Automated warehouse

Productivity pressures are growing, and Australian supply chain and logistics businesses would do well to take another look at their systems and processes to make sure they’re as efficient as possible.

There is a significant opportuni ty for companies in Australia with warehouse operations to improve productivity by optimising their automation systems. For manufacturing facilities and warehouse/distribution centres with below-average productivity, even small improvements can positively impact a facility’s output and on-time shipping performance.

Because of their critical role in warehouse shipping and manufacturing operations, mobile devices such as mobile computers, bar code scanners and printers have a direct impact on productivity and customer service commitments. Chosen correctly, an advanced mobile device can provide bene fits beyond simple tracking infor mation, driving operational benefits that can help manufacturers remain competitive.

Mobile computers provide logistics businesses with more flexibility and productivity-enhancing potential in warehouse operations, as they can be used to take time-stamped digital pictures of goods at receiving, to document damage that occurred before the facility took possession. They can also be used to photograph out bound goods to prove they were shipped in good condition. All of these features can help verify the delivery of goods to customers in their proper condition and deliv er enhanced levels of customer service.

Latest advances in mobile computers also give workers the flexibility to accept payments via their mobile device. These developments mean customer pay ments can be processed on-the-go and receipts can be generated immediately, improving customer satisfaction, increasing productivity, and creating new opportunities for sales.

When it comes to which operat ing system Australian supply chain and procurement businesses should consider to help maximise future return on investment, the real decision is what additional capabilities the device can support. Many warehouses have home-grown applications that were developed specifically for older, legacy mobile computers, and do not want to have to rewrite the applications when the devices are replaced. By choosing devices that support terminal emulation, companies build themselves a bridge between old and new environments.

In addition to evaluating mobile computers and operating systems, Australian logistics businesses also need to think about printers and the different ways they plan to use them in their facility. Combined with a mobile computer, mobile printers can enhance operations such as receiving, put-away and picking.

Mobile printers allow workers to generate and apply labels almost anywhere in a warehouse or factory. Labels and receipts can be printed on-demand, close to the item being labelled, which helps reduce labelling errors and eliminate those lengthy walks back to a centralised print station.

Unplanned warehouse technology downtime can also cause productivity rates to decline and result in significant costs in lost time and missed deadlines. Companies gauge their operational effectiveness, in part, by their ability to meet their customers’ shipping deadlines.

‘On-time shipping’ is the most widely-used measure of warehouse performance. There is a direct relationship between ship ping mobile device performance and the ability to get shipments out on time. On-time performance and other productivity measures are dragged down specifically in the warehouse by devices such as mobile printers that are too slow to keep up with shipment labelling needs, or sit idle because they are out of label media, frequently jam, or are dif ficult to troubleshoot and repair.

Mobile warehouse technology impacts worker and plant productivity, and this impact should be assessed when evaluating efficiency options. With careful evaluation and planning, warehouse technology can improve produc tivity by making workers more efficient, reducing costly equip ment downtime, improving shipping performance and enhancing your businesses relationship with customers.

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