Improved packing functionality (Dynamics 365 for Operations 1611)

Dynamics 365 for Operations 1611 – Improved packing functionality

 

Based on the input that we have received from many of our customers and partners, we have improved the packing station experience in Dynamics 365 for Operations version 1611 (November 2016) to make sure that it seamlessly integrates with the rest of the warehouse workflows.

On a high level, we have improved the following areas:

  • Setup experience is better aligned with the rest of Warehouse management.
  • The packing station is now seen as a location. When the warehouse workers are logging in at the packing station, they will only see and operate on shipments and containers that are planned at the specific packing location.
  • Work can now be generated to bring goods from the packing station to the staging and bay door locations.
  • The concept of container groups has been introduced to allow multiple containers to be moved out of the packing station in one operation.
  • A new packing policy has been introduced to give warehouse managers greater flexibility in how containers should be handled in the packing process.
  • The concept of manual manifesting has been introduced to allow a loosely coupled integration to external transportation provider systems.
  • The user experience for packing and container processing has been improved.

Upgrade from Dynamics AX 2012

If you are not upgrading from a previous Dynamics AX version where packing processes were used, you can skip this section.

The In packing status has been removed from the shipments and loads as they were not working consistently and resulted in redundant data. Consequently, the list pages for In shipments and Loads in packing have been deprecated. Containers in packing are tracked at a location level.

In previous versions, the packing location was defined as a Location profile ID. In the current version, this is changed so setup of packing location will be defined using location types to align with the process for identifying staging and final shipping locations.

It is possible to continue the operation with the current setting, but we recommend that you update the setting because the legacy packing setting will be deprecated in future versions.

Please note that this process is irreversible. After clearing and saving the Profile ID for packing location field, the field will be disabled and cannot be used anymore. For installations where the legacy has not been used, the legacy setting will always be disabled.

IMPORTANT UPGRADE GUIDELINES

  • All containers must be closed before upgrade. In previous versions, containers did not have a container packing policy assigned on creation. In the current version and going forward, container packing policy must be assigned to containers to process containers. This can be mitigated by using the Change container packing policy function on the Container form, but it is not a recommended approach.
  • In the current version and going forward, it is required that the locations that operate as packing stations must be LP controlled. If the packing station is not LP controlled, it is not possible to process containers after upgrade.
  • Before using the newly upgraded system, make sure that the right container packing policies have been defined and are associated with the correct packing profiles.

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Define location profiles and packing locations

Set up packing location profiles and packing locations in the same way as setting up staging and final shipping locations.

Create a location type that identifies the packing.

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Under Set up parameters for Warehouse management, select Pack in the Packing location type.

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Create one or more location profiles that use the packing location type.

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Notice the setup for the packing location profile:

  • Use license plate tracking must be set to Yes.
  • Allow negative inventory should be set to No.
  • Allow mixed items should be set to Yes.
  • Allow mixed inventory statuses should be set to Yes.
  • Allow mixed inventory batches should be set to Yes.

Set up the locations that operate as packing stations to use the new packing location profile ID.

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Use location directives to bring goods to the packing station

Overall, the concept of using location directives to bring goods to the packing station is not changed.

The setup for using work to move goods out of the packing station will be described later in this document.

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Log in the packing station

Before the packing station can be used, the Dynamics 365 for Operations user account must be associated with a user and the user must be created as a warehouse worker as shown below.

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When navigating to the Pack form, the warehouse worker will be asked to log in the packing station by specifying the location of the packing station and the packing profile.

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As it is very common that the same warehouse worker will work at the same packing station for a longer period, it is recommended to set up default values for the worker as shown below.

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For the default packing station, it is possible to set up any combination. You can choose site only, site and warehouse, or even site, warehouse and location if the worker is always logging in the same packing station. All the values are the default values, but can be changed after login.

The default profile can be used for the warehouse manager to guide the warehouse worker at the packing station on what process to use when operating at the packing station, or it can be used for the warehouse worker to store favorite packing settings.

When selecting a Packing profile ID that has a Container packing policy associated with it, it is not possible to change the Container packing policy. If selecting a Packing profile ID without a Container packing policy, it will be possible to specify another default Container packing policy.

Set up container packing policies

The Close container profile field has been renamed to Container packing profile because it has a different impact on how containers are processed during packing.

In the previous versions, the Close container profile field was only used when a container was closed waiting for the decision as to which final shipping location the container should go to and what unit of measure should be used as the default value when weighing the container. As no work creation was supported, the container immediately appeared at the final shipping location after the container was closed.

In the current version, the Container packing policy defines how the container should be processed and consequently, it is applied immediately when a new container is created.

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On the Overview tab, it is still possible to specify the actions when closing the container, but now it is possible to operate with or without work creation as well as defining when the container should be released from the packing station.

Container release policy

Using this parameter, it is possible to define what should happen when the container is released from the packing station by specifying one of the following options:

  • Make available at final shipping location. This is the same as in the previous versions. As soon as the container is released, it is updated to the specified location for the final shipping location. When using this option, the field Default location for final shipment is enabled and used for specifying a preferred location for the container after closing it.
  • Create work to move container from packing station. Using this option will create work for moving the container from the packing station to the staging area or directly to the bay door. When using this option, the field Work template is enabled and can be used for specifying a work template that should be applied when creating the work for the container.

Work template

A new work order type called Packed container picking is introduced. The work order type is used to describe the work created after a container or container group is released from the packing station.

In most cases, it is recommended to create work for moving the containers as it results in a better representation of the actual manual processes in the warehouse. There might be setups that are very simple or where packing station is located directly in the bay door area where it would be preferable to let the container be available at the final shipping location.

It is not possible to use work breaks, but it is possible to set up different work templates for different warehouses depending on the warehouse or the shipping carrier.

The examples below show templates for moving a container from staging or directly to the bay door.

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Container closing policy

By using this parameter, it is possible to define what should happen when closing the container by specifying one of the following options:

  • Automatic release. The container will be considered released from the packing station and the action specified under the Container release policy will be triggered.
  • Delayed release. The container will not be released from the packing station immediately. It will be up to the warehouse worker to release it at a later point in time.
  • Optional. During the process of closing the container, it will be possible to choose whether the container should be released at the closing time.

The setting of this parameter will depend on the nature of the individual customer and packing stations. If the packing station is mainly handling single container shipments directly to customers, it will be most natural to release the containers immediately. If the packing station is handling shipments with multiple containers or even pallets it will probably be optimal to delay the release until the entire shipment or pallet is packed and ready for pick up.

Weight unit

This parameter enables the user to choose a default unit of measure used for container closing and manifesting. Usually this will be the unit of measure of the scale used at the packing station.

The parameter will work for policies with or without work creation.

Manifesting

Manifesting is the process of specifying the weight of a container, container group or shipment as well as a tracking ID provided by the transportation provider.

There is no direct integration with external transportation provider systems. The warehouse worker must print the label from the external provider system and scan the tracking number when completing the manifest procedure.

As manifest requirements vary from customer to customer and even from shipment to shipment, the packing policies allow a lot of flexibility when it comes to the workflow. It is possible to set up manifests for containers, container groups and shipments in any combination.

If using a multiple level manifest procedure, it is a requirement that:

  • All containers must be manifested before container group is manifested.
  • All container groups must be manifested before shipment is manifested.

Manifesting will be described in more details when the workflow of the packing station is explained.

Container manifest

Container manifesting should be enabled if it is required to complete a manifest for every single container packed at the packing station.

Manifesting is activated by the parameter Manifest requirement for container. If this is set to Manual, the manifesting will be included as a requirement in the packing workflow. It will not be possible to close and release the container before the manifesting is completed. If the parameter is set to Transportation management, the manifesting will still be performed through the TMS rate engines. Please note that this requires partners to implement a specific engine for the transportation provider and will not work out of the box in the current version. 

If activating the Automatic manifest at container close, the warehouse worker must specify the manifest information as part of the Close container dialog to avoid a two-step process. This is usually the preferred setting if the same worker is packing and manifests the containers.

If activating the Print container content parameter, the container content report will automatically be printed as part of the container close. The report can of course also be printed and reprinted on demand.

Container group manifest

Container group manifesting should be enabled if it is required to complete a manifest for every single container group packed at the packing station. This will normally be used if containers are packed on a pallet and the entire pallet is manifested.

Manifesting is activated by the parameter Manifest requirement for container group. If this is set to Manual, the manifesting will be included as a requirement in the packing workflow. All containers included in the group must be closed before the group can be manifested.

There’s no transportation management engine support for container groups in the current version.

There’s no manifest report for container groups in the current version.

Shipment manifest

Shipment manifest should be enabled if it is required to complete a manifest for the entire shipment packed at the packing station. This will normally be used when one consolidated manifest is required even though the shipment consists of multiple containers or container groups.

Manifesting is activated by the parameter Manifest requirement for shipment. If this is set to Manual, the shipment manifest will be included as a requirement in the packing workflow. It will not be possible to release any containers on the shipment before the manifesting is completed. If the parameter is set to Transportation management, the manifesting will still be performed through the TMS rate engines. Please note that this requires partners to implement a specific engine for the transportation provider and will not work out of the box in the current version. 

If activating the Print packing slip parameter, the packing slip report will automatically be printed as part of the shipment manifest. The report can of course also be printed and reprinted on demand.

 

Packing station workflow

The first step for the warehouse worker is to log in the packing station. In the example below, we will log in the packing station at the location Pack.

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Overall, the user interface for the packing station looks like the packing station in previous versions, but has several additions and workflow optimizations.

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Prepare for packing

After the warehouse worker scans the shipment ID or the license plate identifying the shipment, the lines will be displayed and the packing of the shipment can be started.

Container packing policy

The new Container packing policy is now applied when containers are created. Normally the same packing policy will be used for a single shipment or even for the entire packing station.

Container group license plate ID

The Container group concept is introduced. This can be used if containers will be packed on a pallet and will be moved out of the packing station in one operation, instead of moving the individual containers.

Usually this field should be set up when starting to pack on a new pallet. The warehouse worker should scan the pallet license plate and it will work as a default container group for all new containers being packed and closed.

Please note that Container groups can only be used for containers that have a Container packing policy with delayed work creation.

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It is possible to use an existing license plate, but if scanning a non-existing license plate, it will automatically be created.

License plates for containers that are already shipped should not be reused.

When closing the container, the default value will be used in the Close container dialog and it is possible to change it.

One way to add a container to a container group is through one of the containers forms, for example, Containers for shipment, Open containers at packing station, etc.

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Both open and closed containers can be added to a container group. However, there are several restrictions when this can be done. For example: released containers can’t be added to a container group and containers from different shipments or different container packing policies can’t be added to the same container group.

Through the container forms, it is also possible to remove container from a container group by just clearing the Container group license plate ID field.

Pack the shipment

The shipment can now be packed in one or more containers. The first step is to create a new container with the selected Container packing profile.

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The new container will be automatically selected in the Open containers view and packing can now be started. The view will also show the status of the container, for example, how much is packed, is the manifesting requirement met for the container, etc.

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When an open container is selected, the warehouse worker will be able to start packing by scanning items using the Item packing section.

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A new feature has been added so that it is now possible to pack everything on the selected open line by using the Pack button on the Action Pane. This will allow the warehouse worker to speed up packing shipments where it is not necessary to scan and pack individual items.

 

Manifest the container

If the container is using a policy with manual container manifest requirements, the Manifest container dialog can be opened and the container weight and tracking number can be specified.

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Close the container

When the container is packed and any container manifest requirements are met, the warehouse worker can close the container. As the container is already manifested, it will no longer be possible to change the weight or the container tracking number.

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If the container is using a policy with manual container manifest requirements and the policy parameter Automatic manifest at container close is enabled, the worker will be able be scan the container tracking number as part of the closing process.

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If the container is not using a packing policy with container manifest requirements, the tracking number will not be displayed in the Close container dialog and the Manifest container button will not be enabled.

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After the container is closed, follow the actions specified in the Container packing policy.

  • If the policy parameter Container closing policy is set to Automatic release, the container will immediately be released when the container is closed.
  • If the policy parameter Container closing policy is set to Delayed release, the container will be closed, but will be pending until released by the warehouse worker.
  • If the policy parameter Container closing policy is set to Optional, the container will be closed and the worker can decide to release it as part of closing the container.

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Delaying the release of the container can be very helpful in scenarios with or without work creation. In most situations, it would not be optimal to create work every time a container is closed, but rather wait until the entire shipment is packed. It can also be utilized when running without work creation and the containers are kept at the packing station until the truck arrives and the containers can be loaded.

Remember that an even more optimized work creation process can be achieved when using container groups for work creation container policies.

Please note that the old Close container form has been deprecated. In the case where it is needed to support the workflow where packing and closing take place in separate operations, the container closing should be performed on the Containers form.

 

Release the container

If the container is not part of a container group and there’s no requirement for shipment manifesting, the container can be released as part of the container close.

Depending on the Container packing policy, one of the following actions will occur when releasing the container:

  • If the policy parameter Container release policy is set to Make available at final shipping location, the container will immediately be available at the specified location when the container is closed.
  • If the policy parameter Container release policy is set to Create work to move container from packing station, work will be created for moving the container out of the packing station.

 

Unmanifest container

If the container is still open and manifested, it can be unmanifested from the Pack form. Containers cannot be unmanifested when they are closed or released.

 

Container group manifesting

If a Container group license plate is selected, the container group with the selected group license plate can be manifested using the Manifest container group button.

To manifest the container group, all manifest requirements for the containers in the group must be met and the containers must be closed.

When manifesting a container group, the following dialog will be shown and it is possible to specify the total gross weight and tracking number for the container group.

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Unmanifest container group

If a Container group license plate is selected, the container group with the selected group license plate can be manifested using the Manifest container group button.

A container group cannot be unmanifested if the containers in the group are already released.

When the unmanifesting process is completed, the tracking number is removed from the container group and a confirmation message is displayed.

Manifest shipment

If a shipment is selected, the shipment can be manifested using the Manifest shipment button.

To manifest the shipment, all manifest requirements for the containers and the container groups in the shipment must be met and the containers must be closed.

When manifesting a shipment, the following dialog will be shown and it is possible to specify the total gross weight and tracking number for the shipment.

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Unmanifest shipment

If a shipment is selected, the shipment can be unmanifested using the Unmanifest shipment button.

When the unmanifesting process is completed, the tracking number is removed from the shipment and a confirmation message is displayed.

View containers

There are different ways to view containers based on the context. When packing a shipment, it is useful to see containers that are part of the shipment.

The following form shows open, closed and released containers.

From this form, the packer can also perform all operations on containers such as closing, manifesting, reopening and releasing.

pack30It is also possible to see all containers that are physically at the packing station. The Packing station form has buttons that can be used to view all open and closed containers at the packing station. These views will not be restricted to a specific shipment.

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The views can be very helpful in the situation where one worker is packing the containers and the other worker is manifesting and releasing the containers.

Furthermore, a consolidated view of all containers is also available. This will mostly be useful for users working outside the context of a single packing station.

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Work creation

If the packing station is operating with a container packing policy with work creation, work will be created when the container is released as shown in the example below, where we are using a work template including staging.

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Work cancellation

If a container was released by mistake, it is possible to reopen it if the work is not started yet. If the warehouse worker reopens the container, the corresponding work will be cancelled.

If the other worker is cancelling the Packed container picking work, the corresponding container will also be reopened.

In scenarios where the container is already moved out of the packing station it is no longer possible to reopen the container by cancelling work. The container must be manually moved back to the packing station for reprocessing.

Work execution

The Packed container picking work will be executed through the mobile device using menu items for packed container picking and packed container loading as showed in the example below.

Packed container picking

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Packed container loading

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Work creation and possibilities for container groups

The work that gets created for the container groups is very similar to the one for just one container.

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You will notice a couple of differences: Target license plate ID is the same as the Container group license plate ID and not the Container ID. The work quantity is also created from all the containers in the group.

The work execution itself is also similar.

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There are some additional possibilities with the container groups that are not available to individual containers. Namely, it is possible to remove a container from a container group if the container group is at a staging location.

To make this possible, there is a new warehouse mobile device menu item called Remove container from group.

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By default, when a container is removed from the group, then the related Packed container picking work is updated to consider that the container group now has a different number of containers on it.

It is also possible to turn on the Cancel related work when removing container from group setting. If that is the case, then the related Packed container picking work gets canceled when the container is removed from the group.

This is how the removing container flow looks like.

For example, let’s take the container group from the above work. It has three containers.

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If we click the Selected container, we can see which containers are going to be removed. Please notice that none of the containers are removed at this point and that it is possible to get out of the flow by clicking the Cancel button.

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When the Remove containers button is selected, the flow ends.

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This is how the work looks like now.

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The removed containers are now at the staging location and can be moved freely.

Use multiple packing stations

In this section, we’ll describe how to set up multiple packing stations and use them for packing the same shipment. Of course, it is possible to use multiple packing stations for multiple shipments.

There are multiple ways to end up in a situation where there are items from the same shipment at different packing stations, for example, overriding the put location and selecting the Full button during sales order picking work, but we’ll describe one way to do it.

First, let’s set up the work template. To guide items to different packing stations, there should be multiple works. To accomplish this, we’ll break work by Item ID (and shipment, but that is not relevant for our case).

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Setup of the work template query.

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Setup of the work breaks.

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Now, we need to set up the location directives.

We need to set up one location directive for the first item.

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Location directive query.

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Location directive action query.

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The one for the other item is similar and it just filters for item A0002 and location Pack2.

If we now have a sales order with these two items and release it to warehouse, it will generate two work headers that will bring items to different packing stations.

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The user can now proceed and pack the items at two different packing stations.

Currently, the interaction between the two packing stations is very limited. For example, it is not possible to move items between them even if the items belong to the same shipment. It is also not possible to add containers to container groups that are at different packing stations.

Also, after the container is closed and released, it is not possible to move the container back for repacking at a different packing station.

It’s important to notice that if the items are at the packing station, it is still possible to adjust items, leaving the container in an inconsistent state.

 

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