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June 04, 2013

Managing Warehouse Inventory – Problem Solved

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Managing Warehouse Inventory – Problem Solved!

IBM Maximo from a Preferred Business Partner can Help

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An organization’s products or services must constantly evolve to meet customer demands. Issues such as increased globalization; commoditization and competition; compliance with industry and government regulations; green and sustainable operations; health and safety in the workplace; eroding margins; and the resulting higher costs of doing business all contribute to this phenomenon.

In a survey conducted by Intermec  at the end of last year, it was reported that mid-sized warehouses lose approximately 3,000 hours a year due to workforce inefficiencies. The survey also noted that 30 percent of warehouse managers had not conducted a review of their processes in the warehouse in the past year.

Inventory management was reported as an area where it would be easiest to gain cost savings through technology. To that end, many warehouses and distribution centers have implemented inventory management software to provide the visibility needed to optimize inventory control. Rather than relying on pen and paper or spreadsheets, these systems enable comprehensive inventory tracking, including quantity, location, advanced reporting, mobile management and asset tracking rfid, and bar-coding. Querying takes seconds to provide needed information, as opposed to shuffling stacks of paper in a daily inventory scavenger hunt.

These systems are developed to provide a 360-degree view of even the largest warehouse, and the built-in workflow goes a long way toward regaining those lost hours. Increased picking accuracy, proper inventory rotation, RFID support and better control of put-away and picking processes certainly make the work day easier (and more productive) for warehouse managers and employees alike.

With the warehouse representing the last link of the supply chain, it’s vital to maintain a structured, error-free environment in the most efficient manner possible. The five most common problems warehouses experience can easily be eliminated by better processes or automation.

  1. Inventory accuracy – Without an automated system, companies tend not to know what they have on hand, making inaccuracies a common problem. Inadequate visibility frequently causes excess/obsolete inventory to build up or, perhaps worse, creates demand for extra stock in case of shortage.  Excess inventory can cause lack of cash flow, warehouse space issues, higher cost to house extra materials and deficient customer service.  However, inventory shortage tends to be the greater problem as it can lead to orders being unfulfilled.
  2. Inventory location – Lack of inventory oversight can cause a buildup of inefficiencies within the warehouse that slows operations and increases costs. Without adequate insight into location, pickers take longer to find the items to ship, which slows the loading process and creates a backup in labor allocation and dock door scheduling.
  3. Space utilization/warehouse layout – If storage systems, racking and pallet patterns are not optimized, the amount of space necessary to house inventory increases. Inefficient warehouse layouts also cause unnecessary labor. For instance, if high selling inventory is in the back of the facility, the drive will be further than would be required if the warehouse layout were better laid out.
  4. Redundant processes – It’s common for warehouse workers to pass a pick ticket or other documentation through multiple hands. The picker will pass it to the checker, who will pass it to the stager, who will pass it to the loader, and so on.  Using bar code technology, which is frequently found in today’s automated warehouse systems, eliminates multiple touches.
  5. Picking optimization – For warehouses that still have manual processes in place, there tends to be no common route taken to pick items for shipment, which adds unnecessary time to the process.  With system directed pick/put-away, the routing is easily automated, reducing wear and tear on both equipment and labor force.

Maximo Inventory Manager is a complete inventory management application that allows stockroom and warehouse workers to view and manage operations with mobile devices regardless of connectivity. It replaces inefficient paperwork by extending IBM Maximo to the worksite for efficient, accurate tracking, issuing and transferring of materials by number, storeroom location and/or work order. Inventory Manager also quickly completes physical and cycle counts, receives incoming inventory by purchase order or receipt, and offers support for bar-coding, RFID and voice.

IBM mobile inventory management software, Maximo Mobile Inventory Manager, provides remote access to the Maximo inventory management processes and enables mobile workers to complete more work and reduce nonproductive activities.

  • Manage remote and mobile asset data with mobile inventory devices
  • Perform physical cycle counts.
  • Perform issues, returns and transfers.
  • Perform receiving processes, including receipt inspections and asset serialization.
  • Utilize bar code and RFID capabilities for mobile inventory tracking and management
  • Exchange data with Maximo server using the method best suited for your operating environment: real-time wireless, dial-up or docking cradle
  • Store and forward data when continuous connections are not feasible.

Today, an agile supply chain is more vital to companies than ever, which is why more warehouses are turning to automation to help smooth operations. It all comes down to efficiency and beating the competition every step of the way, from supply chain to sales. As warehouses and distribution centers upgrade their systems and processes over the next several years, lost productivity time is expected to disappear along with the pen-and-clipboard style of warehouse management that helped cause them.

IBM Maximo from an IBM Premier Business Partner – like Provista.

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