The role of the warehouse in the modern supply chain has completely changed and warehouse technology which increases visibility, accuracy and efficiency is now more important than ever.
Warehouses are no longer just a large space for inventory to sit until it is dispatched; instead they have become fast paced hives of activity and a key part of a decentralised supply chain dealing with consumers’ “want it now” culture.
To deal with the new emphasis on speed and accuracy, warehouse operatives need tools which enable them to become more independent within the wider warehouse environment, facilitating ever greater efficiency and productivity.
Just as within the consumer market, wearable technology is taking a much bigger role within warehouse and supply chain management.
In fact, the vast majority of end users (85%) are now motivated to invest in warehouse wearable initiatives if it means an increase in employee productivity, according to research.
Wearables and efficiency
From a business standpoint, wearable devices, particularly in a warehouse, have the potential to drastically boost efficiency and productivity by supplying workers with access to mobile equipment which traditionally stayed within the central office.
And while wearable devices have been around for a while, the latest incarnation of solutions offer a more varied mix of tools which can be matched specifically to budgets and operational needs.
As an example, wearable computers allow operators to easily access information about a product through a picture sent to their display unit and then enter information or confirm actions via a touchscreen, or even take pictures themselves, for instance, if the item in question is damaged.
Similarly, operatives can now easily capture RFID tags and barcodes through handheld ring scanners – even scanning items several feet away on the warehouse floor, to quickly identify or confirm product information.
Previously, operatives would have been forced to use centralised computers to find products, and problems would only be identified after the item had moved through to the next stage in the delivery chain, like a loading dock – assuming the problem was spotted at all.
Wearable and mobile tools now make these processes much more streamlined and simple, while reducing the chance of human error or incorrect shipments.
Efficiency and accuracy are already a major challenge in the modern supply chain and this is only going to become more profound in coming years. As a result, the steps already taken to achieve more speed and accuracy will also have to continue – and this is where “multi-modal” systems will come into play.
Enabling workers to use spoken instructions will simplify tasks even further, for example by removing the need to navigate touchscreen computers. Combined with hands-free scanning, multi-modal systems can further drastically reduce the time taken to pick each item.
Operatives could also benefit from voice-directed picking which allows them to rapidly locate inventory. This is particularly useful for seasonal workers, who can quickly get to grips with stock location.
These mobile devices can also boost productivity and efficiency further by providing “best-routes” through the warehouse so operatives can get to inventory quicker, and enabling on-the-spot verification through hands-free scanning and providing real-time updates on inventory.
What is clear, is that the modern supply chain and warehouse management must continue to offer both operatives and managers the tools they need to meet more challenging delivery times.
Inventory management is now much faster paced and contingent on being able to move products across a much wider net of warehouses and stores than in previous years.
In a modern, fast-paced, on-demand environment the cost of incorrect, late or missed shipments can be catastrophic to businesses; luckily the technology and mobile hardware exists to make this challenge much more manageable.
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