Must-Have Technologies for Your Warehouse Operation
If you run a warehouse operation, you’ll likely be focused on two things: fulfill orders quickly and minimize operational costs. One way to minimize opeartional costs is to ramp up for your peak season by partnering with an efficient staffing provider. In addition, there are reasonably priced technologies that make both of these goals, lowering costs and increasing speed, easier to achieve.
The emergence of cloud-based technology is making warehouse operations more affordable and accessible for any size company. Communications technology company 8×8 provides a few ways the cloud is advantageous including more predictable costs, regular software updates and ease of scalability.
Supply chain solutions company JDA Software Group found that technological improvements in your warehouse, most notably in Warehouse Management Systems, have reduced inventory levels by as much as 30 percent. In addition to a robust WMS, here are some other must-have technologies that help optimize warehouse operations.
- Inventory Management System
Business publication Entrepreneur suggests that companies with more careful inventory management can increase their profitability 20 to 50 percent. With an inventory management system, you no longer have to rely on manual entries to record orders, saving you time and increasing data accuracy. The time saved from not having to enter your inventory on programs like Excel is time you can spend analyzing data collected from your management system to find inefficiencies. Inventory accuracy can help return a profit because you can identify and stock popular items to reduce lead times.
Your inventory management system should be coupled with barcode scanning technology to keep inventory and cycle counts accurate. Barcode scanning has been shown to bring your rate of mistake to below .1 percent because it guides workers to find and pick the correct item and then records it in your inventory management system. If it’s not correct, then the worker isn’t able to move on to the next order.
- Return Management System
Returns are an inevitable part of operating a business. In fact, about 30 percent of all online orders are returned and they can hurt your bottom line if not handled correctly. That’s reason enough to implement a return processing system.
A return management systems tracks and stores data for you to provide insight on who is returning what, why the item is being returned and the associated costs. This system also issues the refund payment for your customer. Overall, the collected information helps maintain inventory control and grasp your customers’ buying habits and preferences.
- Warehouse Management System
To get the most out of all the technology systems you invest in, you need an integrated warehouse management system (WMS). This system is the backbone of your operation. It’s where day-to-day data like inventory and stock locations are recorded.
An inventory management system and a WMS seem similar because they both track inventory, but a WMS has more complex capabilities.
A WMS can provide 99 percent inventory accuracy or higher. Similarly to an inventory management system, the centralized application tracks the data from barcode scanning and updates stock information.
Unlike an inventory management system, a WMS can provide workers with product location, sometimes even using voice picking headsets and speech recognition, which decreases the overall time to fill an order, because it’s able to compartmentalize product locations. A WMS can also integrate with other systems, like your return management system or a shipping system, to better streamline your operation.
- Workforce Management System
A workforce management system is an essential component in any business, especially for one that utilizes a contingent workforce. This technology acts as a digital portal that provides granular insight into your recruitment funnel and labor usage.
With a robust system, you’ll be able to run customized reports on key workforce metrics – such as onboarding status, fill rate, overtime and attrition – increasing visibility into the contingent labor life cycle and streamlining administrative processes. Real-time access to these metrics can help you identify the shortcomings or successes of your recruitment efforts and stimulate continuous improvements.
Is it worth the cost?
Inventory inaccuracies and inefficient processes can cost your company 20 percent of your yearly revenue and picking errors can cost you nearly $400,000 a year. An integrated technology system in your warehouse can reduce that. Additionally, there aren’t any expensive up-front costs to install a cloud-based WMS, which gives you a quick ROI. On average, facilities spend about $18,000 a year for cloud-based WMS subscription fees, which is much cheaper than the possible money lost from picking or inventory errors.