By Rob Carlson, Operations Manager, Infinite Peripherals
Warehouses and distribution centers face increasing omni-channel expectations and demands for faster shipments. Those relying on manual/analog systems or legacy RFID equipment will no doubt experience more errors, inefficiencies and the need for additional labor—as well as unacceptable productivity and fulfillment rates. All of these issues negatively impact profitability.
One way to solve the challenge is to implement a mobile solution that reduces paperwork, improves inventory records and automates workflows. A digital platform also makes it easy to integrate mobile devices with corporate ERP systems for enhanced communications among various departments such as accounting, sales and manufacturing.
Despite the advantages that mobile systems create, the transition from traditional tools in the warehouse has been gradual. However, awareness of the benefits is starting to rise. According to a global study, “The Current and Future State of Digital Supply Chain Transformation,” 75 percent of executives from large retail and manufacturing organizations say that digital transformation of the supply chain is important.
The Benefits of Replacing a Cumbersome Process
As Infinite Peripherals planned to move into a new 20,000-square-foot facility—more than double the size of our previous warehouse—we also implemented a digital tracking system. We immediately experienced enhanced efficiencies, greater productivity and significant cost savings. As a result, our rapidly-growing enterprise kept pace with increased customer demand so well that we expanded the system to our secondary warehouse.
Our own experiences on this project have since helped us refine the mobility solutions we deploy for our customers. The project also demonstrates how an automated, digital process presents a stark contrast to the traditional manual work-order process—where personnel have to walk throughout the warehouse and maybe even the back office to pick up and process work orders.
For many of our clients, their previous cumbersome systems required warehouse staff to process orders by first writing down the number of products and boxes to pull along with the weight and dimensions. A supervisor would then manually review and approve each order.
Processes like these can cause frequent bottlenecks. Staff may be forced to converge on one computer in the warehouse to check data, and real-time information may not always be available. Furthermore, the opportunity for errors is magnified, requiring additional time and resources to correct.
A Seamless Transition with Infinite Possibilities
At Infinite Peripherals, we addressed our own situation by adopting an automated digital process featuring our own devices—the Linea Pro and the Infinea Tab M—the ideal solutions to replace paper processes. These units equip iPod touch, iPhone and iPad devices with barcode scanners and run on custom software.
The transition to this paperless system took only one weekend. Our team scanned the entire warehouse inventory, and staff training required just two hours—thanks to the intuitive user interfaces offered by the devices as well as the familiarity of the Apple devices.
The lightweight, handheld solutions are used by up to 12 employees at a time for tasks such as inventory receipt, organization, picking, labeling, shipping, serial number tracking and quality control. As a result, our staff is no longer tethered to a computer station or trying to keep track of multiple paper forms.
Equipped with the mobile solutions, the warehouse team now easily pulls more than one order at a time, resulting in valuable productivity gains. And errors are virtually non-existent as the new system issues an alert when scanning an incorrect item. The staff also benefits from mobile printers to quickly produce labels for boxes and shipping containers.
The system automatically updates orders and inventory while also communicating with the accounting team to issue invoices. Real-time information is always available, and the warehouse staff appreciates that the mobile solution makes their jobs easier and enables them to be more efficient.
Warehouse Productivity Up 25%
As a result of deploying an automated, digital warehouse tracking systems, the three-person team in our main warehouse in Illinois now handles about 30-40 orders daily and ships approximately 3,000 devices per week. This represents a 25 percent increase in productivity over our previous system.
Given these stellar results, we also adopted the mobile solution for our 10,000-square-foot supplemental warehouse in California. Warehouse management staff in both locations can now instantly access all inventory information throughout the company from the palms of their hands.
By using our own devices to run our warehouses, Infinite Peripherals has benefitted from significant cost, labor and time savings. Even with an ongoing increase in orders, there has been no need for additional warehouse personnel.
Yet the bigger story here are the benefits and the experiences we can now pass along to our clients. With first-hand experience using the very same systems we deploy for our clients, we are ideally positioned to develop, beta-test and perfect additional solutions—that can drive even greater warehouse workflow-process efficiencies.
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