Warehouses have been experiencing more challenges recently because of increasing customer expectations, inflation and tightening budgets. Small and medium-sized warehouses have suffered the most. The stakes are high for smaller operations because every customer and order has a significant impact on the business.
Small and medium-sized warehouses are embracing modernization, in an effort to boost productivity and lay the foundation for scalability while mitigating the impact of challenges. Though modernization seems daunting, there are simple and cost-effective steps that businesses can take.
Modern, Mobile Solutions Empower Greater Productivity
Employees at small and medium-sized warehouses often take on multiple roles and can’t be tethered to a back office. Therefore, adopting mobile solutions, such as mobile printers, smartphones or tablets, is an important step warehouses can take to modernize their operations.
Consider the typical workflow of a warehouse employee who needs to pick an item off the shelf and prepare it for shipping. They must find the product on the shelf to verify it’s in stock, go to a central location to print the shipping label and packing slip and return to the shelf to apply the labels.
With a mobile printer, scanner or tablet, the employee can save time by performing all those tasks at the item’s location. Alternatively, small warehouses can use mobile workstations to bring the technology to a more central and convenient location, boosting productivity.
Regardless of the mobile solution, connectivity is vital in warehouses. If Wi-Fi® coverage is spotty or unreliable, effectiveness and productivity gains could be reduced.
Cost and capability are critical to mobile devices, but it’s also important to consider several additional traits, such as battery life, device durability, product ergonomics and how well they connect to Wi-Fi® signals.
Managing Inventory More Efficiently
Competitive small and medium-sized warehouses have begun moving toward cloud-based organizational systems, leading to more accurate inventory management. This also prevents products from sitting on warehouse shelves and tying up valuable resources while limiting the amount of ghost inventory (products that erroneously appear to be available when they’re not).
Inventory management is also an important part of customer service. Failing to meet specified performance metrics for inventory accuracy can have negative repercussions, frustrating customers and leading to lost sales.
Mobile devices can help get orders out the door quickly, and mobile printers can eliminate the confusion that comes with illegibly handwritten labels. Further, mobile barcodes can be easily integrated into a warehouse’s inventory database, leading to greater accuracy. All of these solutions can make a warehouse more agile and able to better respond to unforeseen challenges.
Mobile Solutions Can Be Cost Effective
Small and medium-sized warehouses need to focus on costs. While any technology solution is an investment, mobile devices are more cost-effective and readily available than ever before.
While up-front costs are important, other factors must be considered, such as time savings, productivity gains and warranties. Though one solution might be cheaper, if employees need to spend time swapping out battery packs, the lost productivity could outweigh the low initial cost. Good warranties can also provide peace of mind if a device needs to be replaced.
Small and medium-sized warehouses can also take advantage of free trials or demo periods, providing a worry-free way to test mobile solutions without needing to make large, long-term financial commitments.
Staying Competitive in Today’s Market
While large warehouses can have entire teams devoted to technology and new, innovative solutions, most small businesses don’t have that luxury. As a result, small warehouses may feel that modernizing their operations with mobile solutions may be unrealistic, but it’s definitely possible with the right technology and approach.