Packaging, product tracking and shipping are all important aspects of the supply chain that are affected by current events and new technologies. The efficient collection of data can help companies stay on top of their inventories and implement new strategies.
Here are three warehouse and distribution center trends within the retail industry that can be more easily implemented with the help of mobile data collection:
- Growth in Operation Complexity
Packaging Digest reported the rise of e-commerce and mobile shopping has had an effect on how many stock-keeping units a company keeps track of. The basic idea is: As customers continue to want more specialization, this generates an increased number of SKUs. As a result, shipping and stocking operations have become more complex and expensive, and companies have begun to look for ways of bringing these high costs down.
According to Entrepreneur, worldwide e-commerce sales topped $1.3 trillion in 2014. That number will only increase in 2015 as more people begin to use smartphones and enter the mobile marketplace. It's important for companies to be prepared for an increased need for fast-paced shipping and stocking processes. Mobile data collection can make these business functions easier.
- Greater Need For Risk Mitigation
A report from the Business Continuity Institute indicated more than 75 percent of businesses had their supply chain disrupted in 2012. These disruptions caused losses of over $1.3 million for 15 percent of survey respondents. Companies can't and shouldn't have to afford that kind of loss - but how can mobile data collection help? Devices like barcode scanners create much-needed visibility throughout the entire supply chain and help companies determine where processes slow down or go wrong. Mitigating the risk before it occurs can have an important impact on how companies respond to future supply chain disruptions.
- Automated Warehousing
Technology makes the warehousing industry easier and more streamlined, and current trends show that inventory management is becoming more optimized as companies learn about the benefits of automated warehouses. A 2013 survey conducted by Motorola indicated 70 percent of respondents planned to invest more on automation. Due to the high level of manual labor that still takes place in inbound and outbound areas of the warehouse, those places remain high on the priority list for automation.
In today's warehouse, there are myriad technological tools that help make distribution systems more transparent and optimized. According to Inbound Logistics, robots, automated storage and retrieval systems, palletizers and radio frequency identification devices are all important automating technologies that help companies make sure their warehouse processes are successful.
RFID is an especially useful tool. In a 2012 article for Industry Week, contributor Becky Partida noted the benefits of RFID are well-documented even though some companies don't implement them. Companies use RFID to tag products in manufacturing and put sensors on items before they're shipped.
"[The benefits] include greater accuracy in tracking inventory, more efficient inventory counting and improved trend forecasting," Partida said.
The ability for companies to incorporate tracking sensors into their logistics strategy leads to higher productivity and better compliance with industry regulations, as well. When inventory management is made easier by collecting data from sensors placed on products, the supply chain becomes easier to see and products are more likely to speedily get to their destinations.