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Smart Warehouse Overview

A smart warehouse is one that is optimized to support OpEx, CapEx, and all the normal advantages of the digital transformation that is taking place. This is comprised of hardware, software, and automating various components of your warehousing operational flow.

Everyone is familiar with the concept of smart homes, where the house is connected, and functioning with perfect productivity and pragmatic movement. A smart warehouse is much the same, empowered by automated and interconnected technologies overlaid against business operations best practices and known processes. These technologies work together to increase the productivity and efficiency throughout the warehouse, minimizing the need for excessive human power while decreasing errors significantly.

In an old-school manual warehouse, people moved around with spreadsheets, lists, and stacks of printed purchase documentation. They did manual audits, picked products by hand, juggled the known inventory levels however they could, and manually loaded product into carts to shift in or out of the shipping dock. In the new world of smart warehousing, inventory and orders are digitally in sync, with each and every transaction documented along the way for perfect quantity visibility. Instead of a pen and pencil for tracking, workers simply harness IoT (Internet of Things) technology to scan each product. Management can watch the flow happening in real-time from their connected business systems or centralized database of record. Very little movement is without reward – workers aren’t having to scrounge for products, but rather move in a pragmatic pattern with perfect visibility. In some cases, robots, robot carts, and automated machinery assist with some of that flow as well – again leveraging the accurate data flowing in and out of ERP, Finance, WMS, BSS, and OSS systems.

Smart warehouse systems are so much more than having the right amount of inventory on hand and the visibility to that inventory. It is a process-based ecosystem where various interconnected warehousing technologies work together. Inventory is received, identified, sorted, organized, and pulled for shipment with every possible step being documented and analyzed against Min-Max levels, OpEx best practices, and defined repeatable business paradigms. The most extensive smart warehouse solutions digitize the entire operation, and even include suppliers, vendors, and consultants to get an even broader picture.

Warehousing operations are becoming more and more complex with the shift from JIT (Just In Time) to JIC (Just In Case). To meet these complex and evolving needs, smart warehouses need to be able to dynamically adjust to the ebb and flow of inventory management.

Staffing optimization is a direct benefit of smart warehousing systems, in that it limits the need for warehouse staff and helps plan for busy periods where you need estimates on staffing needs vs. inventory flow. All Smart Warehousing should be able to work with numerous platforms through APIs and Integrations, in both a push and pull symbiotic way. “Push” means collecting the collected information from each transaction scan as it happens, reconciling the data, and sending that information to connected business systems. “Pull” is retrieving all known inventory information from systems like ERPs after they have added the new transactional data. It’s a perfect back and forth sharing that literally gives everyone in the organization visibility across the board.

The general visibility of critical corporate asset data has become mandatory for software used by the various supply chain functions.

Your smart warehouse should allow interested parties to be able to find what they want to immediately, thanks to having reconciled, purified data flowing throughout the company. This river of data gives managers an omniscient view of the entire warehouse system, and how its various sections and departments are performing. If inaccuracies in inventory appear, everyone will immediately know where and when to quickly solve the discrepancy. This way smart warehouse and supply chain management can proactively address issues before big problems can arise.

An example of IoT in a smart warehouse management system begins when a warehouse receives inventory. As the shipment comes in, workers use Field Data Collection to scan barcodes using hardware or phones to kick off the item in the system. That same item is then scanned at every possible point –audits, movement, deployment, repair, etc. All of this happens “automagically” and seamlessly, so nothing falls between the cracks, and every possible aspect of asset data is known. Without IoT scans, or RFID scans, employees must complete each step in the process manually, which is prone to error, theft, fraud, over-stocking, under-stocking, and outages.

In the (very) immediate future, warehouse automation will become even more prevalent, and smart warehouse systems will be a key competitive advantage.

It’s time to start implementing automation, and we can help. From field data collection hardware and software to data reconciliation, to business system integration – we can bring you the superhighway of asset data.

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