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Barcode Mobility Warehouse and Distribution

The Best Strategies for Improving Warehouse Efficiency

Inefficiency can have a corrosive effect on warehouse operations that goes way beyond shipment velocity or throughput. Lack of efficiency can have a domino effect across different warehouse activities, leading to missed shipments, returns, customer chargebacks, and ultimately lost business.

Optimizing warehouse efficiency requires a mix of technology and process changes that, taken in tandem, can both cut costs and create new business opportunities. Here are some key strategies for improving warehouse efficiency:

Process Evaluation: Prior to any major technology deployment, map out every process on the warehouse floor and search for inefficiencies and bottlenecks. If a process doesn’t seem to make sense, find out why it was implemented. In some cases, you may find employees are doing something simply because “It’s always been done that way,” even if “that way” is not longer necessary.

It’s important to root out and change bad processes prior to an automation project, otherwise you’ll simply increase the efficiency of a bad process and get the wrong results at a faster rate.

Automation: Humans are prone to errors, so any opportunity to take the human element out of data entry and data collection is a golden one. Automation technology in the warehouse can take the form of mobile computers, voice-directed picking, pick-to-light systems, conveyers, warehouse management software, bar coded pick lists and putaway locations, or RFID tag tracking.

The key is to reduce or eliminate the number of times an employee has to write things down or search for SKUs. The fewer “touches” on the data, the more accurate it will be and the more quickly your employees can complete their work.

Automation systems can also be set up so that if there is a mispick or mistake, employees are unable to move forward with their picking or packing process until the error is corrected. That way, mistakes are fixed before they reach the customer’s dock door and employees are given a sense of accountability in the process.

Hands-Free Picking: If your warehouse requires a lot of piece picking, then your employees will work faster with both of their hands. Ditch the clipboard or the brick-style mobile computer and see if your picking operations can benefit from a voice-directed picking solution that allows them to work faster.

Measure: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and find out how you are performing against your peers and your own month-to-month numbers. Find your baseline and establish targets. Keep the metrics at a manageable number so staff can focus on specific improvements.

Also, determine your fastest and slowest moving SKUs, rank them, and focus your efforts on improving shipping performance for your most in-demand items.

Stay Organized: Keep your shelves and bins neat and organized. If you deal in different sized products, try using different sized shelving for those products to reduce wasted space. Make better use of vertical space as well; it can save you an investment in more square footage down the road.

Once you identify your fast- and slow-moving SKUs, organize the warehouse so that you can reduce the number of times items are touched, and cut down on the distance your employees have to walk to complete an order and print off labels. Most of the wasted time in a typical warehouse involves staff walking from one spot to another, multiple times per day. If you can trim that time you’ll improve warehouse efficiency and make working conditions better for your staff.

Documentation: Keep a central record of your performance against your targets, and make sure managers are aware of any significant improvements or failures. That documentation should extend to process or staffing changes, new customer demands, technology upgrades, and other changes in the warehouse. With that data available, you can map errors or bottlenecks and potentially identify the source of the problem more quickly.

Warehouse efficiency is critical in an increasingly competitive supply chain. Root out poor processes, invest in technology that can improve productivity, and continuously document and measure your performance in order to keep your operation running as lean as possible.

Categories
Barcode Mobility RFID Hardware Warehouse and Distribution

Inventory Control: 5 Steps to a Successful Warehouse

There’s a subtle difference between inventory management and inventory control. While opinions vary, most categorize inventory management as more of an external-facing process that involves forecasting, ordering, and making sure you have the right amount of inventory in the right locations.

Inventory control, on the other hand, is all about how you handle that inventory once it’s inside your warehouse. As such, it’s an important warehouse operation that has a huge affect on how quickly and accurately you can respond to customer requests, and the level of service your warehouse is able to provide.

Here are five steps to more effective inventory control:

Track Your Inventory: Barcoding (or RFID tracking) will ensure that you get an accurate count of your entire inventory. By implementing scanning procedures for each movement within the warehouse, you can create real-time visibility into location and inventory levels. Combining this with electronic data interchange, advance shipping notices, and other technology will eliminate mispicks and miscounts, shipping errors, out of stocks, and other negative consequences of inadequate tracking.

Categorize Your Inventory: With accurate data about what is moving in and out of your warehouse, and how often, you can begin ranking the items in the warehouse. In most scenarios, around 80 percent of demand comes from 10 to 20 percent of your SKUs. Dedicate more forecasting and inventory management resources to those fast moving items, while optimizing stocks of slower-moving B and C-level inventory.

Organize Your Inventory: Identifying and categorizing inventory also helps you develop shelving and layout plans for the warehouse so that faster moving items are easier to be found, co-located (if they tend to ship together), kitted, or staged closer to the shipping area. Inventory should be organized in such a way that you improve the efficiency of picking and packing, and reduce the overall cost of fulfillment for each customer order.

Automate Cycle Counting: Cycle counting provides ongoing inventory data so that you have access to accurate inventory more than just once a year. The process can even be automated by using barcode scans to conduct the counts as part of the normal course of business. If there are particular items or areas that tend to create inventory problems or generate errors, count those areas more often.

Reduce Inventory: This is where inventory control and inventory management cross paths. Having too much inventory on hand eats up cash and damage, depreciation, or obsolescence, depending on the type of inventory you are holding. It also makes it harder to keep your warehouse orderly and well organized. Ultimately, old inventory gets marked down and sold.

You’ll need the analytics capability to identify fast and slow moving inventory, and to use sales data to determine just how much inventory you actually need, and whether or not that particular SKU is subject to seasonal swings in demand. It’s tempting to keep extra inventory on hand just in case, but moving to a just-in-time model will free up working capital and reduce the cost of obsolescence.

Improving inventory control will improve inventory management, and your ability to manage the entire supply chain. Well-organized warehouse inventory that can be automatically tracked and easily counted is the foundation of optimized warehouse operations.

Categories
Barcode Mobility Route Accounting Transportation and Logistics

How Mobile Devices Improve Route Accounting Solutions

If there’s one thing business owners can agree on, it’s this: efficiency is vital to success. Every business is run differently, but time, energy, and resources should always be handled in a way that maximizes the performance and profitability of operations. When it comes to route accounting, having a feature-rich and configurable solution can truly make a difference. The process of loading, shipping, and delivering products to consumers must be organized and effective. In order to streamline these route accounting operations, businesses should look to mobile devices.

The benefits mobile devices bring to route accounting include:

Real-time tracking
Any business using route accounting solutions knows that having visibility throughout the supply chain is paramount. Knowing where specific orders are and what time they got there allows businesses to take care of any problems immediately. Mobile devices can keep managers up to date on items that have been successfully delivered, but they can also help track returned or damaged items.

Properly tracking items all the way to delivery can help handle customer disputes. Customers might argue about the condition of the delivered products – or whether the product was delivered at all – and you will have recorded information to verify or dispute these claims.

Any business that relies on employees to be quick, knowledgeable, and accurate should be taking advantage of handheld devices. Intermec’s CN51, for example, is a versatile mobile computer that offers a variety of functionalities, including barcode scanning and Remote Deposit Capture (RDC), which converts check payments into electronic documents. Handhelds like the CN51 allow workers to complete a multitude of tasks in record time, and they also come with a small footprint.

Create invoices
Mobile devices eliminate the wait times between delivery and payment. In some cases, it is even possible to accept payments in the field. The ability to create invoices on the spot is invaluable not only to businesses, but to customers as well. As much as business owners want to streamline the invoicing process, it is important to remember that customers want the same thing. The sooner payments can be processed, the better.

Print receipts at the point of transaction
Adding mobile devices to your route accounting solution gives your employees the power to print receipts immediately – wherever they need to print them. Large or bulky receipt printers can be a pain to carry, so drivers often leave them in the truck. Having to return to the truck when a receipt is needed is a huge annoyance, and it also wastes time. Even if the drivers do bring these larger receipt printers with them, they could set them down and accidentally forget them.

Instant access to important business data
Businesses can leverage mobile devices to immediately update inventory levels, and having accurate inventory levels helps companies know which products are selling and how fast they are selling. With mobile devices in place, businesses should never have to worry about running out of inventory.

In addition, workers can instantly look up customer purchase history and data to be more effective when face to face with clients. Mobile devices are also perfect for keeping track of employees and their delivery times. Running reports on the deliveries can help managers gain a better understanding of delivery routes and methods. This information can be used to design more efficient methods of delivery – or at least more efficient routes.

A variety of industries are beginning to realize the value mobile technology can bring to businesses. Thanks to the frequent interactions drivers and workers have with customers, route accounting companies may have the most to gain from this mobile movement. There is no denying that efficiency and productivity lead to bigger profits, and mobile devices provide the perfect avenue to get there.