Authored by Alana Smith, TeamCain
On a recent webinar, RF-SMART presented feedback from their customer base as well as research they had done on various industry trends to give the webinar audience a look at why warehouses should be thinking about implementing automation in 2014. The following is a brief overview of what was presented.
Reason #1: Meet Industry Regulations
The food and beverage and pharmaceutical industries have laws and standards in place in order to make sure that consumers are safe. By implementing automation in the supply chain, it’s easier to meet industry regulations and requirements. You can track tomatoes back to the field they were grown in and make sure your company is meeting the legal requirements for labelling. Automation benefits those who need to look at product traceability, hospitality RFID, retail RFID, and medical instrument traceability.
Reason #2: Empower Your Warehouse Team
With warehouse automation, you can make your workers feel empowered and accountable for their work. Not only can guides be set up (go to location A1A, pick sales orders) but automation allows workers to know about errors faster and more efficiently, like if there is a blocked location or expired batch. Workers can review their progress and take action with informed decisions to complete tasks. If you work in an environment that allows for BYOD (bring your own device), then workers can look up inventory, make replenishment requests themselves and create transfer orders on the fly. Automation improves inventory accuracy too as there wouldn’t be a need for physical counts.
Reason #3: Create Reliable Information
In many cases, everybody in the warehouse (and whole company itself) is reliant on the information in the company’s ERP and you don’t want to second guess your system. By implementing automation in the supply chain, you can leverage your ERP and validate information in real-time. You would have top notch warehouse management functionality.
Reason #4: Reduce Touch Points
Warehouses that don’t employ automation methods can find themselves asking a lot of questions and dealing with a lot of paperwork. Where are the pallets? Did the workers pick the right product? If a problem arises, who is help responsible? Everybody else has touched the order too. When an order moves onto the truck for shipping, the responsibility of data entry falls on somebody else to enter it manually. But when you automate your warehouse processes, these questions disappear. You know the pick and order is correct because you get an automated confirmation success pop-up. Scanning the shipment before loading onto the truck confirms everything. Removing touch points and reducing the number of workers reduces errors and streamlines the business process. It also improves customer satisfaction because you can take solace in knowing that the right product at the right time is reaching them.
Reason #5: Capture Metrics
Metrics are key performance indicators and if you have automation, then these indicators can be updated in real-time. You can measure:
- Metrics in Receiving - supplier order received/hour, lines received/hour
- Metrics in Inventory - inventory count accuracy, line put-away/hour, peak warehouse capacity, warehouse worker performance
- Metrics in Pick/Pack - lines picked/hour, order picked/hour, cases picked/hour, order picking accuracy
- Metrics in Shipping - orders shipped/hour, pallet shipped/hour
Because of automation, you can know the relationship between picking and shipping and be warned of any inefficient user processes. You can make changes and continued to monitor as you carry on. You can get your employees involved (and give them more accountability over their work) by giving out awards for best warehouse performer and let them see how they’re doing.
In one article that RF-SMART consulted for their study, it was suggested that the top concerns for warehouses were honesty, speed and capacity. By implementing automation in the supply chain, organizations can empower their workers and get a clear view of their overall business.
To view the webinar, click here.