In the latest Warehouse Vision Study from our technology partners at Zebra, warehouse decision-makers reported their most desired goals and outcomes. Here’s a quick rundown of four of those top priorities for 2022 and beyond, including some great ways to achieve these goals.
- Improve worker productivity.
Labor shortages and rising wages pose serious challenges to warehouse performance and operating costs. Hence, it’s become more important than ever to boost workers’ productivity without burning them out and driving them to competitors or other jobs and industries.
Start by making sure that all warehouse workflows and processes are as digitized, automated, and streamlined as possible. It’s not enough to just get rid of paper and give workers a mobile device that connects them to your warehouse management system. Make sure the mobile technologies, software, and systems you’re using are simplifying every step of your workflows, eliminating unnecessary steps and bottlenecks, and connecting workers quickly and reliably.
For example, don’t let aging or outdated devices slow you down. Look for opportunities to trade in your existing hardware and upgrade to new high-performing solutions at lower cost. Look for opportunities to convert your green screen apps to touchscreen mobile apps and then replace your keypad-driven data entry with customizable touchscreen digital keyboards that streamline data entry for your specific processes.
If you’re looking to upgrade your technologies, don’t forget to look at wearable mobile computers, voice-directed picking solutions, and other innovations that can help your workers get far more done in less time, with less walking, stress, and hassle.
- Improve team productivity and workflow conformity.
As you evaluate your existing processes and technologies, don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Always look at each workflow or process and make sure you’re using the right technologies for the individual task. Doing this in each area or workflow helps you improve overall team productivity in entirely new ways.
For example, instead of using handheld mobile computers across multiple areas of your operations, a forklift driver can use a vehicle mounted-mobile computer with a corded long-range barcode scanner to access items to pick or move, scan pallet or shelf barcodes without leaving the cab, and manage transactions digitally. A warehouse manager might be better served by using a rugged tablet that can display more dashboards, data, and information on the screen and can be docked and used as a desktop computer in an office when needed. Instead of using handheld mobile computers or juggling devices, your pickers could use a multi-modal configuration with a small wearable mobile computer, a finger-worn barcode scanner, and a headset to receive pick lists, get audible and visual directions to the correct item locations, and verify correct picks.
As you establish the right technologies and procedures for each workflow, you should also make sure each worker has been trained and equipped with the right tools to comply with the ideal processes and methods. Learn what works best and then teach and encourage best practices among every worker.
- Increase asset visibility and utilization.
This is where warehouse goals become much more sophisticated, but this one is an achievable aim for even small- and medium-sized businesses. The idea here is to increase the visibility and utilization of all assets and resources in the warehouse, including goods, people, and even the physical equipment or assets that might be used to get work done.
This can start with something as simple as making sure that your warehouse management system and your mobile devices are collecting all the data you need for true visibility into your operations. If you’re not scanning or tracking it, then chances are that you can’t see it, so make sure you’re making the most of your data collection capabilities to automate data capture and information gathering at the edge of your operations.
Once you’re capturing the right data, you can use your warehouse management system or other tools to convert it into convenient dashboards and reports that allow you to get a high-level and granular view into your operations and asset utilization.
From there, you can expand into automated location tracking to add further asset utilization insights and improve your processes. For example, technologies such as RFID can be used to track and locate goods in real time as they move through warehouse processes, to help orchestrate and manage workflows more efficiently and effectively. It can also be used to tag, track, and locate assets such as equipment, mobile devices, or other hardware that you might need to find, use, maintain, service, or move into the right place to get work done.
In both cases, you can gain the added benefit of then being able to see how goods and assets are used and move through your operations, so you can manage them more proactively and cost-effectively.
- Operate with real-time guidance and decision-making.
Once you’re maximizing automated data collection and you have a more complete view of your assets and utilization, you can make the powerful move into real-time guidance and decision making. The data and insights you’re collecting can be analyzed to identify your best next moves, and you can even use machine learning, artificial intelligence, and digital alerts to help automate that guidance and those decisions.
It might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but the reality is that technology leaders such as Zebra and many warehouse systems developers have solutions on the market that crunch your data and the information collected from the devices at the edge of your operations, and they automatically alert you about bottlenecks, active or potential issues, and recommend the right actions and allocation of resources to meet real-time demand.
Need Help with Achieving Your Warehouse Goals?
A lot has been changing in the world of warehousing over the past few years, particularly with new consumer demands and preferences as well as the challenge of increased order volumes, supply chain issues, labor shortages, and now rising costs.
If you need help in meeting these challenges and achieving your goals for 2022 and the years ahead, connect with our warehousing experts at Vantage ID. We’ll show you what some of our customers are doing to optimize their operations and how we’re helping them do it with improvements to their technologies, systems, and processes.