Before 2018, over 60% of warehouses had expanded their technology investments to include digital capabilities. The goal was to ensure that they were prepared for the future of supply chains to operate at peak efficiency. Today, having digital capabilities is a must and partnering businesses and customers expect that your warehousing and distribution processes include technological innovations. Here are some of the expansions in tech for warehousing and distribution services.
Use of EDI Communication Technology in Various Sector
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) has made its way into many warehouses over the past few years. It allows for the sharing of documents between two computer systems, using a format that is compatible with both. When EDI is integrated into a quality warehouse management system (WMS) it provides benefits like the seamless flow of information, increased visibility, compatibility, greater efficiency, and collaboration between all parties. The warehousing sector has used EDI for the following procedures:
- Purchase orders
- Warehouse shipping orders
- Stock transfer receipts
- Shipping advice
- Inventory advice
Drones and Robots
Science fiction has inspired the creation of technologies like drones, which carry a wide variety of applications. They have made appearances in film productions as ways to hover cameras over landscapes, and have even found their way into the supply chain industry. As companies seek to increase their levels of automation, drones have been able to provide several benefits including the following:
- Reduced labour costs
- Improved efficiency
- Minimal errors with processing
- Faster movement of goods
- Human resources redirected to more complex responsibilities
- Reduced workplace injuries
- Increased competitive edge
Drones and robots are used for scanning barcodes that are too far for warehouse workers to reach. They can be navigated to reach high shelves that would normally require the use of a forklift, cage, and manual workers. These airborne aids are essential for companies like Amazon and Walmart, and are brightening the future for other companies that have implemented them in their warehouse.
Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID)
Another major force in warehousing is radio frequency identification technology, or RFID. It uses radio waves to feed information between stock tags and the device that picks up the signal. This information allows for greater stock visibility and transparency, which leads to better management of inventory. RFID devices can be connected to drones and can catalogue inventory faster than manual workers. Stock can be stacked as high as warehouse managers want, because this technology will enable all levels of access.
Cloud storage also offers many benefits to the supply chain. It cuts down maintenance, infrastructure, and labour costs from constantly keeping WMS up-to-date. To prevent information from being out of date or obsolete, cloud systems allow accurate and updated data to be displayed across the entire network (for those who have access). Cloud storage systems can also be fairly affordable, and can come as a feature of partnering with a third-party logistics company.
E-commerce companies today need omnichannel solutions to succeed. Since the future is digital, warehousing will need to adapt to meet the expectations and needs of customers and other businesses in the network. Omnichannel is an approach to sales that provides customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether they are online, on a mobile device, over the phone, or in a physical store. Some of the benefits of omnichannel operations include the following:
- Better management of inventory and reduced costs
- Seller benefits and buyer satisfaction
- Real-time reporting
- Increased revenue
- Warehouse productivity
- Customer retention
- Improved brand perception
Use of Battery Technology
Battery technology has developed in a way that can aid warehouse operations around the world. Two batteries, in particular, can draw energy from nearby power grids or from renewable sources, like solar power. Designed by Tesla, these batteries can achieve two great benefits:
- They enable greater automation as it uses a local and affordable energy source, which offsets the costs of installing automated systems; and
- Their connection to renewable energy sources allows for better flexibility in warehouse locations. (They are not dependent on local utility grids).
Voice Tasking Technology
Voice tasking technology makes work more efficient for warehouse workers. By responding to voice commands, this technology can pick, put, receive, replenish, and perform various warehouse shipping functions. It is similar to RF technology, and increases flexibility in the order fulfillment process. Here are some of the benefits of voice tasking tech:
- Improved picking productivity and accuracy
- Less operator training required
- Improved system control
- Higher return on investment
- Real-time data communications and analysis
How Lean Supply Solutions Can Help You
These warehousing tech innovations are just a sample of the various improvements that are available for companies to utilize. For many companies, these technologies have transformed the way warehouses operate and have improved all the consecutive operations down the line. If your business has yet to implement technology or needs to upgrade its systems, it may seem overwhelming to adapt. However, you can reap the rewards of digitizing your system by outsourcing to a 3PL company with the tech you need.
Lean Supply Solutions provides effective supply chain management using several of these digital technologies, and we make ourselves aware of the rising trends to help our clients stay ahead of their competitors. We commit to being aware of our clients’ operational challenges and help them get the most out of their processes, and achieve this by providing exceptional services. We can offer consistent, accurate, and quality results by ensuring that the right products are provided to the right customers at the right time, while saving you money, and we can help you track and understand your metrics better. Our services include warehouse pick and pack, contract logistics, manufacturing support, technology, warehousing distribution services, e-commerce fulfillment, consulting, and more.
To learn more about our warehouse value-added services, or to ask any questions, contact us today.
One of the biggest challenges and priorities for warehousing and distribution managers is achieving operational efficiency. Changes in warehouse workers, products, and processes can cause delays, mistakes, and errors that reduce the efficiency of your operations. Since efficiency is the deal breaker between your business thriving or failing, tools have been created to help managers handle these changes and reduce their rate of errors across warehousing processes. Machine learning is one of these tools, and here’s how this technology is revolutionizing warehousing and distribution in Toronto and around the world.
Receiving the Product
New products that enter your warehouse need to be stored and organized. It takes time to remove items from their original packaging, track their storage location, and carefully place them on the shelves. One of the benefits of machine learning is that it can analyze the current location of items in the warehouse, and as new shipments come in, they can match them to the correct location. This reduces the time consuming and often inefficient process that manual workers need to go through to keep the warehouse organized. Machine learning can also direct manual workers to the shortest route to get where they need to go, which saves time.
Picking an Order
Inefficient picking processes can lead to incorrect picking, which leads to unhappy customers and a sinking business. Proper inventory management and optimal picking order are paramount to running a smooth warehouse. Picking is the highest visibility task in the warehouse, and machine learning can optimize this process in numerous ways. For example, it reduces the number of steps in the picking process. As a result, there are less opportunities for error or damages.
Validation of an Order
Small items or those that are similar in appearance to others can cause problems for pickers. Machine learning helps prevent issues and mistakes in this area by analyzing order history and highlighting items that are at higher risk of error. It flags these items to notify pickers to be extra careful when handling and moving these items.
Picking Multiple Orders
Efficiently picking a single order is the minimum level of efficiency in the warehouse. However, many times workers need to combine picking movements for multiple orders. Picking multiple orders can be time consuming and inefficient if the right paths and organization are not in place. Machine learning helps by analyzing the orders in the system, and arranging the direction path, while simultaneously separating orders.
Warehouse Inventory Management
Inventory management is one of the most important aspects of the supply chain. Plenty of time is put into improving optimization techniques to make this process as smooth and organized as possible. Machine learning can improve inventory optimization, especially for businesses that have multiple warehouses. The technology can take into account independent variables that could cause errors or delays, and efficiently provide suggestions and solutions to manage stock. By diverting the bulk work to artificial intelligence, warehouse staff can focus more of their energy on product quality and customer experience.
Warehouse workers need to pay extra attention to items with expiration dates or sell-by dates. If these items are not properly handled or organized and picked on time, they can spoil and will cause waste and loss of revenue. Machine learning adds a level of intelligence to physical controls that you have set in place.
Improving Customer Satisfaction
Machine learning technology helps communicate in the warehouse, but it can also connect and interact with your customers. Using features like real-time data, machine learning can help customers by scanning inventory, searching for specific items, or notifying them of current deals. Bots can improve customer relationships while identifying low stock levels, product backorders, and provide valuable information that helps set customer expectations. By focusing more on customer satisfaction and product quality, you will ultimately improve your performance as a business.
Minimizing Stagnant Stock
Stock levels are one of the major factors affecting inventory management. Machine learning can make predictions on how much stock to carry, and can track inventory as it comes in or goes out of the warehouse. This resolves the concern of excess and idle stock that essentially stands for tied-up money that could be used for a better purpose. Current data provided by inventory tracking features in machine learning can ensure optimal business performance, better use of inventory, and satisfied customers.
How Lean Supply Solutions Can Help You
As you can see, the impact of machine learning on inventory management is profound. This technology resolves many of the issues that warehouses are facing today with growing customer demand and requirements for quality products. Artificial intelligence may not solve every problem, but it proves powerful insight that can help your warehouse team better manage their daily tasks. In addition, there is a growing need to compete against other businesses who have already begun to bring technology into their supply chain. Without the right warehousing and distribution services, your business can fall behind, and your consumers will be unsatisfied. To get the most from the amazing features of artificial intelligence, you will need a third-party logistics partner that has the right technology available to you.
Lean Supply Solutions provides effective supply chain management using automation and robust technology, and we make ourselves aware of the rising trends to help our clients succeed. We commit to being aware of our clients’ operational challenges and help them get the most out of their processes. We can offer consistent, accurate, and quality results by striving to ensure that the right products are provided to the right customers at the right time, while saving you money, and we can help you track and understand your metrics better. To learn more about our warehouse value-added services, or to ask any questions, contact us today.
As an e-commerce professional, you already know that for your business to be sustainable it requires a loyal customer base and effective supply chain management. But what is involved in supply chain services that build your business? Here are some of the areas that you can improve to ensure the best possible supply chain management this year.
To get a complete view of your operations and have an effective response to risks, the right prediction and contingency planning tools must be in place. These tools can help deal with risks such as suppliers going out of business, and natural calamities affecting manufacturing. With plans in place, companies can make adjustments to their promotion strategies and pricing to shape demand, speed up operations, increase revenue, and expand margins for high-demand products with limited market supply. Planning options may include any of the following:
- Manufacturing components of products domestically
- Manufacturing components in a foreign market by setting up production facilities internationally
- Purchasing a component from a foreign supplier
- Purchasing a component from a domestic supplier
Manufacturing companies must also decide how these goods will be produced. Products can be any of the following:
- Made to stock
- Made to order
- Configured to order
- Engineered to order
Optimize Inventory Management
Managing inventory is one of the most important aspects of a successful strategy. Inventory includes work in progress items, finished goods in bulk state, packaged, and saleable units. Managing inventory required packaging, labelling, material handling, sorting, and data tracking. An inventory management software gives you better visibility and control over your operations, and can save you money in the following ways:
- Avoiding unnecessary spoilage of goods (expired products)
- Avoiding dead stock (gone out of season, style, or become irrelevant)
- Saving on storage costs
Internal & External Collaboration Process
Internal collaboration occurs within a brand between managers and employees, while external collaboration occurs within a brand and its consumers. Collaboration can take place via social media channels like Twitter or online communities, blogs, and wikis. It enables brands to build a relationship with their audience to increase revenue, reduce costs, gain more efficiency, and boost customer service. Internally, it enables employees to communicate more effectively and improve productivity through file sharing, chat, social networking, and other features that aim to meet business objectives.
A business that integrates both internal and external collaboration strategies will do far better than one that focuses on internal or external alone. Some of the benefits of a social business include:
- Everyone can participate in providing information and valuable feedback
- Connections and relationships can be established and new relationships can be developed
- Customers are more likely to support brands that have a reputation for good communication and care about building long-term relationships
- Platforms can be used to brainstorm or provide ideas about marketing campaigns, sales strategies, and other activities
Packaging is just one aspect of a complete supply chain strategy. It deals with the functional and aesthetic properties of packaging to preserve the stability and integrity of the items inside. Packaging must be able to withstand transportation, environmental conditions, and other factors that could affect the contents.
Regulations that Must Be Complied
An essential component of a successful supply chain is regulatory compliance. It ensures that all parties involved meet the national and international laws that apply to them. These regulations change from time to time, and it is your responsibility to ensure you and your staff are meeting these requirements.
Safety and Security in the Supply Chain
One of the most important aspects of your supply chain is the safety and security process. Depending on the kinds of products you supply, you will need to abide by the regulations and safety requirements of customs and border protection agencies. You will also need to make sure the quality and efficacy of the products are consistent. Within your warehouse, the safety of your staff is also important. Your warehouse should have proper floor and wall markings, proper lighting, and clean, hazard-free floors.
Every e-commerce business that provides goods to consumers must have a return policy and management strategy. You will need to ensure that any returned products—whether they were defective, in poor condition, incorrect, or unsatisfactory—are properly handled once they return to the warehouse. Without a strategy for handling returns, you could suffer the loss of wasted time, energy, inventory, and lose profit. Aside from your strategy, you will also need to ensure your policies are clearly stated, so your consumers know how these situations are handled. Establish rules for product returns, monitoring performance and costs, and managing the inventory of returned product.
Let Lean Supply Solutions Manage Your Supply Chain
There are ever-changing and increasing demands in the supply chain that businesses need to keep up with, and if your business has been seeing incredible growth, you may realize how great a challenge this is. However, the right processes, tools, and practices can help you make the most of this growth to improve your business and meet customer expectations.
Working with a 3PL provider can help you deal with these challenges. With their experience in strategizing the supply chain, they can manage all the tasks above so you can have peace of mind and focus on other core responsibilities. A 3PL provider will also offer you many advantages such as supply chain management software and technology that increase visibility and communication between you and everyone in your business network.
If you are looking for the right company to partner with, Lean Supply Solutions is the answer. We rise to the challenge of meeting our clients’ needs through our services which include product fulfillment, warehousing and distribution, e-commerce fulfillment, warehouse pick and pack, order fulfillment, and more. To learn more about outsourcing to our supply management in Toronto, or to ask any questions, contact us today.
Automation, virtual reality, mobile-friendly technology, improved delivery, and improved payment options are just a few of the e-commerce logistics trends shaping the industry. If your organization is making plans to implement strategies to improve your supply chain and increase revenue, here are some of the trends you should know about for 2019.
Automation is a very powerful logistics trend of 2019 that is taking companies by storm. From warehouse operations to customer shopping experiences, automation is used to simplify processes and make them timelier and more efficient. It also cuts down the number of manual processes needed to get the job done. For example, automated sorting systems can optimize logistics operations by reducing the cost of manual labour, giving owners complete control over their organization, reducing human errors, enhancing traceability, and much more. Automation in the supply chain offers numerous benefits and business owners will be able to perform better with it.
Various Payment Options
Brands can also offer multiple payment options and increase safety by using a secured third-party digital payment platform such as PayPal, Apple Pay, or Google Pay. This trend is making it easier and faster for customers to purchase items online, and for e-commerce companies to process these payments.
Accurate Search Options and Artificial Intelligence
When customers browse the Internet, they are quickly intolerant and uninterested with irrelevant content. Most shoppers expect retailers to ensure search results and suggestions are accurate, and artificial intelligence can help with this. AI can make semantic search engines more accurate by going beyond correctly-typed keywords. Machine learning technology can recognize typos, spelling errors, synonyms, and product relations to give users precise results. It also offers image and voice recognition software to increase convenience.
Analytics & Predictions
Predictive analysis is a tool that reads algorithms based on historical and current data and makes forecasts. Organizations can gain a better understanding of how their resources are being used and the flow of goods and products to better prepare for future events. This framework connects trends, patterns, and data associations to help organizations get proactive about future developments. This type of system involves predictive modeling, text analytics, real-time scoring, data mining, and ad-hoc statistical analysis.
Fast & Flexible Deliveries
Today’s customers have high standards for how quickly they want their orders to be delivered. E-commerce companies will need to offer fast and flexible deliveries to prevent customers from abandoning the cart when they receive shipping information and looking elsewhere. Although you may not be able to deliver same or next-day delivery, you can work with a third-party logistics provider to offer shorter delivery times. A 3PL may have multiple warehouses that are closer to your customers, therefore, they will be able to ship out orders and get them delivered faster.
Ensuring your web site and shopping cart are mobile-friendly is a must-have in today’s market. Customers frequently use their phones and tablets to shop, and the process is easier with applications and mobile-friendly web pages. Google also rewards sites that are mobile-friendly by ranking them higher on their lists. As the search engine giant continues to upgrade its algorithms, a mobile-first approach has become more valuable and one of the determining factors that puts you in the top-ranking results.
Chatbot technology allows a computer program to communicate with customers and online users to provide basic customer support 24-hours a day. The customer experience can also be improved by offering easier checkouts and a personalized shopping journey. Card abandonment is a big obstacle for e-commerce brands to overcome, and the reason is usually because the checkout process is too complicated or slow. Using autofill fields or encouraging first-time shoppers to register or create an account can make future shopping experiences more efficient and reduce the risk of cart abandonment.
Finding a way to streamline shipping will help you improve your operations and increase customer service. When you work with a 3PL that offers streamlined shipping as one of its services, you will benefit from teaming up with couriers like UPS, FedEx, USPS, Canada Post, Purolator, and more. By working with a provider that integrates with quality couriers, you can rest assured that the proper information is provided to obtain quality service and reasonable pricing. Many of these providers also use cloud-system software that shows real-time movements in the supply chain, so you always know where your products are.
Choose Us as Your Third-Party Logistics Service Provider
The new year is here and if you haven’t considered how to improve your organization you risk falling behind your competitors very quickly—if you haven’t already! There are a variety of tools and technologies available to improve your operations for greater transparency and efficiency and increase your customer relationships. There’s no time like the present to team up with a provider that offers you excellent, current solutions for your business challenges. Working with a 3PL provider can help you deal with challenges that come along the way in terms of costs, logistics, customer satisfaction, and changing expectations from suppliers and consumers. With their experience and network, they can find you quick and effective solutions to problems like these that may hinder your success. They will also bring you a variety of advantages such as supply chain management software and technology.
When you’re ready to make a call, Lean Supply Solutions is ready to help you. We rise to the challenge of meeting our clients’ needs through our services which include product fulfillment, warehousing and distribution, e-commerce fulfillment, warehouse pick and pack, order fulfillment, and more. To learn more about outsourcing to our 3PL logistics services, or to ask any questions, contact us today.