- Warehouse automation and human augmentation technology is key to future competitive growth.
- Complementary solutions can enhance mobile barcoding software, optimizing operations throughout an enterprise.
- These supplementary technologies include shop floor visibility, license plating, offline mobility, advanced warehousing, field mobility and voice picking.
80% of warehousing, distribution and fulfillment center leaders believe that investing in new automation and human augmentation technology is necessary to stay competitive over the next five years.
Because of this, many have already begun implementing mobile data collection solutions like mobile barcoding. Mobile barcoding eliminates the need for manual data entry, paper-based processes and the associated human error. And by empowering employees to perform their duties at the point-of-work, mobile barcoding solutions can drive serious gains in efficiency, speed and accuracy.
If you’ve already experienced the success of mobile barcoding, you might be asking: What’s next?
While mobile barcoding can give you near perfect accuracy and greater performance, it’s only one level of automation on your digital transformation journey. You can continue adding automation technologies to your operation to push ahead of the competition.
Complementary solutions such as shop floor visibility, offline mobility and more can serve to supplement mobile barcoding and optimize operations throughout your enterprise.
Shop Floor Visibility
Many manufacturers struggle with maintaining complete visibility as a material makes its way through production.
Manufacturing enablement solutions can augment your existing mobile barcoding solutions by communicating with any IoT and IIoT device including helper bots, drones and vehicles.
This helps create shop floor best practices by enabling real-time visibility and traceability throughout product lifecycles. According to a recent survey by McKinsey and Company, 64% of companies that integrated IoT data collection devices realized manufacturing space cost reductions and 61% saw supply chain planning cost reductions.
Mobile barcoding can also be used in conjunction with RFID — product tags with sensors that enable enhanced tracking capabilities.
The physical automation machinery, such as automated material handling systems or AMH, can also integrate with mobile barcoding. Conveyors and sorters can be equipped to collect data automatically, like reading barcodes on items being routed through a warehouse. This advanced functioning can also give managers live, detailed statistics to optimize material flow and movement and maximize efficiency gains.
Adding License Plating to Increase Efficiency
Handling large volumes of inventory in and out of a warehouse each day can create logistical headaches, especially if each individual item has its own SKU and put-away location.
License plating, however, lets users intelligently group and manage inventory as a single unit, or “container.” Each container is assigned a unique License Plate Number (LPN) along with a barcode label or RFID tag. Then, workers can transact the entire container group with a single scan. Moving 1,000 items in a single license plate becomes as fast and easy as moving just one product.
License plating can be implemented in receiving, on the shop floor, in the warehouse, on the shipping dock, or anywhere inventory is handled.
Each license plate can track crucial information such as serial or part numbers, expiration dates, lot numbers, subinventories and more.
License plating takes your mobile barcoding transactions to the next level in terms of productivity, efficiency and throughput.
Offline Mobility for Remote Warehousing
24-hour system availability is an operational necessity for many organizations. Whether you’re managing MRO on an oil rig, completing cycle counts in a walk-in freezer or facing other challenges that affect connectivity, it can be frustrating when an outage or connection drop results in unintended downtime.
Blue Bell Creameries, for example, kept experiencing dropped data when receiving material on the dock. This meant workers would have to go and find the affected pallets and rescan each one, wasting precious time and resources, and frustrating workers who had to repeat tasks over again.
To solve the problem, Blue Bell implemented a remote warehouse management solution that integrated with their current mobile barcoding software to support reliable 24-hour data collection and achieve 99.9% system uptime.
By employing advanced replication techniques, intelligent queueing and lightly coupled architecture, remote warehousing supports operations during WAN outages, hardware failures and dropped network connections. Once systems are back online, the high-availability system communicates with the ERP, updating it with any inventory updates, transfers or other transactions.
A warehouse management system (WMS) can be transformative for supply chain operations. WMS software also comes with a high price tag and long integration times that can wipe away any benefits. However, a WMS-lite alternative such as RFgen Warehouse Director can be a more cost-effective, easier-to-integrate way to extend your mobile barcoding solution and gain advanced warehousing functionality, like directed movement.
Intelligent directed movement can automatically route employees, materials, IoT devices and vehicles along optimized paths for pick, put-away and replenishment. For manufacturers, advanced warehousing can even offer pick suggestions for work orders and put-away suggestions on purchase orders for finished goods.
Through advanced material flow optimization, companies run a leaner warehouse and boost worker productivity without increasing headcount.
Field Mobility Solutions for End-to-End Traceability
Sometimes, operational needs extend far beyond the four walls of a warehouse. But the challenges remain the same – how do you transform manual processes with tracking capabilities outside the warehouse?
By equipping field services teams with the same mobility solutions as your warehouse.
Similar to offline mobility, off-network mobility solutions give roaming workers the real-time access to the information they need to perform their jobs effectively.
For example, a California Utility Company added field mobility solutions to track inventory for its 40 light duty drivers and mitigate the loss of high-value items. Many other companies have found similar success using offline mobility to supplement their inventory control practices.
In addition, delivery drivers can be equipped with GPS mapping for route planning or for direct store delivery to automatically transact against the ERP to update inventory counts when delivered.
By equipping workers with purpose-built, ruggedized devices, they can:
- Capture data accurately, legibly and quickly
- Ensure all required data is entered before forms are submitted
- Automatically transfer data back to the ERP, updating inventory levels and other transactions in real time
- Provide instant point-of-delivery verification with electronic signatures, photos and GPS data
- Access up-to-date status reports and technical documentation
Enterprise Asset Management Solutions
Successful fixed asset management is key to ensuring uninterrupted production and maximizing worker productivity.
As with inventory management, fixed assets can be equipped with barcode labels and be tracked with 100% visibility and in real time. This process helps reduce on-hand stock levels, lowering overhead costs and facilitating more strategic preventative maintenance.
Additional asset management software can also help you:
- Create new fixed assets and add them to the ERP’s Asset Master table
- Use barcode scanning to quickly conduct fixed asset inventory counts
- Transfer fixed assets between locations within a warehouse or to another warehouse
- Gain visibility into fixed asset status, including disposal
Up to 99.99% Order Accuracy with Voice Picking
Warehouses and distribution centers can make even bigger leaps with voice picking. Adopters average up to a 20% improvement in productivity, a 50% reduction in training time and achieve up to 99.9% order accuracy.
Using voice picking, workers follow clear, directed voice prompts and speak directly into the system to go step-by-step through the workflow, letting workers be hands- and eyes-free. This lets organizations, including the top global supply chains and highest-volume warehouses, automate anything from order selection to put-away to auditing.
Now, workers can devote their complete attention to the task at hand, increasing productivity and speed. This advanced functionality takes organizations one step closer to reaching lean warehouse operations.
Industry-Best Warehousing Practices
Mobile barcoding is a transformative solution, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your automation journey. Think of it more as a building block toward generating even more time- and cost-saving benefits.
By supplementing your existing mobile barcoding technology with complementary solutions, organizations like yours can achieve industry-best warehousing practices to drive growth and stay competitive into the future.