Data is a powerful tool, according to Entrepreneur. It also exists potentially everywhere in a manufacturing environment. The more sources of data a company has, the better its chances of producing useful metrics that can boost productivity and improve a business's odds of reducing overhead and improving margins.
Because data can exist virtually anywhere, so long as there is a way to measure it, it can be hard to know where to start. The first goal, according to Entrepreneur, is to find out what questions you want to have answered, and then focus on figuring out what data will solve that problem. Ultimately, it's an issue that extends outside the warehouse or factory and into an entire business. Some companies may actually ask the managers of their factories to cut costs to meet specific goals. But having the ability to see what is happening inside a factory can help make these challenges solvable. For example, with an automated data collection tool such as radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, a business can track things as they enter and exit a factory floor, from raw materials to finished goods. Using barcode scanning achieves much the same end, although it does require someone to scan barcodes as things are taken from the unloading dock. the finished product would then be scanned as someone loads the truck to take goods out of the factory. RFID is different in that hardware automatically detects different radio waves and, in effect, scans products all at once.
By collecting data in this way, a company can collect information about products as they move through the factory floor. Some of the information may be useful, and some of it won't be. The goal is to track usable, valuable metrics and then extrapolate a plan from them.
Using data to make big decisions
One of the biggest choices a company may have to make is structuring its supply chain. Knowing which vendors to use is a difficult decision. Another complex matter is figuring out the structure of the warehouse and distribution centers themselves. Some companies are large enough to have multiple warehouses and many different DCs, but even companies that only have one of these - or businesses trying to determine the best layout for their factories - have to decide on an organization pattern that is appropriate to what the business is doing. According to DC Velocity, one solution to the dilemma of how to structure a company is just to centralize everything.
"It allows for a straightforward, simplified process," says Dave Vehec, senior vice president of retail for Genco. "You have everything in one place, and you're handling it all the same way."
Other businesses are too complex and cannot have one central location solving every problem.
One way to figure out whether to centralize everything or to do something different is to look at how products are moving around the country. For businesses that are considering the addition of regional centers that will direct sales of product in certain cities, for example, it would help to know which suppliers are delivering to which cities. Tracking the products being sent from the factory through the shipping companies to the warehouses, and finally to people or companies buying the products, would be helpful. This can be done from the beginning of the product's manufacture by using RFgen software to capture the initial data of each product. The software then follows the items as they move across the country and stores the information in a way that's easy to understand.
This will help companies make major decisions that will directly affect ROI.