Us­ing tech to boost ware­house op­er­a­tions

Gopal Valecha, Vice-Pres­i­dent in Strate­gic Al­liances & Con­sult­ing, BCIL talks about the grow­ing trend to embrace wire­less tech­nol­ogy to trans­form ware­house op­er­a­tions. He men­tions var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies which can be de­ployed in a ware­house to make op­er­a­tion

Cargo Talk - - Expert View -

In to­day’s com­pet­i­tive world, the or­gan­i­sa­tions are more fo­cussed on mak­ing their sup­ply chains lean & vis­i­ble to draw more prof­itabil­ity in the mar­ket. The com­pa­nies are us­ing var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies to en­hance vis­i­bil­ity in their sup­ply chains and thus mak­ing it more ef­fi­cient and prof­itable.

One of the most im­por­tant and an in­te­gral part of any sup­ply chain is ware­hous­ing of goods/ ma­te­ri­als. A sys­tem which is used to con­trol the move­ment and stor­age of ma­te­ri­als within a ware­house and process the as­so­ci­ated trans­ac­tions, in­clud­ing shipping, re­ceiv­ing, put away and pick­ing, is called Ware­house Man­age­ment Sys­tem (WMS).

There are var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies such as bar cod­ing, RFID and wire­less, avail­able that could be de­ployed in a ware­house to make ware­house op­er­a­tions more ef­fi­cient, pro­duc­tive and op­ti­mised.

Bar­code and RFID are two most com­monly used AIDC (Au­to­matic Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion & Data Cap­ture) tech­nolo­gies which are used in sup­ply chain op­er­a­tions (inventory, ware­house, des­patch man­age­ment etc) for col­lect­ing the in­for­ma­tion from the prod­ucts in an au­to­mated man­ner.

A bar­code is a se­ries of ver­ti­cal bars and spa­ces car­ry­ing in­for­ma­tion about the ob­ject to which it is at­tached in a ma­chine read­able for­mat. This prop­erty of a bar­code en­ables its use as an ef­fec­tive tool for au­to­matic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and data cap­ture. As op­posed to man­ual data en­try, which is te­dious and prone to in­ac­cu­ra­cies, bar­codes en­able au­to­matic data cap­ture with 100 per cent ac­cu­racy.

In ware­house op­er­a­tions, data can be cap­tured from bar­codes placed on prod­ucts (car­tons or pal­lets ) through bar­code scan­ners and trans­mit­ted to ware­house man­age­ment sys­tems.

Another is Ra­dio Fre­quency Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion or RFID, is a tech­nol­ogy that al­lows the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of tagged items with­out a line of sight. It in­cludes a tag, a reader and a com­puter sys­tem. A RFID tag con­tain­ing a tiny mi­crochip and an antenna is placed on an ob­ject.

Un­like bar­code tech­nol­ogy, RFID reader can read the data from the tags af­fixed on prod­ucts from few inches to few me­tres with­out plac­ing reader in front of prod­ucts or tags. In ware­house op­er­a­tions, both th­ese tech­nolo­gies can be used to cap­ture the prod­uct in­for­ma­tion au­to­mat­i­cally with speed & ac­cu­racy, elim­i­nate er­rors, re­duce man­ual in­ter­ven­tion, pro­vide vis­i­bil­ity of goods & its move­ment in a ware­house in real time or near time ba­sis.

Wire­less and mo­bile tech­nolo­gies have rev­o­lu­tionised the ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity of ware­house op­er­a­tions. Wire­less net­work con­nec­tions pro­vide a clear, real-time view of all ac­tiv­i­ties hap­pen­ing in the ware­house and en­able them to ef­fi­ciently count and track inventory, im­prove or­der ful­fil­ment ac­cu­racy, and pro­vide work­ers with real-time com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

It is an ideal fit for the com­plex­ity of the ware­house en­vi­ron­ment. It sim­pli­fies the man­age­ment of inventory through Au­to­mated Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and Data Cap­ture (AIDC) tech­nolo­gies, such as bar­code and RFID.

The use of wire­less tech­nol­ogy in the ware­house to de­liver real time com­put­ing ben­e­fits is an es­tab­lished prac­tice world­wide.

From re­ceiv­ing inventory to out­bound dis­tri­bu­tion, ware­houses in­creas­ingly rely on wire­less tech­nolo­gies to stream­line the lo­gis­tics of their op­er­a­tions and en­hance over­all pro­duc­tiv­ity by ful­fill­ing or­ders more ac­cu­rately and quickly than be­fore.

Gopal Valecha Vice-Pres­i­dent in Strate­gic Al­liances & Con­sult­ing, BCIL

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