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More Productivity in the Cooler with the Right Tool

July 2016, Comments from Todd Baggett

My entire career has been spent helping people solve problems. Most of these problems are related to operational issues that interfere with productivity, slow down workers, or inhibit the workflow. The interesting thing is that most of the time workers have adapted to the system that they have and are making the best of it. They are unaware that a few changes can have a major impact on productivity and help move the company to the next level. Unless they have worked in another company that used technology, they don’t have first-hand experience of the impact it can bring.

One area technology that really makes a difference is when you mobilize your workflow. An example of this can be seen when a company manages their inventory. Let’s say you have 3 or 4 storage rooms. Maybe you have racks or perhaps your product is stored in bins or pallets lined up in rows. You have an inventory system that allows you to enter the location of your bins or pallets, but your inventory accuracy is low. As you drill down, you realize for the inventory to be accurate you would need to write down the location and pallet id and enter it into a PC. The problem is when it gets busy things are moving faster than you can record and update, so what you see in the system does not accurately reflect what you physically have in storage. You may even have all the move slips, but the challenge is until those moves get keyed into the system; there is no visibility of the inventory location.  Another challenge to inventory accuracy is that there is a high probability that the item’s location is changed before we enter the location information into the system. This system is prone to errors, confusion and lost produce. 

When dealing with inventory and product flows, real-time inventory information is essential. Real-time data capture eliminates the time lag between the inventory activity and the time the move is updated in the system.  To do that you need to bring the data collection into the workflow. Storage, packing, and shipping areas are too harsh for most PC’s to survive; so most companies decide to implement ruggedized devices on a wireless backbone. Just like Starbucks and McDonalds they set up WIFI networks to enable mobile users. The right type of wireless network allows workers to roam from room to room without losing signal. If your software supports mobile barcode scanners you can have your forklift drivers scan bins or pallets to record inventory moves or shipments in real-time. If your software does not support mobile scanners you can get a powered mobile cart to move your WIFI enabled notebook computer with barcode scanner and printer throughout the facility; all the while staying connected to your inventory system giving you real-time data.

Some of our customers come to us knowing they need a real-time inventory system from the start. One of these is Royal Ridge, take a look at their case study to see how real-time inventory impacts their business (Read Their Story)



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