Gaining a Supply Chain Edge

Mobile Devices Amp Up Efficiency in the Warehouse

How many mobile devices do you use personally? How many do you have that help enhance your life professionally?

With smartphones, tablets and other such devices, new applications keep being created to make our lives easier. The same is happening in warehouses and distribution centers.

Both large and small operations benefit from mobile applications. And every function can be improved through a wide range of mobile devices and technologies.

For example, receiving and putaway operations can now provide inventory visibility immediately at the dock. With advanced data capture technologies implemented at dock doors, information is streamlined to the receiving functions. Incoming shipments are instantly identified by either bar code or RFID tag via hand-held mobile computers, vehicle-mounted mobile computers or flexible conveyors with fixed readers.

Moreover, shipments can be automatically verified against purchase orders and directions sent to a worker's mobile device. Putaway is expedited by the system providing the best path to the right storage location or outbound location, if the product is to be crossdocked. So as you can see, it is possible to maintain visibility for all material moves without the use of a paper trail.

Replenishment is facilitated by hand-held mobile computers and vehicle-mounted computers. Requests can be handled in seconds, and the system directs workers to the correct location using the quickest route.

Picking operations are also greatly enhanced by mobile technology. Today, pickers are likely to be armed with a variety of devices. Hand-held devices used with wearable, hands-free devices allow them to respond to voice pick instructions and enter additional data into a wearable keypad all greatly improving productivity and accuracy of picking.

Packaging operations also benefit from mobile computer technology by enabling automatic and error-free order validation. Packers no longer need to estimate the correct carton to use because the system automatically identifies the proper carton size and sends that information to a mobile device. The carton can then be scanned, verifying that the right one was chosen as well as keeping a real-time inventory of packaging materials.

And on to shipping, where staff armed with a mobile computer and wireless printer can quickly scan a shipment to ensure that the right items are sent. The system will also verify the shipping address and provide information to stage the shipment for the proper truck. Automatically printing all shipping documents further improves the operation and ensures order quality.

Mobile devices will only continue to grow more powerful in terms of speed and user memory, as will the productivity gains associated with seamless use of mobile database systems, RFID, GPS, VoIP, digital imaging, voice technology and bar code scanning. The return on investment from these types of initiatives typically is very good.

If your operations are not making full use of mobile technologies, it makes sense to investigate the benefits you are missing. And if you are using these technologies in the warehouse, how has it improved your ROI?

More Resources

Can Your Warehouse Fit in Your Pocket?

Webcast: The New Rules of Material Handling: How to Design & Implement Adaptable, Flexible Systems

Tompkins International

TAGS: Supply Chain
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