5 Practices That Best-In-Class Warehouses Follow

Wireless warehouse transaction processing is widely used in large warehouse operations (over 50,000 square ft.). But when we consider all warehouses in North America (more than 800,000), it is actually used by only 30% of them.

Irrespective of size, all warehouses must have barcoding and/or wireless technologies to support paper sparse or preferably paperless warehouse transactions. As far as large warehouses are concerned, they can’t rest on their laurels for long. The next level for their operation is getting more visibility for their products, Outside the four walls. This includes products in the yard, in transit, at off-site third-party warehouses and the ones sitting on the shelves of their customers.

A common trait amongst Best in Class (BiC) warehouses is the sharing of electronic data with supply chain partners. Before BiC warehouses had this capability, they first perfected electronic sharing of data within their own four walls – a “walk before you run” development process.

Besides endangering the environment, using paper for warehouse transactions involves data risk, delays and errors. Below are just a few issues associated with paper usage.

Gets written down wrong – we’ve all been guilty of writing down the wrong number either in the right sequence or not at all. 

Gets read wrong – do your 5’s look like an eight or your 7’s look like a two? You may have no problem reading your own writing but others may complain that your writing looks like a doctor’s prescription.

Gets entered wrong – 1 every 200 keystrokes is the error rate associated with data entry practices.

Gets Lost – perhaps a politically correct term would be misplaced, someone puts down the completed pick list by the water cooler or leaves it in the lunch room, only for it to turn up a few days later. 

All of these issues contribute to a major problem: lack of timely and accurate information within your warehouse operations. No surprise that most warehouse management system (WMS) providers including ourselves usually find a 1 to 1 ½ year ROI on WMS by simply driving out paper.

Given the cost of Wi-Fi routers and barcode scanners, there is really no financial excuse for making this investment; your real ‘cost’ is putting in the time to make it happen. In keeping with the “walk before you run” philosophy here are four suggestions for getting started with barcoding and wireless technologies.

1)  Inventory Counts- Ingredients are: barcoded locations, parts, and scanner (could even be your smartphone). Scan and download the file to an excel spreadsheet and then reconcile to your accounting system. At a minimum do it every month if you have 12 turns a year, more frequently the more turns you have.

2)  Inventory Moves- A good librarian will tell you that having the book in the library is worthless unless they know exactly where it is.  Likewise knowing the product is ‘somewhere’ in the warehouse makes you reliant on someone’s memory or luck in terms of finding stuff. Track product in and out of locations and back up those moves with regular counts.

3)  Labeling- Make sure that every incoming product has a barcode that is scan-able. This endeavor is not costly but does require a reworking of your receiving processes to include re-labelling and/or making the sure the barcoded part number on the product is compatible with your existing part numbering schema.

4)  Reward System - Creating a reward system for accurate inventory capture and maintenance doesn’t have to cost you much. It could be a pizza lunch, movie tickets, or just recognition. Making new work processes into habits is much easier with an incentive system. A 5% improvement in inventory accuracy on $100,000 of inventory is $5,000 less in inventory you won’t need to write-off or order because you can’t find it in the warehouse.

These suggestions will not only ensure that inventory is accurately captured and maintained but also help you contribute, even if it is in a small way, towards a better world for future generations.

As we march towards online inventory to support customer queries and/or shopping, inventory accuracies must be in the high 90’s, anything less means you’re throwing away money developing great looking websites and marketing promotions driving online demand. Websites are only as good as the inventory and warehouse processes supporting that data.

We hope this article helps you move to paper-free operations in your warehouse.

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