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Warehouse Management

Know Thy Warehouse – Factors to Consider Before Going Mobile

By Dale Lanham, CEO, Lanham Associates


iStock_000063292527_XXXLarge_thinking warehouse man

Many distributors today are looking to Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) as a way to maintain their competitive edge and enhance customer service without adding additional staff or long-term expenses.

Whether they are investing in WMS for the first time or upgrading existing systems, businesses are recognizing the many benefits these systems bring to the table. With visibility into real time inventory they can increase their on-time shipments and fill rates, optimize warehouse space and labor resources, and boost customer loyalty all at the same time.

Here are a few things to think about before going mobile in your warehouse:

  • Understand your ERP and WMS Software Capabilities

The ability to access and update data in the ERP system in real-time is key. Stay away from “Store and Forward” systems which provide updates in batch mode. Without the ability to access data interactively in real-time, your handheld device isn’t offering many benefits — it’s basically just replacing paper. It sounds obvious, but you’ll also need to be sure your warehousing software is compatible with your ERP system.

  • Be sure the devices you buy will work with these systems

Keyboards are often overlooked in this regard. Be sure your keyboard is the right one for the kind of data entry you’ll be doing. Will you need to use decimals, alphanumerics, straight text or some combination?

  • Know your Warehouse’s Wireless Infrastructure Limitations

Understand your warehouse’s limitations when it comes to wireless infrastructure. Warehouses that stock soft goods such as toilet paper or cloth items, for example, will find that these items actually absorb radio frequency waves. Consider hiring a specialist to conduct a warehouse survey to see where the dead spots are. They can do a scan test or warehouse survey that will measure signal strength from various wireless access points, and can tell you how many wireless access points you need, what type is best and where/how to position them.

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