How SMB Warehouses Can Ramp Up Agility

Tags: Warehousing, Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Technology , Supply Chain

Small and mid-size businesses need to be increasingly nimble to respond to the Amazon effect disrupting today’s marketplace. There’s no better time than now to start rethinking warehouse operations and capitalizing on technology to improve efficiency, boost productivity, speed delivery and lower costs.

Although e-commerce accounts for slightly less than 10 percent of overall retail sales, its explosive growth is having an outsize impact on warehouse size and location. Rather than huge warehouses located near major parcel shippers, the trend is to locate smaller facilities near major urban areas, helping to cut the costs of last-mile delivery. Not only does this move them closer to customers – it offers access to a larger pool of workers, critical in the face of today’s persistent labor shortage.

Whether micro or massive, all warehouses today need to be more configurable, adaptive and movable. With a laser focus on getting customers what they want as fast and cost-effectively as possible, there’s more pressure to invest in productivity-boosting technologies ranging from innovative automation, robotics, AI and IoT to next-generation versions of stalwarts such as warehouse management systems, barcode scanning and RFID, and mobile and stationary label printers.

Accelerate success

Since barcode labels play essential roles in supply chain operations, making the most of advanced mobile printers and strategically located stationary printers can help small and medium-size businesses strengthen their competitive edge. Fast, accurate printing and labeling plays a key role at virtually every juncture, including:

  • Receiving – Applying barcode or RFID labels as soon as inbound items arrive ensures they can be accurately unloaded, checked-in, put away or handled by automated applications.
  • Picking – Generating barcode or RFID labels for each item picked allows them to be scanned right in the staging or packaging area, then quickly and easily sorted for shipment.
  • Packing and shipping – Creating new labels to identify finished goods is a vital task for workers who are kitting, completing light assembly or packaging items. In addition, ship-to-order applications can incorporate customer-specific labeling, scanning to fulfill orders and creating of accurate shipping labels.
  • Cross docking – Already mandatory in some food sectors, cross docking is also gaining popularity for other time-sensitive merchandise. Mobile printing technology enables warehouse workers to literally jump inside trucks at the in-bound dock and start relabeling for store or customer delivery, increasing last mile delivery efficiency.

Smart selection criteria

To optimize the value of your labeling solution, here are six criteria to consider:

  1. Performance. Speed is the name of the game in warehouses now. Mobile and stationary printers need to print a variety of barcode and RFID packaging, shelf, shipping and other identifying labels quickly, clearly and easily. They need to be rugged and durable enough to withstand constant use by multiple workers in environments that are often harsh.
  2. Affordability. Advanced next-gen printers are more affordable than ever, but they’re not all created equal. Make sure you compare printer prices and features.
  3. Integration. Plug and play printing solutions are easy to get up and running – without the aid of a professional IT team. Look for quick deploy printers that integrate seamlessly with your existing software or include bundled software, and can connect easily with any mobile device.
  4. Ease-of-use. Your workers need printing solutions that are easy to learn and easy to use without a major investment in training, especially if you depend on seasonal or temporary workers or face the common challenge of high turnover.
  5. Reliability. Since you count on your printers to deliver for the long haul, make sure they have premier two-year warranties.
  6. Scalability. Your printing solutions need to be flexible and versatile enough to grow with your business.
  7. Expert partner. Select a technology partner as nimble as you are, with extensive experience, deep expertise and a proven track record.