Lean times, internal pressure to do more with less, and demand for service excellence is forcing retailers to improve productivity and efficiency of their warehouse operations. But holding many organizations back are manual processes in how products are selected for shipment, recorded as received or managed as inventory.
According to research firm Gartner, enterprise mobility is among the most important trends shaping business-IT transformational decisions. Automating processes and mobilizing warehouse activities can streamline operations, improve picking, packing and shipping processes and increase accuracy, resulting in reduced costs and higher customer satisfaction.
Putting a warehouse mobility initiative on your operational improvement agenda is a good move if you’re using spreadsheets to manage processes, if workers are wasting time traveling the warehouse floor searching for products, if orders are incorrect or costs associated with partial shipments are on the rise, or if your warehouse mobility software is sitting as shelfware.
Even organizations that recognize the benefits of automation may struggle with achieving a successful implementation. Any one of these mistakes could derail success:
Not starting with a plan. Know what you want to achieve by mobilizing your warehouse. Is the goal improving inventory management? Lowering costs? Reducing safety incidents? Clarify your strategic objectives before you begin.
You try to boil the ocean. Mobilizing the warehouse is a significant undertaking and needs to be executed in a systematic manner that considers key functionality, availability of resources and disruption to the business. Prioritization is critical. A step-based approach ensures that appropriate technical and functional requirements are addressed to meet workflow and communication needs. Formulating the right implementation strategy, including identifying the technologies that align with business goals is essential for success. But don’t boil the ocean to get there – break your project down into manageable steps.
You’re automating bad processes. When shipments come in, do they sit on the dock or are they efficiently rerouted to the proper storage area? Is the location documented and available in real time for easy retrieval? Is physical inventory count time-consuming and laborious or are products scanned on arrival and able to be tracked via a handheld or mobile device? Document processes to ensure effective workflow is replicated and opportunities for improvement are identified and realized.
You lack internal expertise. Executing a warehouse mobility strategy requires knowledge of hardware and software. The right partner will have knowledge in how to install a wireless network, scanners, and other hardware components to make it work and conduct a thorough business process assessment to ensure the correct hardware is purchased, configured and installed.
You don’t acknowledge milestones and incremental successes. Sharing milestones keeps stakeholders engaged and maintains project momentum. Go beyond looking at system performance, but how the solution is meeting business goals. Going back to strategic objectives established at the outset, measure against initial goals and communicate how processes improved, if partial shipments decreased or if less time was spent looking for inventory to increase understanding in how the solution delivers benefit.