Creating a Digital Warehouse: Turning Boxes Into Numbers

Dustin Caudell
Mon, Jun 6, 2016
Turning warehouse activities into digital information calls for mobile data collection devices.
Turning warehouse activities into digital information calls for mobile data collection devices.

Managing inventory is a numbers game. The goal is to ensure the number of products demanded by consumers match the levels of merchandise available in stores. To do this, managers must have a constant view of items being added and subtracted from warehouses and other distribution locations.

Businesses currently operate in a big data world and inventory movements are becoming the most important piece of information for making organization plans. Forbes detailed how Amazon's consistent success comes from the company's commitment to its supply chain. The online retailer not only makes distribution and shipping a priority, but constantly searches for new ways to monitor warehouse management and supply chain movements.

Even if businesses aren't selling products through online sales channels, they can still benefit from digital solutions. Working with modern data collection systems helps businesses turn physical objects and employee actions into numbers.

Be Willing
Before any change is made, the company has to make sure everyone from executive leaders to data collection device end users are on board. Any questions or concerns should be handled before implementation so new initiatives aren't sabotaged by resistance to breaks in routine.

The key is to get companies to recognize the benefits of a completely digital supply chain. An Accenture report said many businesses try to get by with a hodgepodge of information systems. This creates data silos and blind spots. Digitization advocates should start by showing decision-makers where the current data collection solutions fail the company and where improvements can greatly improve the efficiency and speed of the the supply chain.

Beside the obvious advantages of visualizing distribution and procurement, companies may also want to investigate the secondary opportunities of electronic solutions. Supply & Demand Chain Executive said digitizing company activities can save money on assets in the long run - like eliminating numerous paper copies - and make the brand more eco-friendly. These benefits will be present when a company seeks out all of the features available in modern mobile devices and information systems.

Be Ready
Taking stock of current inventory management activities should help executives and end users acknowledge the need for new solutions. Performing mass audits of warehouse and distribution routes will also show exactly how mobile data collection devices should fit into operations with limited disruption.

Leaders should sit down with warehouse workers to listen to what they expect from new strategies and investments. At the same time, observing the actual inventory storage location gives decision-makers a chance to see how employees perform tasks, what currently works, where redundancies exist and the physical requirements necessary for new technology.

Once a business knows exactly what mobile data collection solutions should do, it can find the options that won't interrupt physical activities. The RFgen white paper "Making the Case for Wearable Tech in the Warehouse" advised companies to consider the challenges involved with lifting, handling and transporting inventory and finding mobile devices that improve safety while providing automated data collection features.

Be Able
No matter how easily digitization solutions fit into warehouse management procedures and delivery routes, implementation will take some time. Businesses often benefit from adopting new ideas during slow periods. Mobile data collection solutions can be exciting, but approaching the project carefully - and at the right time - is important for future success.

Companies need to schedule time to prepare users for disruption. Certain data collection solutions will decrease the amount of time necessary for training - especially wearables that automatically monitor actions. Finding solutions that work with employees sets them up for success.

Time should also be put aside to address results that don't meet expectations. Proper implementation of supply chain digitization depends on measurable goals and adjustments when results don't meet expectations.  

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