Improving supply chain with warehouse technology

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brown and blue wooden cabinetSupply chains are still recovering from the pandemic disruption, and the continued shift towards e-commerce and onshoring resulted in the lowest national industrial vacancy rate, dipping to 0.8%, making Australia one of the tightest logistics markets in the world.

Meanwhile, customer expectations around speed and transparency are becoming even more demanding.

Warehouses are integral to the supply chain as they bridge the gap between production and distribution, ensuring excellent customer service. To add value and provide a seamless supply chain, warehouses need to be as efficient and agile as possible while also keeping a cap on costs. While large enterprises have moved to automated warehousing with robotics and loT, many others simply can’t afford the costs involved. So, many warehouses still rely on manual and slow processes with high human error rates. The flow-on effects are missed orders, incorrect inventory records that lead to over and under-buying of stock, and an inability to properly manage stock condition, spoilage/expiry and so forth.

As they grow, manufacturers are looking to new technology to stay competitive and transform how their warehouses work, and smartphone technology has been a saving grace.

While hardware scanners have been available for many years – and have evolved to become far more capable, smartphones have also opened new opportunities for more advanced functionality at a much more affordable rate. So, how does this new technology benefit manufacturers?

1. Real-time, accurate inventory records

With pen and paper, stocktake is typically a slow and painful process, which means many businesses only do it annually. By digitising this process via a mobile device, businesses can save time, keep more accurate records, and see inventory in real time.

Stocktakes can become a regular occurrence and potential issues can be identified before they become bigger problems such as overstocking, understocking, spoilage, or delays. These problems are particularly important for businesses expanding to multiple warehouses and locations where stock is moved from one location to another.

2. Stop chasing orders

In many warehouses, orders start by being entered in the back-office, pick lists are then printed, warehouse workers pick products and mark items off the printed pick slip, then enter that data into the back-office system again before moving the items to delivery. This process is cumbersome and relies heavily on people. Mistakes are easily made, time is wasted running back and forth from the office to the warehouse, and the warehouse worker is the only one who knows the status of an order until it’s completed. By using mobile devices, staff can easily scan barcodes, automatically update inventory records in real time, and manage all their activities from the palm of their hand. This helps eliminate mis-picks, delays, and inventory errors, all the while keeping business owners, warehouse managers, salespeople, and customer service teams on the same page, making life much less stressful for staff.

3. Keep customers happy

Customers today want up-to-date information on their orders, including shipping status and delivery times. Warehouse technology enables businesses to improve their DIFOT (delivery in full, on time). Urgent orders can be processed first by easily identifying order priority and filtering tasks by supplier, customer, and shipping dates.

This not only improves customer satisfaction rates but also identifies any issues, such as shipping delays, much more quickly.

4. Grow with less overhead

Simple improvements to warehouse operations can save hours of admin, allowing staff to improve productivity or focus on more important activities.

With less time needed to process orders, manage inventory, and onboard staff, businesses can reduce the time wasted on inefficient processes, and focus on growth with far less overhead.

As manufacturers grow, it’s important they support their business with the right technology to improve efficiency and stay competitive.

While robotics and automated warehousing are exciting developments, cloud and mobile-based software advancements can offer small and medium-sized businesses significant efficiency gains for a fraction of the cost.

Today, there is no reason for businesses to struggle with inefficient warehousing. There are fit-for-purpose solutions that can significantly improve operations, cut costs, and get orders to where they need to be sooner, helping businesses move forward with their expansion opportunities.

By Charlie Wood, CEO, Wiise

This article was first published in Australian Manufacturing Technology