As businesses grow the job of managing and maintaining a warehouse becomes increasingly difficult. Jobs that were once easy to juggle become near impossible for one person to handle on their own, leading to the need for warehouse technology. By embracing technologies in the areas of order management, automation, inventory management, and compliance reporting. Below we will outline seven technologies every modern warehouse should be using.
RFID TAGS & BARCODES
The ability to scan barcodes for organization and record-keeping is vital. Many mid-market ERP systems provide this ability straight out of the box, as it is a function warehouses simply cannot do without. While barcodes can come in assorted styles, there is a standard- the GS1 Global Trade Item Format, which every warehouse should be able to scan. As warehouses grow, however, more streamlined solutions become necessary. RFID tags are, essentially, a more advanced system of barcodes which capture the same data, but without human intervention. These tags broadcast the relevant data as they pass by radio transmitters in the warehouse, which send the data back to the system of record. While this RFID technology is not always included in mid-market solutions, it is becoming increasingly widely available.
PAPER & OCR SCANNING
While many functions are becoming paperless, there are several areas that still rely on paper-based transactions, and keeping track of them remains a vital part of any warehouse management. In addition to being vital for some non-digital tasks, paper records also serve as a backup for their digital counterparts. OCR Scanning is used in many warehouse setups, particularly to extract and store data from things such as vendor receipts and packing slips, as well as other documents. OCR data capture is compatible with most ERP systems and is not a major expense.
Voice recognition is another option for automated data capture, and a more complicated system of it is called Voice Directed Warehousing (VDW). VDW is a relatively new concept, offering hands-free, directed picking and put away. Packing and shipping becomes much easier, and VDW is compatible with most modern wearable technologies. An emerging technology, improvements and advancements are expected to come quickly, meaning warehouses should act now to prepare themselves for these sorts of systems.
ROBOTICS AND CAROUSELS
Robotic technology is now more affordable than ever, meaning that smaller companies can now employ those technologies in their warehouses. These technologies can vastly improve inventory movement. Storage carousel systems are in the same family, and while being more expensive, can improve the speed and efficiency of the picking process.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are two emerging technologies that are poised to offer warehouses unique improvement possibilities. AI functions such as the ability to check manually entered amounts against digital receipts, as well as assisting in data capture. ML can help maximize efficiency and lower waste by prioritizing items that have been in the warehouse the longest when packing, meaning fewer items expire unused, as well as helping determine the most cost-effective shipping partner to use for a particular.
Several ERP solutions provide some form of warehouse management tools. These tools can include picking and packing enhancements, tracking, shipping, as well as inventory management tools. Some solutions also offer the ability to automatically choose lot, bin, or serial numbers based on pre-configured rules.
WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
The above systems combine to create systems collectively known as Warehouse Management Software. These industry-specific functions such as cross-docking, license plating, and load and route optimization offer a wider range of tools than the standard ERP solution. WMS is ideal for companies that need significant logistics help, or other functions standard ERP solutions do not provide.
By employing these seven tools warehouse companies can empower themselves, putting them in prime position to continue to grow and expand, as well as increase efficiency, a key aspect to staying top of class.