Forklifts are a key part of warehouse efficiency and the supply chain as a whole.
Historically thought of as a ‘dumb’ piece of equipment in that they were totally reliant on the operator, forklifts have recently come to symbolise the digital transformation within warehouse operations.
The rise of ‘intelligent forklifts’ has completely revolutionised workflows: reducing material handling costs, improving fulfilment rates and streamlining stock management and tracking processes – all while driving better safety standards.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the rise of technology equipment on forklifts is that they have essentially become mobile offices within the warehouse, allowing users to carry out tasks which could historically only have been undertaken from a central location.
Real-time inventory tracking and monitoring
Warehouses have traditionally been highly reliant upon manual processes, with forklifts only used as a means of quickly getting a picker to a particular location within the warehouse or moving a heavy item from one place to another.
Any tracking, monitoring, or item checking had to be done once the forklift had delivered the item to its final location, and only then would mistakes – like picking the wrong item – be caught.
This manual mode of locating an item from a central computer, finding the item, loading it, moving and then scanning it, is hugely inefficient. It leads to wasted time and delays along the supply chain while the wrong item is taken back, and the correct item found and delivered.
Modern forklifts have essentially transformed this model by evolving from unintelligent machines into mobile offices within the warehouse. Operatives are now able to carry out many of the tasks previously undertaken within a central office, without leaving their forklift.
Forklift equipment such as vehicle mounted computers give drivers access to central systems and dashboards allowing them to access any information on the system, like item location or delivery status, from anywhere in the warehouse.
Mobile scanners and imagers, along with mobile printers and RFID trackers also mean drivers do not have to get information from the central office and can locate, scan and pick up items much more efficiently, even having the ability to scan multiple barcodes from distance or print missing labels.
The ability to scan barcodes and locate delivery bays also reduces the risk of mis-shipping, with operatives able to identify which products they are meant to be picking, rather than someone else catching a mistake later down the line.
The modern supply chain is more flexible and fluid than ever before, and every stage of the process needs to be optimised to ensure items can be located quickly and shipped efficiently to meet customer demands.
Forklifts are now much more important than simply tools for carrying loads around a warehouse and must be utilised to their full potential.
Failing to derive the most value from new forklift equipment technology will only hinder warehouse operatives’ ability to fulfil orders and requirements, causing delays in the supply chain and – ultimately – leading to a loss of time, cash and reputation among consumers and vendors.
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