Warehouse Technologies for Effective Inventory Control

Written By Ann Chong Fong Ting, DPSM

by Ann Chong Fong Ting, DPSM

Warehouse Technologies for Effective Inventory Control

Written By Ann Chong Fong Ting, DPSM

by Ann Chong Fong Ting, DPSM

by Ann Chong Fong Ting, DPSM

When it comes to inventory control, constant evaluation and adoption of crucial technologies is critical so as to improve profitability and stay competitive. Today, warehouse managers have a wide array of technologies to choose from as they strive to reduce costs, improve efficiency and streamline operations. They must ensure that goods, materials and products flow effortlessly by optimizing their warehouse operations through the use of warehouse technologies. Constant evaluation and adoption of crucial technologies is critical so as to improve profitability and stay competitive. The picture below shows the essential technologies that a warehouse manager could implement for effective inventory control.

Warehouse Management System (WMS)

A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software application, designed to support and optimize warehouse functionality and distribution center management. These systems facilitate management in their daily planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling the utilization of available resources, to move and store materials into, within, and out of a warehouse. A warehouse management system usually represents the central unit in the software structure of a warehouse.

The WMS receives orders from the overlying host system, mostly an ERP system, manages these in a database and, after appropriate optimization, supplies them to the connected conveyor control systems. In the process, WMS have made many warehouse activities faster for people to perform and generated efficiencies to reduce labor-intensiveness.

RFID Technology

RFID is an acronym for “radio-frequency identification” and refers to a technology whereby digital data encoded in RFID tags or smart labels are captured by a reader via radio waves. RFID is similar to barcoding in that data from a tag or label are captured by a device that stores the data in a database.RFID have taken away much of that administration effort, by allowing operatives to simply scan a pick face and enter picked quantities on a keypad. More advanced solutions even eliminate the data entry altogether, leaving the operative to concentrate solely on the actual picking. Scanning technologies have had a similar impact in other areas of warehouse operation, such as receiving, put-away, and dispatch.

RFID Technology

Picture extracted from http://scrumium.net

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)Technology

EDI is a system or method for exchanging business documents with external entities. Regardless of the size of companies, implementing EDI is essential for competitiveness and growth. It reduces costs and improves the operational performance across your organization.EDI accelerates data exchange and sharpens accuracy. The company, as well as customers, benefit from the streamlined administration, improved information flow, more accurate accounting, better inventory management, and lower costs. Electronic transactions are so efficient, to the extent that customers using EDI prefer to work with vendors that have EDI systems in place. From the financial, operational, and technical perspectives, the right EDI solution makes irrefutable business sense.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)Technology

Picture extracted from https://www.indiamart.com

Light Fidelity (LiFi) Technology

LiFi is a technology for wireless communication between devices using light to transmit data and position. LED lamps can be used for the transmission of visible light. Providing wireless connectivity for large number of robots and electronic devices is a challenging problem in warehouses and factories.

LiFi offers huge advantages over WiFi in those environments and can be used as a reliable wireless networking technique in those indoor areas. In addition, visible light communication can provide accurate 3D positioning for robots, drones and other devices in warehouses and factories, where indoor positioning and navigation is a crucial element.

The picture below shows the MiFi technology connected to the drone and robots to perform the warehouse activities.

Light Fidelity (LiFi) Technology

Picture extracted from https://www.123rf.com

Robotic Technology

Mobile piece-picking robots were considered a too complex, and therefore unrealistic, solution to the varying demands of the average distribution center. List of limitations is quickly shrinking, as the technology becomes available to make the concept increasingly viable.

The prospect of robots working alongside human workers is now a reality, with the scope for collaboration able to optimize warehouse processes. Mobile piece-picking robots are capable of supporting workers, by removing the need for labour to be devoted to repetitive and dangerous tasks.

This allows more human time to be spent on more complex and rewarding work, such as maintaining and training robots, thus benefitting employees and employers alike.

The operational benefits of robotic collaboration can be realised along the supply chain, such as Fetch Robotics, to explore the multiple applications of robotics in logistics. to prove to the industry that robots are here to work with humans, not against them. This will offer greater efficiencies to organizations and their staff.

Robotic Technology

Picture extracted from Matthias Heutger (2017)

Conclusion

The use of technology in warehouse operation is dependent on the type of goods that are to be stored in the warehouse. This also depends on the willingness of companies to invest in technology, so as to increase their productivity and reduce human error. It is important for companies to understand their criteria for a suitable technology, and that warehouse operators are properly trained on the use of such technology.


References

Adam, R. (2016). “7 Innovative Warehouse Management Technologies to Adopt”. Retrieved from https://cerasis.com/2016/12/21/warehouse-management, accessed on 19/09/2018.

Matthias, H. (2017). “The warehouse of the future: mobile-piece picking robots becoming a reality”. Retrieved from https://www.supplychaindigital.com/warehousing/warehouse-future-mobile-piece-picking-robots-becoming-reality, accessed on 19/09/2018.

Nurahim Masruri. (2017). “Innovative Technologies for Warehouse Implementation”. Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/innovative-technologies-warehouse-implementation, accessed on 19/09/2018.

Rob, O. (2016). “The Past, Present, and Future of Technology in the Warehouse” Retrieved from https://www.logisticsbureau.com/the-past-present-and-future-of-technology-in-the-warehouse, ccessed on 19/09/2018.

Surendran. (2018). “Adopting New Technologies for Effective Warehousing”. Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/adopting-new-technologies-effective-warehousing, accessed on 19/09/2018.

Wong Yoke Fong. (2017). “Current Technology in Use for a Typical Warehouse”. Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/current-technology-in-use-for-a-typical-warehouse, accessed on 19/09/2018.

About the Author: Ann Chong Fong Ting has substantive years of experience in the logistics of providing customer service, and specifically in the Chemicals industry. She is a member of the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). Ann completed the Diploma in Procurement and Supply Management (DPSM) course on September 2018 at SIPMM Academy.

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