Do you fit the profile of business owners who want larger warehouses? Seventy-one percent of respondents to a 2014 study by Motorola wanted either to acquire another facility or to increase the size of their current building. There are usually a couple of obvious reasons:
- The volume of your business is growing, and/or
- You are expanding your product lines
If you are confident this growth is sustainable, you need the extra space so warehouse expansion seems like a good idea. After all, the economy appears to be turning around with an uptick in consumer spending, resulting in an increase in manufacturing. Also, e-commerce is enjoying a huge popularity with no end in sight. Huge warehouses are a staple for online businesses which must be ready to respond instantly to customer demands.
Technology Considerations for Warehouse Expansion
However, there’s more to warehouse expansion than leasing another building and buying product to fill it. Do you have the technology solution in place to manage that extra product, especially if it is located at several sites? Handling more products usually means managing more personnel too. At IntelliTrack, we have a team of specialists just waiting to discuss your particular situation and see how we can help you.
We understand the complexities of a warehouse operation. There are many points where human error can be a problem in receiving and storing product and processing customer orders. An IntelliTrack barcode or RFID solution can minimize, if not eliminate mistakes in labeling, storing, accessing and shipping your inventory.
The larger you grow your operation, the more opportunity there is for making mistakes. In order to plan for foolproof inventory management, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you handle consumable inventory, fixed assets or both?
- Consumable items come into your system, are processed and move out. This includes products that are stored or manufactured, then shipped to customers.
- Fixed assets are part of your property inventory, are used or deployed and then returned. This includes your own equipment, tools and supplies and items that are sent out, perhaps leased to customers and then returned.
- What information do you need about the product in the warehouse, including lot and serial numbers, vendor, expiry data, condition, size and color?
- Do you need to validate shipping against predefined orders?
- What information do you need about stock levels, including re-order alerts and data on surpluses?
- How often do you do physical counts?
- What do you need to know about employee performance, including equipment usage and time taken for receiving, storing, picking and shipping?
- Do you need to track assets or equipment that is deployed repeatedly?
- Do you require real time data in order to monitor operations?
- What kind of reports do you need to make management decisions for planning operations and financial management?
All this information will form your decision about a warehouse management system. The best technology in the world is ineffective if it does not meet your particular needs.
Technology Solutions for Managing Warehouse Inventory
There are many software solutions available for managing your warehouse inventory. A sampling includes:
- Inventory Shipping Receiving Picking (ISRP) is a basic inventory management system that follows the product from being matched to a purchase order in receiving to storing, picking and shipping
- Standard Warehouse Management System (WMS) adds functions to the basic system such as staging, pallet tracking and terminal messaging
- Professional Warehouse Management System (WMS) is an enterprise solution that includes cross dock notification, cubing, wave picking, sequenced pick and put away and replenishment alerts
You are probably looking for a mobile solution to increase the productivity of your warehouse workers. Issue each one with a mobile device for capturing data for storage in a central file and accessing picking and shipping orders and any other information needed to keep product moving.
Scalability is an important feature of a successful software solution. If you are considering expansion of your warehouse operations, you want to be sure any technology will be able to accommodate the increase in product, vendors and customers.
Integration into larger information systems is also important to save time and duplicate work. Link a WMS solution to an accounting system such as QuickBooks, to shipping providers such as WorldShip and even to your security information system if there are concerns about inventory loss.
Decision Making Process for Warehouse Technology
Whether you are making the leap from a manual or spreadsheet inventory system or upgrading your current electronic system, you will probably need expert help in considering the options available. The IntelliTrack team can walk with you through the decision making process:
- Review of current operations and plans for expansion
- Identify points where technology can support the operations based on answers to the questions about your consumable and fixed inventory
- Discuss benefits of incorporating a warehouse
- Review with you the pros and cons of various warehouse management technology solutions, both software and hardware
- Recommend solutions and support your decision making
- Facilitate installation, training and implementation of warehouse management solutions
- Arrange for ongoing support services
Benefits of Expanding with Warehouse Management Technology
An attractive ROI is important when considering expansion of your warehouse operations. Even when you know the market is there and the product is available, you do have to consider how quickly you can amortize the upfront capital expenses such as:
- Buying, building or expanding a facility
- Customizing the building design including dock and yard
- Purchasing/leasing additional warehouse equipment
- New or additional technology hardware and software for inventory management
IntelliTrack reps would be pleased to show you the kind of savings you would realize if you move from a pen and paper inventory to WMS technology. For example, a small warehouse operation can save 90% in labor cost using barcode technology instead of manual inventory counts.
The procedures you are following in your warehouse now might not work as effectively in an expanded operation. It is important to have a WMS system that allows you to monitor the entire end-to-end process. Such technology is efficient and accurate, increasing productivity, reducing picking and shipping errors and increasing customer satisfaction.
Contact our IntelliTrack team to help you plan for a WMS solution to be built into your warehouse expansion plan right from the beginning.