The Benefits Of Automating Your Warehouse

By: | Category: Distribution / Manufacturing, ERP

The heart and soul of a successful distribution operation is knowing exactly where your products are stored and the quickest way to retrieve them. The efficiency with which you manage picking, packing, shipping, and receiving has an immediate impact on your bottom line. One way to obtain a big gain in efficiency is to implement a wireless data capture solution in your warehouse. In this article we discuss what to look for in a warehouse automation solution to maximize your warehouse operational efficiency.

Automation Efficiencies

In many warehouse situations, data is manually entered into the computer, while warehouse workers are kept busy picking orders and putting stock away. Situations can change rapidly on the warehouse floor, and the data entered manually often is outdated by the time it is input. Lack of real-time information about stock on hand makes it difficult to provide good customer service. In an automated warehouse, all items are scanned as they move in, out, and around the warehouse. The scanned data is downloaded directly to the computer system via radio frequency (RF) to provide real-time information about the productís location. When an order comes in, the order taker need only access the computer records to see how much of any given product is in the warehouse and pinpoint exactly where it is located for the order picker.

Wi-Fi and RF networking gain popularity every day. Coffee shops, airports, hotels, libraries, even our own homes are going wireless. Large warehouse operations have taken advantage of these efficiencies for years. Today the wider availability of Wi-Fi systems has made RF technology and warehouse automation more affordable for smaller distributors.

How Warehouse Automation Works

Your warehouse workers use handheld devices to scan barcodes while performing shipping and receiving tasks. The information is beamed via the radio frequency (RF) network to the server that handles the transmission of information between the handheld device, your ERP system, and barcode label printers. A well-integrated warehouse automation system can validate and post data into your ERP system in real time, so that you have up-to-the-minute product quantity and location information.

The Infrastructure

To make sure the wireless system is available in all areas of the warehouse, a site survey of the warehouse and other RF-enabled areas is recommended for areas greater than 30,000 square feet to determine exact requirements for access points, antennas, cables, and so forth. The site survey will result in a list of all required components and exact placement of the access points and antennas in the warehouse. When purchasing hand-held barcode reader devices, keep in mind they need to be the rugged type that can survive a five-foot drop. Barcode label printing needs to be part of the solution as well. Your warehouse automation system should be able to print barcode labels in flexible formats.