Bringing Inventory to Production Sites: Don't Neglect Data Collection

Meagan Douglas
Thu, May 31, 2018
Storing assets close to production can drive efficiency improvements.
Storing assets close to production can drive efficiency improvements.

Many businesses are finding they can ramp up efficiency through inventory management procedures in which small quantities of materials are stored on or near the production floor. By locating resources where the work is being done, companies reduce travel time and eliminate overhead. However, this process creates new data and resource management challenges that must be dealt with to find success.

The Allure of Storing Assets Near Production

The value of strategic inventory placement isn't lost on the warehouse sector. In fact, a Multichannel Merchant story discussing best practices in inventory management highlighted the fact that companies have long been intentional about placing oft-used items in easy-to-reach places, as close to production as possible. In this case, however, the story was referring to locating items in the actual warehouse.

Check out our white paper, "Adopting Enterprise Mobility in the Supply Chain," to learn more about optimizing data collection.

The emphasis on efficiency has long been in place, but organizations can now extend beyond the actual warehouse. For a long time, completing cycle counts and similar asset management tasks was so complicated and time consuming that companies opted to keep inventories in a central location. It becomes almost impossible to adequately track and monitor goods once items start to be spread out.

"Organizations often struggle to optimize their storage environments as operations change over time."

Digitalization has changed this, however, and made it more feasible to move assets to multiple locations based on operational demands. For example, the oil and gas industry has long been moving inventories to production locations on lease sites due to cost and management challenges that come with using a single central location, a Medium report by industry expert Marlee Rose explained. On oil lease sites, it is helpful to have certain tools and materials available right there, making a trip back to a central warehouse unnecessary.

One unifying factor across both reports is a simple problem: organizations often struggle to optimize their storage environments as operations change over time. Multichannel Merchant pointed out that while many companies initially research their production to locate warehouse materials strategically, they often struggle to maintain that focus and adjust as production demands shift. The Medium report, on the other hand, thoroughly discussed unique challenges that come with storing goods outside of a traditional warehouse, including major logistical issues such as exposure to elements.

These problems put the importance of accurate data collection under a spotlight. If you want to take advantage of the benefits of storing assets even closer to production by locating inventories on the shop floor, you need to ensure users can easily track and document the goods they use. The last thing you need is a production worker running out of something and the warehouse not having replacement goods available or, almost just as problematic, have production slow because of tedious manual documentation processes.

Mobile data collection can simplify the management tasks that come with with storing inventory in close proximity to production.

Factory workers using a tablet.Storing assets on the production floor can be valuable when employees have the right tools.

Simplifying Inventory Management at Production Sites

Traditional methods for cycle counting and picking won't necessarily translate well to the production floor. If you are using paper-based processes, those will quickly become so cumbersome and error-prone that the complexity of maintaining the inventory storage method will diminish the value of the strategy. If you are working with a digital system but relying on manual data entry, you'll be asking your production workers to spend too much time tracking inventories. Mobile data collection solutions eliminate these problems and create simplicity. Here are a few options:

  • Hand-held barcode scanners let users quickly log when they are using an item or perform inventory checks.
  • Voice picking solutions allow individuals to simply speak a command and have the system identify what they are using, adding another layer of convenience.
  • Mobile apps let users leverage tablets or smartphones to scan barcodes.
  • Internet-of-things (IoT) devices could use cameras, sensors and monitoring solutions to automatically track asset dispositions based on weight and usage conditions.

All of these strategies could be viable today depending on your budget and workflows. However, there is a common factor beneath them: it is vital to integrate your warehouse management, data collection and enterprise resource planning systems to ensure visibility across operations. RFgen is helping businesses develop robust, strategic data collection tactics through our combination of experience, specialized mobile data collection solutions and ERP integration systems. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you align inventory management and production more closely.

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