By Peter Zalinski, director supply chain architecture, Barcoding, Inc.
Companies continuously strive to maximize warehouse inventory throughput, increase productivity and improve accuracy. However, most companies are either uncertain of how to obtain real-time data capture—a critical element in the achievement of these goals—or are using the right pieces of technology to gather real-time data but are unintentionally not utilizing it to drive true enterprise growth. By not making use of all of the real-time data that circulates within the warehouse, companies become unable to properly manage inventory—such as knowing the location, quantity, temperature, etc.—which oftentimes results in a loss of time and money.
Obtaining real-time data capture
To help mitigate these challenges in the supply chain, companies can implement barcode data collection systems throughout the warehouse. Barcode data collection systems allow warehouse workers to scan barcodes on items, packages or pallets into handheld devices instead of manually keying that data into PCs.
By incorporating a wireless, or Wi-Fi, network as a component of the barcode data collection system, productivity improves significantly. Inventory transactions are posted instantaneously via the handheld devices operating on the Wi-Fi network, enabling the entire organization to have immediate visibility of inventory movement. Having access to this information on a real-time basis allows the organization to make more intelligent buying decisions, while giving sales personnel visibility into what inventory is on hand and where it is in the supply chain.
Maximizing inventory throughput
There is nothing worse than having inventory arrive on the dock and nobody know it is there. By recognizing inventory as soon as it arrives on the dock and entering the data into its system, companies can start using it immediately for production or sales.
Without real-time data, you can’t do replenishment, forward picking or any of the advanced warehouse processes without a large buffer of inventory. With real-time data you are able to optimize your inventory to ensure there is enough product on the warehouse shelves, without overstocking which can lead to lost profits.
To fully utilize real-time data within the warehouse, companies should implement a warehouse management system (WMS). The system uses real-time data to optimize and automate warehouse processes. This enables companies to substantially improve warehouse efficiency and maximize inventory throughput – without increasing labor costs.
Data In Action: A Case Study
When the amount of orders coming in overwhelmed the warehouse staff and caused a throughput problem for a convenience goods manufacturing company, they turned to real-time data to help control order fulfillment and maximize the efficiency in the warehouse.
Now, the warehouse staff has access to real-time order and inventory data which enables them to plan order fulfillment and inventory replenishment more effectively. For example, staff can see they must pre-allocate 3,000 pallets to fulfill the days’ orders. They also can see that there are only forty pick locations with a total of 4,000 pallets available within the warehouse. In order to maximize efficiency, the warehouse staff can wave out orders for 1,000 pallets at a time throughout the day and replenish the forward pick locations between the waves. Since warehouse staff are looking at real-time data in the system, they can start to release additional orders into the system as previous orders are nearing completion—increasing efficiency and keeping orders moving without overwhelming the staff.
Without knowing what product is available at each warehouse location, retailers face the issues of overselling out-of-stock products and overstocking slow-moving items. A cloud-based automated inventory management process with a high rate of accuracy is essential to keep up with sales volumes and rapid fulfillment. Better inventory control results in fewer shortages and surpluses. Automating inventory management by receiving real-time sales updates from across all channels means retailers’ inventory counts are never out of date. With added insight into sales trends, retailers can easily forecast product quantities for both peak and off-peak seasons so items are optimally stocked. Real-time data capture empowers omnichannel sales by ensuring that product advertised as “in-stock” with low on-hand quantities can actually be found and shipped to consumers.
Real-time data capture can also provide valuable insights into purchasing trends, inventory counts, product locations and more, so that retailers can identify opportunities for greater costs savings, faster fulfillment and more sales. Better control and insight into inventory means multichannel retailers improve customer service, increase efficiency and maximize profits.
Author’s Bio: Peter Zalinski serves as director supply chain architecture at Barcoding, Inc. He brings more than 20 years of experience in the barcoding industry to his role and enables customers to leverage barcode label and RFID automation with mobile devices to enhance their warehouse management system (WMS) and manufacturing execution system (MES) implementations.