As the economy continues its climb out of the recession, warehouse and logistic professionals are looking to improve service levels while keeping costs down. According to the 2013 Warehouse/DC Operations Survey by Logistics Management, managers across the manufacturing and distribution industries are considering many options that can meet new demands without straining budgets.
The top priority for managers in 2013 and moving forward is to reduce operating costs, and 94 percent of respondents to the survey have a plan for achieving that goal. Many companies are looking at two approaches to reducing operation costs, improving warehouse processes, listed by 67 percent of respondents, and improving inventory control, 61 percent.
"There is no magic bullet," Norm Saenz, senior vice president and principal of TranSystems, and a partner in the survey told Logistics Management. "According to the findings, everyone's doing multiple things. Whether opening new DCs [distribution centers], turning to a third party logistics provider, or renegotiating with freight carriers, results show that there's no one prominent answer among this year's respondents."
Reducing Remote Warehouse Costs
One problem faced by the manufacturing and distribution industries is the increasing number of warehouses and systems used to run them. The need for continuous operations and the demands of outsourcing manufacturing processes can create complications for IT departments. The remote warehouse problem can be solved by replication techniques that keep local warehouses operating when remote ones are down. Theses systems produce many advantages:
- Effectively Manage Downtime: Because local warehouses can continue operations even when the remote enterprise is down, tech problems at a single facility won't cause operations across the enterprise to come to a halt.
- Data Synchronization: The system uses replication and database views to bring all of the data together to provide an accurate view to the local warehouse user.
- Intelligent Queuing: When systems go down, transactions are still logged and then executed when the connection is established.
These advantages effectively meet the core concern of respondents in the survey: increasing uptime while reducing costs.
Automated Data Collection Greatly Improves Inventory Control
Like respondents in the survey, companies that have found they need to improve inventory control and increase accuracy should consider improved automated data collection systems such as those offered by RFgen Software. RFgen has solutions that integrate with Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle's JD Edwards, SAP, Deltek Costpoint and Microsoft Dynamics. These systems also provide a number advantages relating to cost savings and service improvement.
- Automated data collection solutions collect information from a variety of sources, such as barcodes, RFID and voice. This data provides accurate updates to backend systems in real time.
- With solutions for automated data collection using traditional barcodes, accuracy of metrics was 98 percent, and jumps another percent with the implementation of a voice-enabled solution.
- More accurate information reduces the training cycle for employees and allows managers to make more informed decisions.
While improving services and simultaneously reducing costs can be a daunting task, the solutions provided to industry managers can effectively streamline the supply chain and the technical systems that run it.