Barcode Scanners Used by Amazon to Manage Distribution Center Operations

Meagan Douglas
Wed, Nov 7, 2012

Managing warehouse inventory is complex to say the least. Mobile hardware systems are critical to tracking the thousands or millions of items in stock at any given time, especially across multiple locations or as these items make their way through the supply chain. When it comes to inventory management, global distribution giant Amazon stands out for its innovative approach to solving this very challenge.

For example, an article in the Edinburgh, Scotland, newspaper the Edinburgh Evening News discussed the importance of barcode scanners for Amazon’s warehouse and distribution center operations during the peak holiday season.

Click here to learn more about using handheld devices such as barcode scanners  for mobile data collection and real-time inventory management.

The article focused on a single Amazon distribution warehouse covering an area of 1-million square feet. On a typical day, around 100 delivery trucks will unload over 1,200 tons of items at 22 docking bays, where items are then checked and sorted before being scanned into the system by the receiving team. Products are sorted into totes and bins by dedicated stowers, who scan each item’s barcode with handheld scanners to record its bin location in Amazon’s inventory tracking system.

But the barcode scanners do more than make finding the location of each object—and fulfilling each order—faster, easier and more efficient. With a warehouse arrangement that can look random to the untrained eye, these inventory scanners provide pickers with the shortest route to each product throughout the warehouse.

Driving Innovation to Meet Customer Needs

Amazon’s innovative use of mobile devices is not only an integral part of their stock control system, but also part of the reason why Amazon has grown to be the world’s largest online retailer.

A recent survey by Proteus, an independent market research agency, highlighted how companies beyond the retail market are likewise turning to new technological innovations to better meet customer needs. In fact, the survey found that 72-percent had upgraded their workforce technology in the previous year and 43-percent planned to upgrade in the future. In addition, workforce productivity and customer service were found to be high on the list of priorities for business managers in multiple industries.

Implementing the right mobility hardware in your warehouse and distribution centers ultimately contributes to customer experience.Implementing the right mobility hardware in your warehouse and distribution centers ultimately contributes to customer experience.

Field Technologies Online reported other findings in the survey as well, which polled 100 managers and directors of businesses across a variety of industries including communications, utilities, trade and waste management.

As made clear by Amazon, the incorporation of key hardware technologies such as barcode scanners serve two purposes. Not only does the right hardware help businesses meet customer service needs by supporting more accurate binning and picking, but also increases workforce productivity by optimizing picking logistics and reducing inventory picking time in large distribution centers.

OS Systems are Changing

While innovation is important, keeping current mobile and handheld devices up to date is equally critical. For instance, starting in 2018 Microsoft will discontinue support for some versions of their handheld operating systems (OS) as these products reach their end of life:

  • Windows Embedded CE 6.0: Support ends April 10, 2018
  • Windows Embedded 8.1 Handheld: Support ends July 9, 2019
  • Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5: Support ends January 14, 2020

Organizations forced to migrate off legacy Windows mobile operating systems and onto Android and iOS may have to spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in new hardware and software. Developing mobile apps that only run on only one mobile operating system locks the enterprise into that platform—a very expensive mistake if you bet on the wrong OS.

Instead of losing sleep over which enterprise mobile OS will rule the day, IT executives should focus on developing multi-platform apps that will run on any device, regardless of operating system. With mobility evolving at such a rapid pace, it’s likely that your organization will require different devices and/or operating systems to best serve each part of your business and maximize warehouse efficiency.

To read more about migrating mobile apps for your enterprise, download our free white paper and learn how to avoid costly OS migration mistakes:

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