Finding the best methods of making the manufacturing process faster and more efficient can be imperative to one’s ability to remain competitive within this ever-changing market. In other words, regardless of what one’s business goals may be, they must make the effort to find the best and most efficient practices in order to ensure the business is operating at optimal capacity at all times. Although traditional manufacturing has grown leaps and bounds since its early days, it is still no match for Smart Manufacturing. That said, the following is a closer look at the top eight processes in Smart Warehouse and Manufacturing.
The Top Eight Processes in Smart Warehouse and Manufacturing
A fairly simple process by most standards, although the manufacturing process has come quite a long way, it still has a way to go. However, the creation of Smart Manufacturing companies has taken the world into the future of the manufacturing realm. While in the past, it used to require lots of manpower and the use of often faulty computer systems, the new age manufacturing processes involve the use of Smart Technology which is not only far more accurate but it is less time consuming to boot. The following is a list of the processes that Smart Warehouse and Manufacturing can help identify, track, count, and/or manage.
1. Receiving/ Inbound – Receiving is where the majority of warehouse management problems occur, often a result of human error. However, when items are received into a Smart Warehouse, they are identified automatically so they are seamlessly delivered and stored exactly where they are needed. With the use of technology such as mobile scanners and fixed RFID scanners and antennas, the receiving staff becomes more productive and accurate. RFID readers can perform up to 1,500 read operations per second in a 3-meter radius. An RFID portal system installed at dock doors provides real-time inventory updates for received goods and verification that the products actually received match the contents of the shipping manifest. By combining RFID with display terminals, operations personnel can be directed as to what to do with received goods.
2. Inventory Management – The old method of cycle inventory with pen and paper, having employees individually identify, count, and manually record information for each piece of merchandise in the warehouse is not only tedious, but it is also slow, conducive to human error, costly, and takes manpower away from other important tasks. The fees and costs incurred through packing and shipping errors quickly add up when inventory data is unreliable. A Smart Manufacturer will use the mobile technology of barcode labels and readers to dramatically improve the inventory process. With this technology, data can now be scanned and entered immediately into the inventory system. This process cuts data acquisition costs, has a substantially lower margin of error, and increases warehouse profitability. An RFID System takes the entire inventory process to another level. When using RFID, employees do not need to stop to pick up a scanner and search for barcodes. With contactless RFID technology, we can count many items at once, requiring less manpower and decreasing the margin of error. One can even perform perpetual inventories where we are always reading, and always knowing, exact inventory counts in real time.
3. Label Printing– Label printing can sometimes be an afterthought when using routine manufacturing methods. On the other hand, for the Smart manufacturer, it all starts with the label as you cannot have a Smart Warehouse without a Smart Label. Whether the label is a 1D label, a traditional barcode, or a 2D label, (most commonly known as QR), Barcoding has been a great low-cost technology for data collection. In the case of RFID labels, the technology offers many more complex applications than simply tracking products over long distances. An RFID label contains a “digital DNA” with information specific to the production and history of the tagged product; tracking just about any type of information related to the asset and finally, storing all of it in the cloud. There are a variety of printers for the Smart Warehouse including EPC printers, mobile printers, thermal printers, and ‘print and apply’ barcode label printers, with specifications such as print speed, connectivity, environmental conditions, various types of media, print volume, and more. Automated high-speed labeling systems can integrate into conveyor or production lines, running 24X7 and making the process much faster and more efficient.
4. Quality Control Audit– While quality control at regular manufacturing companies can often involve the use of a written or computerized method, QC in Smart Manufacturing utilizes Mobile Scanners, RFID Scanners, as well as Barcode Label Verifiers in order to optimize the process. Built in alerts when certain conditions are met or not met, along with real-time visibility, ensure the right parts are in the right place at the right time.5
5. Work in Process – The ordinary manufacturing process can require the time and energy of a multitude of employees. Additionally, it is a non-instant method of communicating and tracking orders. Smart Manufacturing can process orders using Warehouse Management Software (WMS) that can integrate into an ERP or supply chain solution, helping managers to seamlessly control the day-to-day warehouse flow. This software offers real-time visibility into the workflow with facility mapping, and it eliminates manual processes through the RFID and Barcode scanners.
6. Order/Parts Picking – Poor part picking practices use stationary terminals and systems that do not support the transaction process well, and possibly require multiple systems with batch processing. The Smart Manufacturing model uses forklift readers, RFID tags, and RFID Mobile Barcode Scanners to bolster visibility across the warehouse system, and enable employees to track items throughout the picking process, check them in and out automatically, and combine multiple orders easily. This system integrates into existing warehouse management systems, enabling automated order communication to all relevant personnel through familiar interfaces. These innovative picking solutions increase accuracy, improve the picking process, and automate PAR levels, providing real time visibility into the replenishment of merchandise.
7. Price Updates– After the bulk of the Smart Ordering process has been completed, pricing can be updated. In a conventional manufacturing company, this often requires the use of an imperfect computer system along with the use of manual labor via employees, to double check products and determine the appropriate cost. Using a Smart Manufacturing company, it only involves the use of a Mobile Printer.
8. Shipping/Outbound– Preparing packages to be shipped can require the use of an array of mechanisms as well as a non-integrated computer system. However, when working with a Smart Manufacturing company, shipping only involves a fixed RFID Antenna and an RFID Reader to scan outbound destination labels, allowing operators on the loading bay to communicate directly with the warehouse management system, ensuring that all items for a given route/stop are loaded and that no items are left behind.