Blog News Transportation and Logistics Warehouse and Distribution

omniQ Awarded $7 Million Project From Leading U.S. Supply Chain & Logistics Firm

  • Existing Customer increasing its business with omniQ from $700,000 in 2018
  • Potential candidate for omniQ’s Artificial Intelligence solutions

SALT LAKE CITY, March 06, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — omniQ, Inc. (NASDAQ: QUES), (“omniQ” or “the Company”) a provider of Supply Chain and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based Machine Vision solutions, announced it has been awarded a project from a leading supply chain and logistics provider in the U.S. for the supply of vehicle mounted rugged computers for the collection of sophisticated data and logistics management. The project is valued at $7 million, with $5 million expected to be billed during fiscal year 2019 and the balance in 2020.

Shai Lustgarten, CEO of omniQ, stated, “We are excited to significantly expand our relationship with a valued customer who is well respected in the supply chain and logistics industry. Our high-tech, in-vehicle computers play an important role in increasing operational efficiencies as well as collecting valuable data for quicker and more accurate decision making. This customer is also a potential candidate for our AI-based Yard Management Solutions, currently being used in seaports worldwide. Our comprehensive portfolio of solutions includes data collection devices like rugged tablets and computers, high-level software and proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities, all of which enable firms operating in the multi-billion dollar supply chain industry access to big data analysis. We look forward to adding new customer relationships and strengthening our existing partnerships by providing solutions that promote the capture of critical data for the development of effective strategies.”

About omniQ
omniQ is a Specialty Systems Integrator focused on Field and Supply Chain Mobility. We are also a manufacturer and distributor of consumables (labels, tags, and ribbons), RFID solutions, and barcoding printers. Founded in 1994, Quest is headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, with offices in the United States.

Rated in the Top 1% of global solution providers, omniQ specializes in the design, deployment and management of enterprise mobility solutions including Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC), Mobile Cloud Analytics, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), and proprietary Mobility software. Our mobility products and services offering is designed to identify, track, trace, share and connect data to enterprise systems such as CRM or ERP solutions. Our customers are leading Fortune 500 companies from several sectors including manufacturing, retail, distribution, food / beverage, transportation and logistics, health care and chemicals/gas/ oil.

Information about Forward-Looking Statements
“Safe Harbor” Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Statements in this press release relating to plans, strategies, economic performance and trends, projections of results of specific activities or investments, and other statements that are not descriptions of historical facts may be forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. This release contains “forward-looking statements” that include information relating to future events including expectations regarding billing of products, our ability to add new customer relationships and strengthen our existing partnerships. The words “may,” “would,” “will,” “expect,” “estimate,” “can,” “believe,” “potential” and similar expressions and variations thereof are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements should not be read as a guarantee of future performance or results, and will not necessarily be accurate indications of the times at, or by, which that performance or those results will be achieved. Forward-looking statements are based on information available at the time they are made and/or management’s good faith belief as of that time with respect to future events, and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual performance or results to differ materially from those expressed in or suggested by the forward-looking statements. Important factors that could cause these differences include, but are not limited to: fluctuations in demand for omniQ, Inc.’s products, the introduction of new products, the Company’s ability to maintain customer and strategic business relationships, the impact of competitive products and pricing, growth in targeted markets, the adequacy of the Company’s liquidity and financial strength to support its growth, the Company’s ability to manage credit and debt structures from vendors, debt holders and secured lenders, the Company’s ability to successfully integrate its acquisitions, risks related to the sale of omniQ Canada Inc. to Viascan Group Inc. and other information that may be detailed from time-to-time in omniQ Inc.’s filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Examples of such forward looking statements in this release include, among others, statements regarding revenue growth, driving sales, operational and financial initiatives, cost reduction and profitability, and simplification of operations. For a more detailed description of the risk factors and uncertainties affecting omniQ, Inc. please refer to the Company’s recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings, which are available at omniQ, Inc. undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, unless otherwise required by law.

Investor Contact:
John Nesbett/Jen Belodeau
IMS Investor Relations

Blog Manufacturing Warehouse and Distribution

The Ideal Dual-Purpose Vehicle-Mounted and Mobile Computing Solution

Whether it’s a forklift driver in your warehouse or a delivery driver out on the road, the right mobile computing technology can make or break your workflow efficiency. On the one hand, vehicle-mounted computers are a great way to deliver real-time access to business applications, order and picking information, and route and scheduling details.

However, while vehicle mounted computers such as Zebra’s VC80 can be moved from vehicle to vehicle by using a quick-release mount, they’re not designed to be handheld computers. If you need a device that can work like a desktop computer in a vehicle but can also be taken with you into a warehouse aisle or to a customer’s door, a traditional vehicle-mounted computer is not the right option.

These devices also don’t have built-in barcode scanning capabilities, so you have to connect a peripheral scanning device to get that functionality.

On the other hand, traditional handheld mobile computers are great for true mobility, allowing workers to carry them wherever they need, and they come with built-in barcode scanning capabilities, so there’s no need to connect or pair it with a wired or wireless barcode scanner.

However, handheld mobile computers aren’t designed to be vehicle-mounted devices. While you can mount them inside vehicles with the right hardware, the touch screen and form factor might be smaller than drivers prefer for safe and easy reading as well as interactivity and overall ease of use.

This is where a rugged enterprise-grade tablet computer often emerges as the ideal solution. Tablet computers are a way to bring together both worlds of a vehicle-mounted computer and an easily removable and fully mobile tablet.

For example, Zebra’s ET50/55 enterprise tablets can be mounted in a forklift, truck, or other vehicle with a quick-release Zebra cradle/holder. This allows the devices to serve as a larger-screen computer with touch, stylus, and even gloved finger interactions—all while being removable for use as a mobile tablet.

The ET50/55 is a rugged device with enterprise-class features and an optional ultra-rugged frame for extreme durability, both indoors and outdoors. It runs your choice of Android 6.0 or Windows 10, contains an Intel quad core 1.59 GHz processor, and comes 4 GB of LPDDR3 RAM to power even the most graphics- and resource-intensive business apps.

With a choice between an 8.3 inch or 10.1 inch Corning Gorilla Glass 3 screen, you also get a large, easy-to-read screen with three methods of data entry: an active stylus or a finger, with or without a glove. All three methods work even if the screen is wet.

Each device includes two integrated cameras for image capture, barcode scanning, and video calls, with optional advanced scanning engines for intensive capture of even the dirtiest and most difficult to read barcodes.

The ET50/55 also supports GPS, NFC, and fast Wi-Fi and cellular wireless connections, including Wi-Fi with the ET50 and 4G LTE with the ET55. Additionally, IP65 sealing provides a dust-free design that can handle a full-force hose-down, while the optional extra-rugged frame helps the device withstand numerous drops to concrete from up to 5.9 ft.

These and the many other features of the ET50/55 are why our team at omniQ has been recommending these devices as the ideal dual purpose vehicle-mounted and mobile computing solution.

You get vehicle-mounting, a mobile tablet, and enterprise-grade computing, scanning, and more—all in a single device that can save you money on buying peripheral or extra devices.

To learn more about Zebra’s ET50/55 tablets, you can download our product sheet or contact omniQ to get answers to your questions.

Warehouse and Distribution

Eliminating Unproductive Time and Lowering Distribution Center Costs

At distribution centers, managers are tasked with finding ways to keep distribution center costs low and production high. Many DCs have already implemented new technologies to improve productivity, but these efforts have often been rolled out as isolated systems or have been in place so long that they have become outdated.

Implementation of new processes improves efficiency and can reduce distribution center costs, but will require managers to take a hard look at existing processes. Incrementally improving productivity will require companies to evaluate existing systems and effectively address any problems they find.

 What is Unproductive Time?

At most DCs, the culprit when it comes to lost efficiency is the unproductive time that is spread out in small increments among hundreds of employees.

According to a study by Honeywell (Unlocking Hidden Cost in the Distribution Center), the average amount of unproductive time has increased from 15 minutes to 22 minutes per 8-hour shift. This can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars annually spread across and organization. Unproductive time can include time spent fixing mistakes (mis-picks or incorrect shipments) or time lost due to bad processes or methodologies. This can include performing tasks inefficiently. When evaluating employee productivity, include both direct job-related tasks (like picking, packing, etc.) and indirect tasks like cleaning, moving pallets, and other activities that can eat up time during a shift.

How much is that time costing you? According to this study performed by Intermec (part of Honeywell), on average organizations could find nearly 3,000 hours’ worth of direct labor hour reductions by improving efficiency. According to the Honeywell report, the annual cost of mis-picks alone is nearly $400,000.

Improve Productivity Through Continuous Improvement

So how can you address this potentially costly productivity issue while reducing distribution center costs? There are a number of different approaches, depending on your existing technology. If you currently rely on manual or paper-based processes, make the shift to a “paperless” DC using a mix of mobile computing, advanced inventory management or order management software, and barcode scanning. The potential improvements in speed and accuracy are well documented. Honeywell estimates an average 20 percent productivity boost.

If you’ve already implemented this type of technology, evaluate whether or not it’s time for an upgrade. If the solution is more than five years old, it’s likely that an update can provide efficiency improvements via better connectivity, better user interfaces, and new software features.

More importantly, though, you need to study every process in the DC to ensure that employees are working as efficiently as possible. Technology alone will just make a bad process produce poor results more quickly. Retrain your staff to work smarter and faster and eliminate unnecessary tasks or movements. Something as simple as shifting the location of faster-moving inventory, for example, can create significant gains.

This is not a process that ever really concludes. Processes should be regularly evaluated and tweaked. Companies that engage in this type of continuous improvement program can see a 5% to 10% improvement. (For more on continuous improvement approaches and how they tie into applying Lean principles in the DC, see our previous blog.) Analytics can provide the needed insight for that continuous improvement, both for management and the worker wanting to increase daily efficiency.

You may also want to evaluate new or different types of emerging technology. Robotic picking systems, mobile printers, RFID tracking, IoT (Internet of things) process tracking, voice-directed picking, and other solutions can also help reduce distribution center costs.  These technologies should be part of an evolutionary approach to DC cost reduction. Process improvements have to be in place first, and the right software and use of barcoding provide a solid foundation on which to build. RFID can further optimize some, but not all, operations.

A Better Way Forward

Distribution center operations can become entrenched and overly complicated, with new steps added as circumstances change over time. Without taking a critical look at how and why those processes have evolved, continuing to do things “the way we always did it” could cost you money and make you less competitive.

Stripping away the inefficiencies in your DC won’t be easy. It helps to have a third-party expert conduct a thorough assessment. Contact omniQ for help evaluating your processes and devising a plan for next steps to improve productivity and profitability.

Barcode Warehouse and Distribution

Are Your Barcode Printers Limiting Your Warehouse Efficiency?

Operators are continuously looking for ways to cut costs and improve warehouse efficiency while still meeting customer satisfaction expectations and maintaining overall profitability. This can be especially challenging for warehouses that are already highly automated. Once a facility has deployed barcode scanning, automated material handling equipment, and other technologies, it can be difficult to find areas for additional improvement. One way is to further optimize the use of the technology to ensure that the equipment is being used to its fullest potential.

Barcode printers are a good case in point. Generally considered an enabling technology when it comes to(203) 972-9200 warehouse automation, once they are installed and generating labels, most users consider the deployment complete. However, there are ways to generate new warehouse efficiency gains by optimizing printer operations.

How Barcode Printers Can Help Gain Efficiency

You can save time by printing at the point of activity. If employees spend a good part of their day traveling back and forth between their work area and a central print station to retrieve labels, odds are you can achieve a big productivity gain by deploying mobile printers or wireless printer carts. Workers can print labels on demand as they receive, pick, or putaway goods, which not only saves time but also increases accuracy. This can save tens of thousands of dollars per year in wasted labor.

Rugged printers can reduce downtime. If your barcode printer isn’t designed to work well in your business environment, it will likely fail more quickly and more often. In a warehouse, that means you need a ruggedized printer that can handle high-volume printing in a dusty environment and less-than-gentle handling. Consumer-grade or less-rugged printers will likely break down in a warehouse. This will result in costly downtime, repair expenses, or high replacement costs. Fewer breakdowns will mean improved warehouse efficiency.

Mobile printers will improve picking and other processes. In addition to reducing unnecessary walking, mobile printers can also enhance most warehouse efficiency in most operations. In receiving, they can save time by allowing workers to label goods on the dock as they arrive. A Zebra Technologies study also found that mobile printers used for putaway can improve processing time by 62%. Employees can also label items as they are picked, saving time at the packing/shipping station.

Barcode printers also improve accuracy and quality assurance (QA). Barcode labels help ensure that the right items are in the right package, and headed to the right customer. Using printers at the point of activity can help reduce labeling errors. And by ensuring the printers are correctly maintained and calibrated, you can be sure to meet customer requirements for legibility.  

Efficiency-Minded Printer Features

Are your printers designed for quick media changes and maintenance on the floor? Proper maintenance and care are critical for ensuring a long printer life. However, if changing out media or cleaning the printhead requires a lot of time, training, and specialized tools, you are likely to bog down your printing operation. Upgrade to printers that are designed for fast media changes, and that can easily be opened for cleaning/maintenance.

Centralized print management saves time as well. Print jobs can easily be assigned or redirected, and software/firmware upgrades can be quickly deployed to the entire printer fleet without having to take the printers offline.  

Optimizing your barcode printing operation can have a large impact on warehouse efficiency. Continuously monitor and evaluate your own printing processes to find areas that can be enhanced, and you can quickly achieve cost and productivity improvements.

Industry Solutions Mobility Warehouse and Distribution

Voice in the Warehouse: Tips for Maximizing Performance in Demanding Environments

Warehouse workers use their hands a lot — for picking, putaway, shipping, and other important tasks. While mobile computers have helped increase efficiency in the warehouse, those computers also tie up your employees’ hands. Hands-free, voice-based options can help boost productivity even further by keeping employees’ hands free and their eyes on their work. Using voice in the warehouse can improve inventory throughput, shipping accuracy, and even safety.

The Benefits of Voice Direction

Receiving voice direction from the application and being able to speak location, bin codes, status and activity rather than stopping to scan or key-enter them can increase the speed of each pick and putaway action. Voice software is designed to guard against errors and alert employees when they have entered the wrong code or item.
In a typical scenario, the employee scans a barcoded order number from a picking card or sheet, and then receives audio directions about where to locate the items on the sheet. At each location, they can speak the location and bin numbers to confirm they are in the right place and selecting the right item. The system provides quantity information that is confirmed verbally.

Productivity improves because employees can complete more tasks in less time, while accuracy increases because of the feedback and confirmations the system provides. Workers are safer because they aren’t staring at mobile computer screens to confirm their work. There are ergonomic benefits as well because there is less typing and managing of handheld devices.

Voice + Barcode

Each business has different requirements, of course. There will always be a need for barcode scanning in the warehouse. Other operations may find more benefit in a pick-to-light or other type of system.

Each warehouse will require different levels of technology integration to ensure efficient operation. Voice in the warehouse provides a flexible platform that can be used in conjunction with other technologies (such as barcode scanning). Voice also offers significant speed and accuracy improvements compared to other solutions that can quickly provide a return on investment (ROI), particularly for high-velocity and dynamic warehouse operations.

How to Make Voice Work for Your Warehouse

To be successful, a voice implementation should integrate smoothly with the warehouse management system (WMS) in place and be coupled with process optimization activities that will help eliminate bottlenecks and reduce redundancies. In fact, deploying voice in the warehouse can help uncover some of those inefficient workflows and processes because employees will be more focused on value-added tasks. In order to effectively gauge the potential benefits of voice in the warehouse, companies first must identify the pain points that they want the voice solution to address.

Those problem areas can include:

– Higher demand and inventory volumes
– Picking/shipping errors
– Increased operational costs

Voice technology can often address these pain points by enabling higher accuracy and increasing the velocity of picking/putaway tasks compared to paper-based processed, RF scanning, and pick-to-light solutions.

Implementing voice takes a solid understanding of the processes, the application, and the technology.  Some systems may allow for simply voice-enabling existing applications if the applications and operations are already fairly efficient.  Other operations can be completely restructured to interface into new applications for best performance.  Time and motion studies and an open mind to process flow can provide the optimum new system.

Using voice in the warehouse can provide a strategic platform that helps companies expand their business while controlling operating costs and improving customer service. The hands-free, eyes-free approach of voice will provide the most natural and effective method for your warehouse workers to complete their jobs.

Transportation and Logistics Warehouse and Distribution

Honeywell AutoCube 8200: The Future of Space Optimization

Space optimization is a critical part of properly managing a warehouse. It ensures optimal load planning and helps meet customer and partner requirements. However, most of the measuring involved in optimizing space and truck loads is done manually, with a tape measure. This is time consuming and — because not every employee measures consistently — can lead to costly errors.

Enter the Honeywell AutoOptimizationCube 8200, a fixed dimensioning system that uses 3D depth-sensing technology, instantly and accurately measuring objects and optimizing both storage and truck load space.

The AutoCube 8200 includes a dimensioner mounted on a stand that is connected to a host computing system via a USB interface.

The solution can measure packages from as small as 4 inches to as large as a 35-inch cube. It can even measure bulges/protrusions and non-rectangular objects (like cylinders). Items can be measured in less than a second and at any orientation, which can accelerate workflows and improve package velocity.

Users can measure multiple items at the same time, including items of different sizes and shapes. Using those measurements, the system can determine the optimal box size needed to ship multiple items in a single package.

The AutoCube 8200 has a small footprint (12.9-in. x 2.4-in. x 3.8-in.), USB interface power, and can be easily configured to use in a variety of environments and settings.

The AutoCube Software API and SDK enable the system to be integrated with a variety of applications and create customized workflows. Honeywell also plans to directly integrate the solution with the FedEx Ship Manager and UPS Worldship systems.

The system can be configured to capture measurements automatically or based on manual user input. It also stores image files of every scan to provide an auditable record for verification.

For courier companies, DC shipping stations, retail ship-from-store locations, or inbound receiving stations in a busy warehouse, the Honeywell AutoCube 8200 can provide a number of benefits that will help reduce costs and improve efficiency:

– It can measure products in a wide range of sizes, providing flexibility for volume shippers.
– Fast, automatic measurements can streamline workflows, improving productivity.
– The system’s optimal pricing provides a fast return on investment (ROI) and allows even small companies to leverage dimensioning.
– By automatically populating shipping systems with measurement data, the AutoCube 8220 eliminates time-consuming manual data entry, and reduces errors.

With faster, more accurate measurements, the system helps increase revenue capture, reduce shipping chargebacks, eliminate bottlenecks in the distribution center, and optimize storage, workflow, and load planning.

Automation drives shipping efficiency — digital scales, barcode scanners, and material handling equipment have helped companies drive costs out of their operations while providing faster service. Manual package and product measurement doesn’t have to be a bottleneck. With 3D dimensioning, companies of all sizes can improve cube utilization and reduce costs.

To learn more about how the AutoCube 8200 can help streamline your own storage and shipping operations, you can see the system in action here.

Industry Solutions Mobility RFID Hardware RFID Software Warehouse and Distribution

4 Ways Mobility and the Internet of Things Benefit Warehouses

The growing Internet of Things (IoT) is on its way to connecting billions of pieces of equipment, consumer products, smart home systems, electronics, and other items. That represents a revolutionary way to collect data from far-flung assets, improving predictive maintenance, providing remote troubleshooting and control capabilities, and creating new ways to leverage large amounts of data that was never before available.

Mobility plays a similar role. Every partner, employee, and customer is potentially available anywhere and anytime, as long as they have their smartphone, tablet, or handheld computer. In combination, mobility and Internet of Things will extend the reach of the enterprise to virtually anywhere.

What does this mean for the warehouse? While mobility and the Internet of Things present plenty of opportunities outside the four walls, they will also have positive effects within the distribution center. The IoT will allow supply chains to create hyper-efficient warehouses that generate fewer shipping errors and hold less inventory.

There are four primary ways that mobility and the IoT will benefit the warehouse:

1. Better inventory management. Shelves full of connected products and smart shipping containers will make it easier to locate and manage inventory in the warehouse. These systems can automatically generate alerts if stock is running low or if temperatures or other conditions may jeopardize the quality of goods. Shelving and racking can become part of the Internet of Things, using real-time connectivity to help guide picking and putaway. The IoT could also make it easier to manage returns, since the returned item itself can communicate important information about its status, location, and ultimate point of disposition.

2. Improved efficiency and less labor.With better information about where goods are located, employees can do their work much faster. Armed with mobile computers, staff can do their work anywhere in the warehouse. The IoT can also be used to enable more warehouse automation, generating real-time demand signals that can guide robotic picking and putaway systems. Data from connected inventory and infrastructure can also help warehouse operators identify bottlenecks and monitor unsafe working conditions. Using that data, the warehouse can be reconfigured to be safer and to provide the most efficient picking paths and inventory configurations.

3. Better customer engagement.With the type of granular visibility into inventory and warehouse operations the Internet of Things and mobility provides, you can keep your customers better informed about the status of their inventory or orders. Data from connected products in the field can also be leveraged to generate more accurate demand signals and order/production forecasts.

In addition, the warehouse can provide new types of value-added services to customers using IoT and mobility technology. With better information about inventory and future demand, warehouses could offer more capacity to their customers, providing a sort of “burst capacity” for short-term increases capacity. Having better inventory information sooner means warehouses can more successfully offer cross-docking, just-in-time, and other types of services in a more cost-effective way.

4. Reduced risk.The IoT can help warehouses better detect risk and avoid mistakes/accidents that can create losses in the supply chain. Sensors in the warehouse can monitor temperature, moisture, and other conditions. Data coming from shipping conveyances, vehicles, and the products themselves can be combined to reduce theft, counterfeiting, diversion, and spoilage.

The Internet of Things and mobile technology can make the supply chain more flexible, reliable, predictable, and transparent. The warehouse can benefit from the IoT both internally, in terms of productivity and efficiency, and externally, through improved customer service. With this technology, your entire operation could see gains in efficiency, productivity, and accuracy, which can help your business grow.



Barcode Labeling Solutions Supplies Warehouse and Distribution

Improving Warehouse Efficiency Through 5 Effective Labeling Strategies

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.

Manufacturing Warehouse and Distribution

Lean Manufacturing: 4 Benefits of Making the Switch

Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy that is focused on continuous elimination of waste in business processes through small or incremental improvements. Created by Toyota, it has since been adopted by many companies and across a number of industries. According to lean methodology, there are seven key sources of waste to focus on:

  1. Labor
  2. Overproduction
  3. Space
  4. Defects
  5. Unnecessary human motion
  6. Inventory
  7. Transportation

Both manufacturing and distribution operations have benefited from applying lean manufacturing principles to their operations. Here are four main benefits of making the switch to lean:

1. A lean approach will improve quality. Using lean manufacturing principles, companies can quickly identify defects, use rapid problem solving techniques to identify the root cause of the problem, and then develop solutions to reduce or eliminate the possibility of a similar mistake in the future. This type of “mistake-proofing” will strengthen existing production processes, which improves the quality of the final product — whether that is a manufactured item or a group of items being prepared for shipment.

Lean also generally reduces the number of touches required to complete a process by eliminating unnecessary motion, labor, and handling. By reducing the amount of human intervention in a given process, you can reduce the possibility of human error. The key is to automate as much as possible, while also continuously monitoring for quality in a way that does not erode efficiency. In a warehouse environment, this might mean using automated material handling equipment to consolidate goods for shipment, while barcode scanning to verify that the shipment is accurate.

2. Lean can reduce your inventory. Inventory is expensive to purchase and hold, and can use up valuable space in a factory or warehouse. Over-purchasing inventory ties up cash, can quickly depreciate if the market for the finished product declines, and requires labor to store, organize, and retrieve. In lean manufacturing, companies only produce what is needed by the next operation based on actual demand. This is a pull-based model that relies on accurate demand signals to dictate production volume and inventory purchases. In automotive manufacturing, this just-in-time production method helped greatly streamline inventory flows, while putting additional pressure on parts suppliers to be incredibly responsive to shifts in demand.

This continuous flow model ensures that customers get the right quantity of the right goods exactly when they need it. This also reduces the need for excess inventory. That frees up space and capital, reduces the possibility of damage or obsolescence, and requires less handling and labor.

3. Lean manufacturing approaches can improve efficiency. By reducing wasted motion, continuously improving processes to eliminate unnecessary steps, and standardizing workflows so that each employee knows how to accurately complete a process, the lean approach can greatly improve efficiency. This makes it possible to complete work using fewer resources and in less time. These resources (whether they be employees or equipment) and then be redirected to other value-added activities that will increase the capacity of your facility.

4. Lean makes it easier to manage your operations. Another important aspect of lean manufacturing is the concept of visual management. In short, that means your facility should be organized so that managers can visually scan the work area and easily spot any problems or anomalies. That visibility can also include technology — using the right technology, you can evaluate the flow of goods and be alerted to any orders that might be in danger of falling behind schedule.

With best practices and work processes fully standardized and documented, it’s also easier to see when staff members are deviating from norm. This may indicate that conditions have changed and processes need to be adjusted to meet them.

Using lean manufacturing approaches, your operation can be less reactive and better conditioned to deliver the perfect order each time, to every customer.

Industry Solutions Warehouse and Distribution

5 Ways to Develop More Productive and Efficient Warehouse Operations

When it comes to warehouse operations, any improvement in productivity or efficiency can go straight to the bottom line, through reduced costs, less labor, and increased throughput. A more efficient warehouse can improve customer service and create the capacity you need to take on more business.

While every warehouse is different, there are a number of common approaches to achieving a more productive and efficient warehouse:

1. Use automatic identification and data collection technology in combination with a robust WMS.A strong warehouse management system (WMS) will help you streamline warehouse operations by generating automated pick lists, managing inventory, suggesting pick/put-away routes, and eliminating the need for paper pick sheets.

Using mobile computers and barcode scanning will eliminate manual data entry, reduce mistakes, and significantly reduce the labor and time needed for verifying shipments. If you are in an industry that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, handheld RFID scanners can scan dozens or hundreds of ID tags at a time — producing an even bigger efficiency gain in shipping and receiving operations. Hands-free picking solutions that use voice technology can also speed up warehouse operations while improving the ergonomics of your technology.

2. Take advantage of your vertical space. Warehouse operators should take advantage of every square foot of space they have. If floor space is in short supply, then consider building up instead of out. By extending your shelving and racking upward you can greatly increase the volume of goods you can handle without eating up additional room on the floor.

Pallet racking and other systems are easy to use and can improve workplace safety (as well as warehouse operations) by reducing clutter and making it easier for employees and material handling vehicles to move around the facility. Invest in a variety of racks and shelves that fit the size of your goods. That can include using standardized bins for smaller items. With well-organized racking and shelving, it will be easer for employees to pick and put-away inventory.

3. Consider robotics and other material handling automation solutions. With the use of more racking and shelving, you may find that you need more automated material handling equipment. Conveyors can make it easier to move goods across a facility while reducing strain on employees. Storage systems that can automatically move bins up and down through high shelving systems can also increase efficiency of your warehouse operations.

Robotic picking systems are also increasingly popular in warehouse and manufacturing environments. These robots can be used to pick items from shelves/bins at any height and accurately return the goods for sorting or shipping. They can operate across multiple shifts (saving labor) and perform work that might otherwise result in workplace injuries for regular employees.

4. Organize your warehouse for maximum efficiency. Evaluate your picking paths and methodology as well as how you have organized goods without your warehouse. The workflow in your warehouse should help ensure speed, accuracy, and accountability. Fast moving items should be placed close to shipping; items commonly shipped together should be co-located on the shelf/rack.

De-clutter the warehouse to remove obstacles that can slow down pick operations, and find ways to reduce the amount of walking that staff members have to do in order to complete their work. Have processes in place so that employees don’t have to leave their work areas in order to address problems. For example, create a space for packers to place incorrectly picked goods so that pick/put-away staff can retrieve them. Use your WMS to create efficient picking plans. Constantly re-evaluate your inventory and order patterns, and reorganize based on changes in order volume.

5. Institute continuous improvement. Don’t consider an efficiency initiative as something that will eventually be completed. You will need to continuously measure and monitor performance, and then adjust your warehouse operations to match any changes in your business. Don’t just focus on short-term improvements; set goals and objectives, and measure against them.

With the right physical infrastructure, organization, and technology in place, you can improve the efficiency and productivity of your warehouse operations while also boosting customer service and making your warehouse a safer place to work.