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If you are responsible for warehouse operations or, for that matter, anything to do with receiving, storing and shipping inventory, there’s a strong chance that you’re not taking full advantage of the latest in modern technology.

While a large proportion of supply chain business owners and managers regard warehouse optimisation as one of their top priorities, the reality is that many businesses in that sector still rely on manual processes to carry out tasks associated with receiving storing, picking, packing and dispatching stock. Sure, those processes have withstood the test of time … but for how much longer? If players in the supply chain arena continue to transition to fully automated inventory management environments – with all the productivity, efficiency and cost‑reduction gains that go along with it – it will be those businesses that are sticking with outdated processes that will fall behind.

Arguably it should be the objective of every manufacturing, distribution and wholesaling business to eliminate traditional paper‑based manual processes (which are, typically, excessively labour‑intensive and prone to error) in favour of going down the automation path. Given the recent developments in mobile solutions, there’s never been a better time to ditch the pen‑and‑paper way of doing things and create a genuinely paperless warehouse.

One of the primary ways warehouse operators are achieving that objective is through the widespread use of rugged hand‑held mobile devices, all connected to that business’s ERP system. That most assuredly is where the industry is heading. The use of hand‑held scanning devices for order picking has of course been around for quite a while but it’s the tight integration of hand‑held devices and ERP systems that has gathered steam in recent years.

ERP mobility and warehousing
 

The key to success is ERP mobility

 

These days ERP mobility for warehousing is the name of the game, representing a true game‑changer in the way modern warehouses are run. By enabling workers to access, enter and update inventory‑related data in real‑time while moving about the warehouse, ERP mobility dramatically extends the flexibility, scalability and power of your ERP system which in turn increases the return on your ERP investment.

With ERP mobility, you don’t need to wait long to experience the benefits. Right from the get‑go, productivity, performance, efficiency and data transparency are enhanced while incidents of human error are quickly diminished. And that’s another major advantage of workforce mobility – greater accuracy.

However well-honed your inventory management processes are, in a warehouse environment that relies on paper‑based record keeping mistakes are inevitable. This is not surprising – keeping track of every order, stock movement and shipping requirement is not a simple, straightforward job. But when mobile technology is used to manage the flow of information, with data being entered only once and showing up in the ERP system in real time, accuracy receives an almighty boost. Without the need to reconcile data across multiple information systems – or between paper‑based documents and computer-based records – what you end up with a transparent, single source of truth for all your inventory data, in real time.

Warehouse efficiency also gets a boost as workers no longer have to log on to their central workstation various times throughout the day to receive their next picking slip or perform other desktop‑driven tasks to get orders out the door and keep the warehouse running on track. For example, in a paper-based warehouse when a worker finds that an item required to fulfill an order is not located in its proper place, they would likely then need to return to a workstation to search through both computer and paper records in an attempt to locate it. But in an ERP mobility‑driven warehouse all this can be done quickly using a hand‑held device. Time is money when it comes to shipping the right product in the right quantity to the right customer, and every minute saved can have a positive impact on the bottom line.

From a customer service perspective these accuracy and efficiency gains are a big plus for any business. Orders get processed and shipped faster and when a customer receives their order it’s more likely than ever to be exactly what they asked for. The end result: customer complaints go down, customer satisfaction levels go up, and the edge you have over your competition widens.

 

So how does ERP mobility work in practice?

 

While the technology that drives ERP mobility is somewhat complex, learning how to make use of it is anything but. The mobile device’s wireless scanning functionality enables the user to simply scan the items specified in the purchase order; quantities and other product details are automatically updated within both the device and the ERP system. Errors in the picking process are largely eliminated because the device will identify mistakes and alert the user when they occur – for example if the picker has scanned the wrong barcode or the wrong product or has not scanned the required quantity of items.

Once all the items comprising the order have been accurately scanned the ERP system takes over, using the data transmitted to it from the mobile device to create an invoice and perform the other functions necessary to complete the fulfillment process.

If your supply chain business’s operations extend beyond the warehouse or the shop floor, ERP mobility also has its place. Workers out in the field can connect (WWAN or WLAN) to your ERP system through a web services application running on a handheld data capture terminal that can read barcodes and RFID tags.

If you’re concerned that transitioning to a wireless mobility solution will require a heavy initial financial outlay, do not worry. You can purchase only the modules you need with the flexibility to add new ones as your business grows and your requirements evolve. ERP mobility is a fully scalable set of technologies.

Also worth noting is that the business processes mobile technology automate are those that you already have in place. Meaning, today’s mobility solutions do not demand wholesale changes to the way you run your operations. Rather it’s the opposite – the software accommodates the processes you have already developed.

 

To wrap up…

 

Change can sometimes be anxiety-provoking and be met with a degree of uncertainty. But when it comes to transitioning from paper‑based warehousing to a warehouse driven by automation in the form of an integrated ERP mobility solution, there is little to fear. And that’s because the argument for it is so strong.

The more control you have over your inventory – inbound, storage and outbound – the better you will be able to serve your customers and the more profitable your business will be. That is what ERP mobility delivers, and it does it cost‑effectively. By adopting ERP mobility technology you will gain an edge over many of your competitors and set yourself up for sustained business success.

Warehousing technology is constantly improving and staying on top of it can be of great benefit to any distribution, manufacturing or wholesale business. To find out about the role Jiwa can play in getting you up and running with a wireless hand-held mobility solution please get in touch with us today on 02 9409 0700 or email us at jiwa@jiwa.com.au.