Here is a classic problem in many warehouse operations: You’ve invested in an expensive and sophisticated warehouse management system, but still rely on obsolete solutions to collect and feed data. If you walk around with a clipboard, think you can trust your memory, use stop watches and eyeball measurements, it is time to rethink your warehouse management strategy.
The rise of e-commerce and just-in-time delivery demand an approach based on speed and agility. Modern warehouses, which keep growing larger and more complex, need to be equipped to handle overnight or even same day shipping, increasingly detailed regulations for every shipment, more stringent safety and work requirements, and the growing challenge of hiring and training workers.
But in many cases outdated technology act as roadblocks to improvements in warehouse productivity. Although the nature of supply chains have moved away from measuring shipping in weeks, obsolete tools and processes built around that infrastructure are still in use. In addition to the examples cited above, the following practices have no place in today’s warehouses:
- The reliance on the experience and memory of forklift drivers to know the warehouse and remember the location of each load.
- Infrequent audits to determine what inventory is on hand.
- The hiring of additional fulltime workers to support the regular workforce or fix problems such as misplaced inventory or questions about labor management – issues that would never arise with the application of the appropriate solutions.
So what are the consequences of not investing in new warehouse technology? On the surface, it means you have to work harder, not smarter. You are forced to hire more people since you lack the insights to optimize the performance of the workers you already employ. You carry more inventory than needed because of the buildup of inventory errors. Your shipping times are slow and your incorrect/damaged product rates are higher because you waste time manually finding, processing, and shipping inventory. In the end, your customer service suffers, leading to reduced business.
The downside of using dated solutions is particularly pronounced in the management of your lift truck fleet. Forget hand scanning and manual data entry. Every lift truck offers an opportunity for automatic data collection. As a recent article in Modern Materials Handling points out, lift trucks are no longer machines unto themselves, but capable of communicating in real time with other warehouse and manufacturing systems.
Investing in equipment monitoring and inventory tracking solutions, for example, position you as a viable option for companies trying to keep up with the booming e-commerce market. But you also need to develop an end-to-end plan for how your company will integrate technology into its supply chain. Start by gathering a baseline and setting benchmarks. Don’t “chase the day” and make decisions based on what was the last or largest problem.
To use a paragraph in an article posted by the Press & Sun Bulletin about the rising demand for forklifts made by the Raymond Corp., “In the age of ecommerce and just-in-time delivery, it’s not enough to take all day to load up an 18-wheeler with pallet after pallet of goods. A customer wants one unit, delivered the next day.”
Your road to success starts with accurate data.