There are a number of technologies that can help improve warehouse efficiency, but there is one that is so common within the warehouse that it might be overlooked as a productivity tool — the barcode label.
Labeling is part and parcel of inventory management at many warehouses, but an effective and holistic labeling strategy can extend the benefits of the technology to different operational areas. Barcode labels are designed to provide increased picking productivity and accuracy, and they can also improve the way goods and people flow through your facility.
Here are five parts of a well-thought-out labeling strategy that can improve your operations.
1. Pick the right labels. The first step in an effective labeling strategy is to select the right labels for the job. There are thousands of combinations of materials and adhesives. Make sure you have the right mix for the goods you are labeling and for your environment. The approach to labeling items with rough surfaces will be different than labeling items with smooth ones, for example. Cold storage warehouses or environments where labels will be exposed to contaminants also have special requirements.
2. Barcode all inventory. Having barcode labels on all products, cases, and pallets will greatly improve warehouse efficiency. Inventory will be more accurate, and you will automatically know how much of every item you have in each location. Picking will also be more accurate with a robust labeling program.
Not every item will arrive with a label that can be used for your internal tracking, however. Make sure you can print those custom labels on demand at receipt to ensure every item or case can be properly tracked.
3. Use efficient printing technologies. You can reduce time and material waste at the printer by using linerless labels or labels that use thinner liners. This will give you more labels per roll with less waste and less time spent on roll changes.
Also, deploy printers that are easy to service and clean so that consumable can be quickly changed when necessary.
4. Label all of your locations. You don’t have to restrict labeling to inventory. You can label every aisle, bin, shelf, and other location with a combination of shelf tags, floor tags, and even hanging signs. These can all be labeled with barcodes and scanned using long-range scanners. Having location data easily married to inventory data will provide for much faster putaway and picking. It will also reduce the amount of walking that warehouse workers have to do in order to complete a pick. With clearly labeled racks and shelves, employees can more quickly find the right inventory for each order. Custom barcode labels that also include other graphics can help provide direction to employees and improve traffic flow in the warehouse.
5. Use mobile printers. Walking back and forth to a stationary label printer can eat up an enormous amount of time. Provide mobile label printers that staff can carry on their belts. Combined with a mobile computer, this will allow them to generate labels at the point of activity. This can increase both the speed and accuracy of your labeling operation.
By taking the time to evaluate where labeling can provide additional benefits, your labeling strategies can streamline operations and improve warehouse efficiency. Don’t underestimate the potential value that labeling can have — look beyond boxes and pallets.