Tim Garcia, founder and CEO of Apptricity, a developer of enterprise solutions, offers a list of the top five warehousing challenges that can be addressed through automation.
1. Inventory accuracy. When manufacturers don't have full visibility to their inventory, they face the problems of either running out of stock at the wrong time or carrying too much stock and thus decreasing cash flow while increasing expenses to warehouse extra materials. Of the two challenges, Garcia says the greater problem is inventory shortage, which can lead to unfulfilled orders and unhappy customers.
2. Inventory location. "Lack of inventory oversight can cause a buildup of inefficiencies within the warehouse that slows operations and increases costs," Garcia says. "Without adequate insight into location, pickers take longer to find the items to ship, which slows the loading process and creates a backup in labor allocation and dock-door scheduling."
3. Space utilization/warehouse layout. It's not about how much space you have; it's about optimizing that space to avoid unnecessary labor. Keep fast-moving and high-selling inventory near the front of the facility so lift truck drivers aren't constantly traveling to the farthest reaches of the warehouse.
4. Redundant processes. Barcode technology, Garcia suggests, can reduce or eliminate the problem of a pick ticket or other documentation having to pass through multiple hands -- e.g., a picker, a checker, a stager, a loader, etc.
5. Picking optimization. "For warehouses that still have manual processes in place, there tends to be no common route taken to pick items for shipment, which adds unnecessary time to the process," Garcia says. With system-directed pick/putaway, the routing can be automated, which will reduce wear and tear on equipment and the workforce.