Technologies to Minimize Waste and Save Money in Warehousing
The global warehouse market is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of close to 6% through to 2022. Successful warehouses will be those that carefully manage their operating costs to keep margins healthy. Practices and technologies that streamline processes, reduce inventory and eliminate warehouse waste are vital to help them achieve this.
In this second article of our two-part series on improving profitability through waste minimization, we look at the technologies that can help drive significant savings in your waste, energy, procurement and labor bills.
Technologies to Minimize Waste in the Warehouse
Warehouse Management Systems
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) provide real time tracking from the moment inventory is received into the distribution network through to final dispatch to the customer. This optimizes processes like cycle counting and forward pick replenishment, and allows for better forecasting, resulting in reduced inventory levels and less inventory associated waste.
WMS can also increase space utilization and warehouse productivity. Proper stock placement makes best use of valuable space and optimizes operator work paths. Operator work is presented in real time, minimizing motion waste and driving productivity to meet service level and labor management goals.
Using handheld devices rather than paper-based processes reduces instances of operator error, removes duplication and prevents losses that paper-based systems can bring. They save time and cut down significantly on paper waste.
The top Warehouse Management Systems on the market claim to provide up to 100% improved stock accuracy and 2.5x more shipments, and can be integrated with Supply Chain Planning (SCP) software.
Supply Chain Planning Software
Supply Chain Planning (SCP) software helps organizations to optimally manage their inventory with the help of sales and demand forecasting. As part of a supply chain management system, this can serve an important function to reduce waste and increase profitability.
SCP software gives warehouses the ability to forecast a number of possible futures. Based on an analysis of historical market trends and an awareness of the organization’s sales activities, SCP systems simulate potential demand and can adjust incoming inventories accordingly. With optimized supply chains, warehouses can reduce inventory-related waste, transportation costs, manual efforts and storage costs, significantly improving operating margins.
Radio Frequency Identification
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology uses radio waves to collect data from specially encoded tags or labels. Like barcode scanning, RFID can be used for inventory tracking and asset management, but, unlike barcode scanning, RFID does not require a direct line of sight to read the data.
RFID is becoming widely used in warehouse applications because much more data can be embedded in an RFID label than a barcode, and scanning is much faster and easier. This means that entire pallets can be read with a single scan, reducing the time taken to manage stock.
RFID scanning also reduces errors and the number of read retries because of the greater accuracy of the technology. Items in the warehouse can be easily tracked and located throughout the supply chain; giving complete inventory visibility and reducing wasted time and loss of stock.
Use of RFID technology, can also move your warehouse towards being a paperless operation, eliminating the need for paper pick tickets, packing slips, and other associated paperwork. Over time, eliminating paper from warehouse operations contributes to substantial savings and makes your business greener.
The cost of employing RFID technology has dropped significantly in recent years. If your company investigated using RFID in the past, it may be worth revisiting.
Labels enable products to be tracked through the supply chain. An automated label printing process increases efficiency and saves time on the warehouse floor, preventing the time lost to human error that inevitably occurs with serialization and new label versions.
Automated systems generally feature a centralized management function to ensure that label design, review, approval, modification and data storage are seamless steps, further reducing errors and improving efficiency.
Automated picking is the use of robotic, or semi-robotic technologies to enhance the productivity of human pickers. The most efficient tools can be quickly and easily integrated into existing warehouse processes, reducing employee motion waste and shortening picking routes. Automated picking helps reduce potential picking and shipping errors and can increase the speed at which inventory moves through the warehouse.
New technologies such as mobile warehouse robots are more flexible than conveyors and automated storage and retrieval systems, but can speed up pick rates by up to 2-3x. They are also faster and cheaper to implement, offering a quicker ROI.
Technologies to Reduce Waste Volumes
After your warehouse facilities have implemented waste reduction strategies to reduce the amount of packaging waste generated, they may still be left with considerable volumes of cardboard and plastic film. Balers can effectively reduce the volume of these materials, decreasing site storage requirements and collection fees.
If your facilities generate large quantities of packaging waste, then a horizontal baler is likely the best solution, producing bales of a sufficient size to be able to generate a solid return on investment through potential recycling rebates.
If your facilities create large volumes of general waste, then a correctly specified compactor will reduce waste storage requirements and improve the efficiency of waste operations by reducing collection frequency. This has the potential to generate healthy cost savings for your business.
Vertical, breakaway and self-contained compactors are suited to different warehouse environments and waste types, but all are safe and easy to operate.
Vertical Compactors are suited to facilities that generate large volumes of waste materials, but are limited with space for collection. The compactors normally have 6 or 8 cubic yard containers, which are serviced by a front load truck.
Breakaway compactors consist of a ground-mounted compactor connected to a removable roll-off container that stores the waste material. This type of compactor is used when large volumes of dry, compactable materials are generated, and there is space for a roll off truck to service the container.
Self-contained compactors are suitable for handling large volumes of compactable wet waste. The compactor and receiver container are one complete unit and the whole unit is serviced by a roll-off truck.
As these two articles have shown, there are many strategic and technological solutions to help warehousing facilities reduce waste in its many forms, and increase margins. The toughest challenge is knowing which of these will generate the best ROI in the shortest amount of time, and which will be most readily accepted and utilized by the workforce.
An expert waste management firm will identify and source the technologies that are right for your specific challenges, so that you can be confident that they’ll pay themselves back quickly. It will also help individual sites implement the strategies that can generate significant savings for your business. To review the money-saving strategies in the previous article, click here.
If you want to minimize the amount of waste that your warehouses produce, speak to our waste experts. Contact us today at 1-888-692-5005, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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