department but due to the transport of sales, it is part of the department. This system uses GPRS tracking systems which help locate the products on transit and help keep them secure. If the products are tampered with while on transit, the sales department can easily use this system to know how to sabotage took place (Hugh, 2002).
Critically analyzing the use of technology in business sales department, there has been a reported success in the field. In fact more than 75% of business units that use logistics management systems have reported to be happy with the systems since once the required skills are acquired; the rest of the work is very simple. From a personal perspective, use of logistics systems is very important to a business unit. The function of monitoring can be very complicated and tasking but with the systems control component, the work is very simple. This section may require very many people but with the technology in place, a single person may carry out many tasks per unit time (Keller, 2006).
The use also suffers some drawbacks which can be said to be rooted in the technological constraints. Many of the people using computers may know very little about them thus using a system to keep their business alive and give them a competitive advantage may be a dream almost out of hand. On personal opinion, this constraint makes people feel alienated thus makes people detached (Keller, 2006).
A personal statement on this issue would be to support the use of technology in business enterprises. As much as businesses should avoid being capital intensive, people must also change with the change or if they remain reluctant, the change will change them.
In conclusion, technology use in business has been on the rise in the recent with the rapid widespread use…