Tablets and other advances in technology make warehouse management easier and, in some cases, more affordable than in the past.

When it comes to distribution, a growing number of bakeries now go beyond direct-store delivery (D.S.D.). While many conventional bakeries deliver fresh to retailers five to seven days a week, their hybrid warehouse operations also ship par-baked and fully baked bread, buns and rolls to food service, in-store bakery and c-store customers.

“We have installations in a variety of distribution models, including fresh local route delivery and frozen common carrier, third-party cold storage and even local distributors,” said Marc Braun, president, Pcdata. “The software can be configured to handle all different models, even within the same shipping operation. It’s just a matter of defining who the customer is.”

Often warehouse management systems (WMS) boil down to multiple applications of the same software platform to handle stacks of baskets or trays, monitoring pallets of inventory in a freezer or a combination of both distribution systems. Even though many bakeries remain deeply committed to the D.S.D. model, they are exploring ways to not only streamline their warehouses but also synchronize their entire operations to enhance their bottom line.

“In the old days, picking systems were only considered a great tool for picking final customer/D.S.D. orders,” said Ralf Ulmer, president, ToolBox Software North America. “Today, our systems typically start at production. Here, we record the produced quantities in real time. At this point, the goods are already ‘pre-dispatched’ to their next ‘destination.’ This could be an in-house picking area for bakers who distribute products via D.S.D., depots, distribution centers or even another plant.”

Handling frozen distribution via WMS is more common than in the past.

“Most bakeries build up a fresh inventory to cover the weekend orders and a freezer inventory for the main bun season,” Mr. Ulmer added. “All these transactions and inventories can be handled nowadays with our system.”

Today’s systems also monitor deliveries from the bakery through third-party cold storage operations and to the final customer.

“These operations will have more needs for handling different types of products than a typical bakery,” Mr. Braun said. “We monitor how much inventory is with the third party and even integrate systems to keep track of everything from putting code dates on products that have ‘made by’ dates, ‘pick by’ dates or other product-related information to make sure it gets to the final destination on time.”

As products leave the plant, electronic data interchange (EDI) allows bakeries to synchronize an internal system with a third-party logistics system, noted Tony Kucharski, president, McCook Cold Storage.

“EDI offers many different forms to adhere to your needs,” he said. “You are able to send advanced shipment notices, orders, shipment confirmations and any adjustments that need to be made to orders. You are able to receive damage reports, confirmation of orders, inventory reports and more. There are no major lag times, so inventories on both ends should match up fairly quickly.”