Are your warehouse and inventory processes costing you precious time and money? Are you interested in increasing your bottom line, but don’t know where to begin? Gain insight into proven business process improvement techniques for small to medium sized wholesale distributors and manufacturers to cut warehouse costs and increase your profitability by automating and re-engineering processes, infrastructure and equipment, with initial investments that you can afford.
The first and easiest way to improve warehouse efficiency is to implement business process automation. Automation allows you to maintain your current processes and still see significant improvements to your bottom line. By simply automating current processes with barcode data collection devices and software, manufacturers and distributors can dramatically increase the accuracy of inventory and order shipments.
Before wireless mobile computing, warehouse related information was communicated through the use of paper, pencil and data entry at a stationary warehouse terminal. Instead of carrying around paper and a pencil, warehouse staff can now be equipped with PDA’s to record functions performed in the warehouse. Simply “mirroring” current processes with wireless PDA devices is really all about going paperless. Going paperless with your warehouse has many benefits to your bottom line, including:
- One time data entry – Rather than handling data twice (pencil and paper, then data entry into the terminal), scanning facilitates data entry at the time warehouse activities are performed.
- Efficient data entry – Scanning barcodes is much more efficient than writing data on a piece of paper. The time required for data entry, sending paper orders to the warehouse, searching for misplaced paperwork and filing and maintaining paper documentation are all eliminated. This alone can result in significantly increased efficiency and cost savings both in labor and paper-related expenses.
- Accurate data entry – Scanning barcodes eliminates data entry errors. Furthermore, every step through the warehouse can be interactively verified using barcode and RF technology. This ensures a high level of accuracy in filling orders, product check‐in, putting away products into the correct locations, and accurate replenishment of pick‐bins. Costs associated with shipping, receiving and inventory errors can be virtually eliminated.
- Timely information and integration of warehouse data into the ERP System – If data is captured at the time that processes are performed, the system can provide real time information back to the enterprise. At a minimum, the warehouse solution requires software that allows sales/work orders, purchase orders and inventory information to flow seamlessly between the warehouse and ERP system as processes are performed. Electronic data transfer between the warehouse and ERP system also ensures timely and accurate data for invoicing, purchase order payment and inventory tracking and management, all without manual keyboard data entry.
Optimized inventory control
- Improved warehouse and inventory accuracy ‐ Inventory carrying costs have an important effect on business viability. Inventory accuracy can reach approximately 99.9% when inventory is tracked using barcodes and RF handheld inventory functions. Inventory accuracy is ensured by scanning and validating locations and product barcodes.
- Reduce your safety stock ‐ With the higher levels of inventory accuracy, a business can expect to diminish the quantities of required stock on hand and the carrying costs of that extra inventory, while at the same time maintaining adequate stock levels to fulfill orders.
- Improve inventory counting efficiency ‐ Warehouse software should facilitate ongoing cycle counts, reconciled with financial data in real‐time. This is an enormous benefit to the warehouse because the warehouse does not need to shut down operations. Performing regular cycle counts reduces the frequency requirement of full inventory counts and the cost associated with closing down the warehouse and the additional staff needed to perform the count.
Improved warehouse efficiency
- Eliminate searching for lost products ‐ With real‐time inventory, wireless devices can accurately direct the order fulfillment process by ensuring that pickers travel to the correct pick–bin locations. Searching for product is eliminated and accuracy is ensured by scanning and validating locations and quantities.
- Reduce picker walk time ‐ The typical warehouse solution sequences item picking to minimize walk time throughout the warehouse thereby reducing travel time, even if the business system does not have bin locations.
- Monitor warehouse activity and order status in real‐time ‐ Using real‐time wireless data collection equipment and software to record and store activity records in a database, a warehouse solution can provide visibility into your companies warehouse productivity, activity and trends. This visibility can be on‐line, presented in real‐time or through reporting that looks at both current and historic data. Effective use of the data can positively affect the warehouse’s ability to forecast resource requirements, recognize and remedy productivity problems, track errors and monitor customer issues.
Improved customer service
- Improve your service level ‐ Order fulfillment time can be significantly decreased. Many companies need to improve cycle time to meet customer’s growing expectations for same day, or rapid shipment.
- Eliminate order shipment errors ‐ Reducing errors in order fulfillment and shipping not only lowers the monetary cost of errors, but keeps customer satisfaction and return business levels high. Order accuracy of 99.9% can be achieved.
- Improve your fill rate ‐ The ability to fill orders completely, thanks to an accurate, automated inventory management facility lets you keep those sales. You won’t lose customers because you can’t fill their orders.
- Provide your customers with improved visibility ‐ Keep your customers updated with real‐time information about order status. This information is always available to your customer service staff, on‐request and without delay.
- Meet tough customer demands ‐ A customer like Wal‐Mart can be demanding. A system can be used to facilitate compliance requirements such as adopting specific labeling, or tracking lot and serial numbers. Using a solution like a WMS can automate compliance with greater ease and more cost‐effectively.
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