Source: Äri-IT Spring 2023
Author: Erki Rebane, BCS Itera Project Manager
In warehouse management, digitalisation is sometimes approached too cautiously. However, the challenges are less daunting than anticipated and the benefits are greater than expected.
Companies often initiate digitalisation in areas such as purchasing or production but the greatest benefits arise from the introduction of innovative supplementary warehouse services or when the warehouse becomes part of a broader digital supply chain.
Nevertheless, digitalising every warehouse may not be practical and, undoubtedly, warehouses with simple processes will persist in the future. In the case of more complex warehouses, especially if they are integrated with other company processes, digitalisation can greatly improve supply chain efficiency and yield cost savings.
In every warehouse, the majority of processes have naturally fallen into place over time. Unfortunately, the mindset of ‘this is how it has always been done’ often poses a significant obstacle in implementing change. Who among us has not heard a seasoned colleague say: ‘Don’t fix what isn’t broken!’
First, people need to step out of their comfort zone and get used to new tools and processes. When undertaking such changes, involving the entire team from the outset is essential, and each employee should be able to see and understand the benefits for themselves. Any employee concerns that may arise during the change process must be addressed.
A technological platform instead of paperwork
The second cornerstone of the logistics concept based on wireless technology, the Internet of Things and analytics, is a technological platform that effectively addresses future needs as well. We continue to encounter solutions that have reached the end of their life cycle or lack long-term sustainability. There are still many manual work processes in place that involve tedious paperwork and a daily routine of error detection. In the worst case scenario, there is not even a daily updated stock overview, not to mention real-time information available to everyone.
Today many participants are involved in logistics processes. The flow of information is interrupted as soon as a partner is unable to receive information in real-time or transmit it to others. In this struggle for survival, companies that align better with the digital supply chain than others gain a competitive advantage.
Digital tools facilitate route optimisation, in-warehouse transport and physical tasks. All these aspects accelerate service delivery in the warehouse. As business becomes more dynamic and demand fluctuates, improved inventory planning becomes imperative, which can only be achieved through consistent data collection and skilful implementation, considering the current market situation.
Digitalisation of data collection
The first step is to introduce mobile scanners. To this end, it is essential to acquire the appropriate hardware and establish a reliable internet connection. Employees will have to get used to new work tools and bid farewell to traditional paper and pen methods. Equipped with the scanner, employees have all the necessary information at their fingertips and all steps are instantly accessible in the system. Manual data entry becomes unnecessary as the process is controlled by a scanner, preventing errors such as inputting incorrect pallet or location information. Scanner applications can be used to map specific workflows and streamline processes. Automation plays a key role in resolving logistical challenges, such as generating a transport document upon the initial pallet scan during loading or suggesting the appropriate loading door.
Mobile warehouse solutions
The transition from desktops to smartphones and mobile devices marks a big leap forward in enhancing warehouse efficiency.
Mobile devices and applications reduce walking time and allow warehouse employees to access data, regardless of whether they are in the warehouse or not.
Modern mobile warehouse solutions have high performance capabilities. If well-planned and strategically aligned with the company’s needs, warehouse mobility is one of the best areas to invest in.
Warehouse Insight, a warehouse management system add-on for Dynamics 365 Business Central, offers excellent solutions. It supports all item tracking configurations and functionalities of Business Central, offering a paperless mobile application for warehouse operations. The add-on supports a wide range of hardware (industry standard scanners and a variety of other mobile devices). This level of flexibility allows for the existing infrastructure to be leveraged or for the hardware selection to be tailored to the specific needs of the environment. All major brands are supported, including Datalogic, Zebra and Honeywell.
Features of Warehouse Insight
- Works with all location and item tracking configurations in Business Central.
- Extendable in the handheld device to introduce new functionalities.
- Logging of handheld device activities.
- Item, inventory and pallet inquires.
- Automatic update management.
- Overview of goods in the handheld device, ensuring correct inventory.
- Management of purchase and sales orders in locations without warehouse management.
- Performance of warehouse and inventory movements using the handheld device without a prior document.
- Production consumption and output.
- Camera integration, attaching photos of damaged goods to documents.
- Support for all standard handhelds and large screen devices.
- Android and Windows support.
- Standard and advanced inventory count module.
- Offline processing.
- Multi-dimensional barcode support.