3 Ways Mobile Applications Can Help You Build a Smarter Warehouse

Meagan Douglas
Fri, Feb 24, 2017
Mobile apps can help warehouses run more efficiently.
Mobile apps can help warehouses run more efficiently.

Take a look around your warehouse. Do employees quickly and efficiently move products from bins to trucks to be shipped to customers? Are your able to track and trace your products efficiently and accurately through your supply chain? Are managers able to make quick, accurate decisions about how best to maximize their employees' job skill sets and responsibilities?

If you answered no to each of these questions, your company may not be a fully realized "smart" warehouse, even if you use an ERP system.

Businesses that use mobile applications in conjunction with their ERP solutions typically have many more opportunities to improve their warehouse operations and thus their product and service lines.

Here are three reasons you should integrate mobile applications into your current ERP:

1. Improve Supply Chain Management
While an ERP system can help companies by eliminating data silos and increasing their depth of data analysis, these applications can still limit an organization's growth potential. Mobile solutions, however, allow employees to access the same data regardless of where their jobs take them – within the four wall of the warehouse or out in the field.

For example, imagine two teams of field salespeople. The first team is using a traditional manual paper-based process where they gather information and at the end of the day bring that data back to the office for someone to data enter. A second team is using a smart mobile device that is integrated with the company's Enterprise Resource Planning solution. This system automatically updates the ERP, giving onsite managers the type of data they need to make high-level business decisions in real-time.

Which system has the better chance of improving a company's supply chain management?

If you guessed the system being used by the second sales team, you're correct.

Mobile applications that connect to your ERP can make your warehouse smarter by improving operational efficiency and productivity by:

  • Increasing the amount of goods shipped.
  • Increasing shipping times.
  • Reducing errors in the shipping process by eliminating the for data entry.​

2. Increase Visibility
Manual or older solutions typically allow companies to see and extract data. However, this information may not be current, thus restricting an employee's ability to make accurate decisions. 

Mike Howes, vice president, software engineering and services at Forte Industries, told Inbound logistics that when he thinks of smart warehouses, he first considers the type of transparency they provide and how accessible needed data is to employees. 

"Two things come to mind when we talk about smart warehouses," said Howes. "The first consideration is visibility into the operation. This includes the ability for users to get to information they need in an approachable and intuitive way."

Howes went on to say that companies need to look beyond only collecting information. Having databases full of just that - data - won't impress anyone, and it certainly won't help companies make the types of decisions they need to improve their products and services. Howes said they need tools to help them understand the information and make decisions in real time.

"Secondly, it's not just about data," Howes said. "The cornerstone of an intelligent warehouse is real-time actionable information. Traditional systems typically bring good data to the screen. But you have to use the secret decoder ring to figure out what it's trying to tell you."

Mobile data collection solutions increase the type of visibility managers have into their operations, thus allowing them to act more intelligently.

3. Better Organize Warehouse Layout
Think about what happens when a warehouse is disorganized. Inventory problems become prevalent as workers struggle to keep track of incoming and outgoing products, count items and find goods on the floor. This can result in mismanaged stock levels and increased expenses.

With more precise information, managers can better organize their company's warehouse and locate inventory in at any given time. A great mobile data collection solution provides real-time information that keeps managers informed about stock counts and provides in-depth information about customer preferences. In turn, managers can use this information to better organize warehouses, making it easier for workers to find and count products and control shipping and receiving.

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