Logistics and warehouse innovation: A beginners’ guide to acronyms

The world of supply chain management, warehousing, automation and logistics is full of acronyms that can be bamboozling for novices. TM Insight is Australia’s leading provider of supply chain management, warehousing, automation and logistics solutions. Here we share a helpful guide to some common acronyms in the supply chain industry:

AGV – Automated Guided Vehicles:

An Automated Guided Vehicle can navigate around an industrial setting such as a warehouse without intervention from a human. Automated Guided Vehicles rely on laser, location-sensors and magnets to navigate and they can be programmed to follow a particular, pre-defined route within your warehouse, meaning they are suited to completing repetitive and discrete transportation and logistics tasks.

AI: Artificial Intelligence:

Artificial intelligence involves using computerised systems to carry out tasks that would normally require human intelligence, (for example visual perception, analysing trends in data, or decision making). It also involves machine learning, meaning that the system can learn, change and improve over time. The supply chain management and logistics sector is well positioned to reap the benefits of Artificial Intelligence due to the fact that the sector is characterised by high volumes of data, complex systems and inefficiency. In the context of supply chain management, warehousing and logistics, Artificial Intelligence can be used to forecast demand, improve resource utilisation, manage transportation, conduct quality assessments, improve supply chain throughput and minimise supplier-related risks.

AMR – Autonomous Mobile Robots:

Like Automated Guided Vehicles, Autonomous Mobile Robots navigate around an industrial setting such as a warehouse without intervention from a human. However, unlike Automated Guided Vehicles, Autonomous Mobile Robots do not rely on any supporting infrastructure in the warehouse floor such as markers, wires or magnets for their navigation. This means they are able to move around a warehouse facility with a greater degree of flexibility and adaptability. While an Automated Guided Vehicle is suited to carrying out repetitive transportation tasks, Autonomous Mobile Robots can absorb more variety, for example picking a wider variety of products from a wider variety of locations within a warehouse. Learn more about the latest trends in Autonomous Mobile Robots by visiting our Trend Report on Warehouse Innovation in China.

AS/ RS – Automated Storage and Retrieval System:

An automated storage and retrieval system is a collection of computer-controlled systems and machines that place and retrieve products from pre-defined storage locations in warehouses.

DC – Distribution Centre:

A distribution centre is a warehouse or other specialised building, from which goods are distributed to other parts of your supply chain or logistics operations (including retailers, wholesalers and suppliers). Learn more about TM Insight’s Distribution Centre design capability.

ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning:

Enterprise Resource Planning involves using integrated software and technology to manage key business, logistics, warehouse and supply chain processes.

MHE – Material Handling Equipment:

Material Handling Equipment is a blanket term used for any tool that facilitates the movement and storage of material within a facility or warehouse. Categories of Material Handling Equipment include transportation, positioning, unit load formation, storage and ID & control. Material Handling Equipment is frequently a key component of a warehouse automation system.

MSU – Mobile storage unit:

As the name implies, Mobile Storage Unit is a storage unit that can be moved around your warehouse or facility, depending on your business, logistics, automation and supply chain requirements. Learn how Yellow Tail use Mobile Storage Units in warehouses to drive supply chain efficiencies in China.

RFID – Radio Frequency Identification:

RFID involves using electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects in your warehouse, or as they move through the supply chain. It drives efficiency in warehousing and supply chain because it enables multiple items to be scanned at once and reduces reliance on labour.

SKU – Stock Keeping Unit:

A SKU is a unique code that is used to search and identify stock in your warehouse or as it progresses through your supply chain.

SLAM – Simultaneous localisation and mapping:

An automated robot needs to solve two problems simultaneously – firstly it must map its environment and secondly it must locate itself within that map. The complexity comes from the fact that these two tasks are interdependent. SLAM technology will be a key to of self-driving cars and it also has extensive applications in the supply chain, logistics and warehousing sector, as it heralds an era of unprecedented automation and intelligence in warehousing and logistics. Chinese warehouses are leading the way in this arena. Learn more.

WMS – Warehouse Management System:

The Warehouse Management System is software technology that manages the flow of inventory into and out of the warehouse or distribution centre. It is a higher-level, overarching system, which integrates with the wider supply chain management system. It can integrate with an Enterprise Resource Planning system and tasks it completes include labour management and execution of transport and shipping.

WCS – Warehouse Control System:

The Warehouse Control System is software technology that is designed to manage and control operations within the warehouse, for example the movement of goods through the various stages of picking, sorting, packing, etc. Warehouse Control Systems are particularly well-suited to more automated warehouses, as they drive automated warehouse processes including inventory counting, picking, packing and sorting.

WES – Warehouse Execution System:

Warehouse Execution Systems came about when the creators of Warehouse Control Systems started to integrate upwards, entering into the Warehouse Management System space. As such, we can see Warehouse Execution Systems as sitting between Warehouse Control Systems and Warehouse Management Systems, combining parts of both. The Warehouse Execution System is often a sensible choice for small and mid-sized businesses because it provides the best of both worlds, without the complexity and sophistication that a larger organisation requires. It is likely to complete simple warehousing tasks including goods receiving and shipping management tasks, along with warehousing tasks including picking, packing and sorting.