Best Practices for Scanning Warehouse Inventory

January 11, 2021
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Best Practices for Scanning Warehouse Inventory

According to the 2020 Third-Party Logistics Industry Benchmark Report by 3PL Central, 39% of 3PLs have already implemented mobile barcode scanning and 31% of the warehouses plan on adopting it in 2021. Clients expect their warehouse operators to provide reporting of the status and location of every inventory item and order at all times, even after handoff to the shipping carrier.

The first step to helping customers generate their own inventory reports is to track each inventory item as it moves throughout the warehouse with a mobile scanning solution. Scanning of barcodes to pull up information, assign pick jobs and track their completion, and verify orders before delivering them to customers, are today standard practices expected by clients within the ecommerce and logistics industry. Mobile device based barcode scanning solutions empower warehouses with the tools they need to satisfy their customer service level agreements.

In order to meet client expectations, third-party logistics (3PL) warehouses must look at adopting best-in-class industry practices so that their warehouse operations are as efficient as possible.

However, to achieve higher order accuracy rates, minimize mis-picks, and improve customer satisfaction levels, logistics providers should aim to make their warehouse inventory scanning processes as smooth as possible. Warehouse operators can ensure they do not miss out on opportunities to improve operational efficiency by adopting the following best practices for scanning warehouse inventory.

Share Real Time Inventory Visibility through a Client Portal

Warehouse managers can use the warehouse management system (WMS) to generate reports showing inventory by location and other inventory specific data such as dimensions, storage location temperature, or expiration date. A great way to improve warehouse productivity is to share this power of real time information to the client. By sharing access to customer-specific inventory information through a custom customer portal, you can provide excellent visibility to your clients.

With a warehouse management solution like Vinculum’s that offers this capability, it becomes simple to share a real-time view of your customers’ inventory through a self-service portal. This practice automates the labor intensive process of generating manual reports for each customer and inventory and eliminates the time and effort involved in warehouse staff having to communicate via emails going back and forth for every transaction.

Design your warehouse for optimal flow of inventory

Inventory scanning can be vastly improved when your warehouse is designed and positioned to flow from one activity to the next in a smooth flow. Typically, goods flow through a warehouse in a logical pattern of: Receiving – Storage – Replenishment – Order picking – Sorting – Packing – Shipping. The warehouse design should ideally be based on how inventory flows through each area, from receiving to outbound shipment.

Such a logical flow of inventory eliminates scenarios in which associates have to double back across areas to perform an order fulfillment activity. Also, each area can be planned to be large enough to accommodate the expected amount of inventory and activity.

Order Verification for 100% accuracy

Order picking is one of the essential functions of a warehouse operation. A single mispick results in a loss of on average of $22 to the warehouse. Therefore order verification is highly recommended best practice for maintaining 100% accuracy in order fulfilment.
Order verification is a built in feature with some WMS systems which enable confirmation of the order by scanning the inventory units being packed for an order. The scanning device will show an error message if the item is incorrect and prevent the order from being marked as complete. This added layer of assurance can result in thousands of dollars saved in the form of avoiding mis-picks.

Leverage goods-to-person technology

Reducing the number of people and steps it takes to execute a process reduces the number of errors, and this is particularly true in order fulfillment. Errors during picking leads to unsatisfied customers and returns. Or if detected before orders are packaged and shipped, wasted time and resources in packing and repacking orders.

Goods to person technology (such as AS/RS, carousels and flow racking) reduces the need for human involvement in the picking process. It also cuts down overall travel time, human fatigue and the number of steps required to pick orders, thus speeding up the order fulfillment process. Most importantly, it removes the need for personal interaction during picking activities, a significant benefit as warehouses are implementing social distancing measures to keep employees safe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Streamline Order Picking with Automation Tools

Many 3PL operators are under pressure with increasing labor costs. Warehouse management tools for automating pick jobs can help supplement an already constrained labor force. Automating pick jobs enables logistics professionals to process more pick jobs in less time, greatly boosting productivity levels.

Utilizing the right picking methodologies, leveraging technology to streamline processes and following sound hiring practices are excellent methods to follow, in order to optimize workflows and reduce operating expenses.

Know your fast moving inventory: zone high volume SKUs together

High performing warehouse managers make use of advanced inventory control methods to speed up order fulfillment. For example, the 80/20 which suggests that 20% of products will account for 80% of customer orders. ABC analysis is also a good inventory control technique to segment your warehouse stock based on the value it brings to the company.

Thus, zoning high-volume units by effectively creating a ‘warehouse within a warehouse’ is a recommended practice to optimize order picking activities. Ensure that the zone is properly situated to facilitate high-volume traffic and activity. It is also a good idea to zone together items that are frequently ordered together and to position zones containing high-velocity SKUs closer to shipping and receiving areas.

For more advanced inventory management, use an intelligent inventory optimization software, which offers multi-dimensional item categorization. By segmenting SKUs based on demand, inventory turnover and profitability will give much greater insight into how best to manage stock levels.

Vin eRetail WMS offers an ideal warehousing solution for efficient handling of warehouse inventory. The built in features enable a high degree of automation and adoption of the above best practice including: client portal with information on orders, transactions and delivery times, flexibility to support ‘Picking by SKU’ and ‘Picking by Order’; an Android app with real-time tracking of all the warehouse operations; intelligent systems to utilize space and increase revenue per unit space; cycle counting for select SKUs/BINs without stopping any operation within the warehouse; advance shipping note (ASN) management; palletized inventory management; and contract and billing management.

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