Now, more than ever, businesses are looking for ways to improve warehouse and fulfillment efficiency to keep up with the rising demand of commerce orders. In 2020 ecommerce sales increased 44%, but even before the shutdowns of last year, the percentage of overall sales coming from commerce channels had been on the rise.
Ultimately, it’s up to warehouses and fulfillment centers to deliver on those orders, and it’s become increasingly urgent to do so with increased efficiency and accuracy to grow profits ensure customer satisfaction. Yet, despite the fact that barcodes are easy to create, most estimates assume only about half of businesses are using mobile scanners in their warehouses and fulfillment centers.
The Root Cause of Warehouse Inefficiencies
Relying on manual processes, pen and paper or spreadsheets to manage warehousing, manufacturing and fulfillment processes is not only time consuming but leads to many issues that impact the ability to get products into the hands of customers quickly. That includes:
Inaccurate data capture:. If you’re relying on pen and paper, your warehouse records are more prone to human error and delayed information, which impacts both the customer experience and the bottom line. Moreover, information that is not collected at all negatively impacts inventory records and makes it harder to manage later on, such as missing expiration dates or lot information.
Lack of real-time data visibility: Without real-time visibility into stock levels, you run the real risk of committing the same inventory to multiple orders and not having enough product to fulfill open orders.
Inaccurate fulfillment: Using manual processes for order fulfillment increases the likelihood and frequency of costly mispicks. If mispicks are not detected before leaving the warehouse, the order will likely be returned and need to be fulfilled correctly. The additional cost of shipping the correct order, as well as returning the incorrect order, quickly add up and impact your bottom line.
Quality Control: Relying on pen and paper to conduct quality inspections is also error prone, inconsistent and time consuming.
Mobile Scanning Increases Supply Chain Efficiency
Adopting scanning devices and mobile applications throughout the supply chain helps automate manual processes and increase efficiency. Scanning devices and mobile applications give businesses more control over how processes are performed and ensure accuracy throughout the product lifecycle and decrease warehouse costs through:
Data accuracy: Using a scanner to receive items into inventory not only makes the process easier and quicker, but it also ensures you’re capturing the necessary information to include in the item record. The mobile app can be set up to “force scan,” which is a leading practice for increasing data integrity. Force scanning ensures the right details are scanned and entered at the time of receipt before the item can be received into inventory. It also automatically assigns the items lot number, serial number, bin location and inventory status as they are received.
Real-time Inventory Visibility: Using a mobile scanner immediately and systemically updates inventory records as items are scanned and makes them available for subsequent processes, such as quality assurance, outbound commitment or fulfillment. And it ensures you know exactly where every item is at any given time — whether it is on the shelf, in a staging area preparing for production, in quality control, or being picked and packed for fulfillment.
Using a mobile device to conduct cycle counts reduces the risk of manual errors and expedites the process. The mobile app guides users through each step of the count process and has them scan at each step to ensure they are at the correct location. It eases the count process as the scan automatically updates the count record, as opposed to having to write it down and manually enter it on a computer after the fact.
Mobile Picking, Packing and Shipping: Using a mobile app for order fulfillment ensures order accuracy and avoids costly mispicks. Using “force scan” for picking and packing of orders assures accurate data capture and validation against the initiating transaction - so you know the right item is going into the right order. And it ensures efficiency with fulfillment because users are guided exactly where they are going to find an item. In this scenario, pickers can also pick items for multiple orders at once — which further increases efficiencies. This also allows warehouse managers and customer service representatives to keep an eye on the status of sales and orders and give real-time updates.
Quality Control: With a mobile scanner you can capture and process quality test results directly from the shop floor or receiving dock. Using a mobile device enables quality engineers to perform inspections, review standards, record data and submit data for analysis directly from the inspection area providing real-time feedback and instant access to test results.
Implementing Mobile Scanning with NetSuite
NetSuite warehouse and inventory management solutions allow you to perform all of these functions from a mobile application so you can get out of the office and on to the shop floor without compromising access to real-time information.
To learn more, listen to the recent NetSuite Podcast talking about the use of mobile scanning and applications.