Multi-warehouse fulfillment strategies are gaining momentum as organizations work to accelerate shipping times. The strategy isn't a silver bullet: It comes with a great deal of complexity and isn't the right fit for some workloads. However, distributed warehouse models are increasingly necessary as businesses support globalized operations.
With more organizations trying to support multiple warehouses, many find themselves grappling with the problem of off-network data collection. When barcode scanners and similar technologies can't connect to the central database at headquarters, many systems end up going down. It is important to build resiliency into the system and establish a solid baseline for performance. Once this foundation is in place, organizations can consider how they can adapt their processes around distributed, remote warehouses. Three ways that improved off-network mobile data collection can drive process innovation are:
1. Order Optimization
According to a Multichannel Merchant contributor Stephen Bulger, the e-commerce sector is among the leaders in pushing toward multi-warehouse operations, and the practice is increasingly possible due to the widespread nature of advance IT solutions. As businesses can collect and share data across multiple locations, it gets easier to operate multiple facilities. However, it is important to evaluate the volume of goods being shipped, customer expectations and shipping dynamics specific to your organization before settling on the strategy.
However, organizations that find a multi-warehouse setting will work well for them run into a second problem - choosing where to ship different goods from. Doing so heavily relies on being able to understand inventory levels in real time. Some outages are likely, and a short period of downtime isn't necessarily too destructive on its own. However, if you lose connectivity to your warehouse for an hour, and cycle counts, picking, and similar tasks grind to a halt, you'll lose the data foundation you need to make smart order optimization decisions. Furthermore, your team will be left trying to play catch up while batch updates come through the system.
Effective off-network data collection solutions overcome this problem by allowing the system to operate normally during an outage and re-synchronizing with the core enterprise resource planning system once connectivity is restored. This process minimizes the damages of downtime and lets organizations get more aggressive with their order optimization strategies with less risk.
2. Field Service
Whether you are sending teams to a remote facility to maintain equipment, using a specialized warehouse to store sensitive materials or managing inventories for users at a distant location, getting the right data to and from the field is important. However, many of these types of locations can make consistent connectivity difficult to provide. In many cases, the idea of setting up a secondary warehouse near a remote production site - perhaps an equipment storehouse close to where a construction team is building - comes with major efficiency gains. However, these benefits decline if you can't manage supply effectively and providing connectivity isn't simple.
With robust off-network data collection systems in place, organizations can continue to sustain field operations and ensure they don't miss a beat when connectivity is inevitably lost.
3. Sales Forecasting
With multiple warehouses and production environments in place, companies must coordinate operations between facilities to ensure the sales team can accurately estimate when orders can be fulfilled. Similar to the order optimization issue, this process becomes incredibly difficult when trying to catch up after an outage. The ability to sustain operations through downtime minimizes damages and drives data visibility across the business.
Overcoming Connectivity Barriers
A study from Cronus Communications found that 72-percent of retailers experience lost sales during a network outage. Furthermore, 33-percent of those polled said they can't manage inventories when connectivity is lost.
"72-percent of retailers experience lost sales during a network outage."
RFgen is helping businesses resolve these types of issues with remote warehouse management systems that are resilient against network problems. Whether your distributed warehouse is a storeroom at a retail location or a specialized fulfillment center in a key market, you can't afford to lose data collection capabilities.
RFgen's mobile data collection platform incorporates remote warehouse management systems that minimize the impact of outages. Our solution automatically creates a local database in the event of a lost WAN connection, allowing operations to continue normally. Once connectivity is recovered, that database synchronizes with the core ERP system in place, ensuring data is as accurate as possible and operations aren't derailed when the WAN goes down.