Tough nut to crack
Automated warehouse data collection is not a new topic, but it is as relevant as ever. Barcoding was invented in the mid-70s. And then, in 2004, RFID Gen 2 was ratified. Nevertheless, many distributors still use pen and paper to keep their inventory in check. And those who try to implement automated warehouse data collection, struggle with it. You will see it if you open any ERP user group. Around a quarter of all posts is related to automated data collection.
It is clear that being able to efficiently track inventory in the warehouse is a goal for many. And those who already have data collection systems implemented see big inefficiencies built into them. So why are there so many businesses that face challenges when it comes to automated warehouse data collection? Because it is not an easy task to accomplish.
Overcoming the odds
We have been helping our customers to solve the puzzle of automated warehouse data collection for years. Based on our experience, it is possible to say that there are three main obstacles that prevent businesses from implementing a great data collection system. They are human inertia, budget, and lack of expertise. And they are what you have to keep in mind at all times.
Human inertia, otherwise known as “that is the way we have always done it”, is one of the most common issues. It is probably the biggest hurdle that a company has to overcome. Not only is it a showstopper for many businesses at the initial stage of the project. It is also a beast that often kills the ongoing implementation project right at the end. Again, based on our company`s experience, it is a number one risk factor in the implementation project of this kind. An organization always needs one or more motivated individuals invested in this project. Otherwise, it is extremely difficult to implement an automated warehouse data collection successfully.
As one famous movie character says, “It is always about money, Lebowski”. If you are planning an automation project, it is necessary to set a budget aside. However, there is no reason to lose your enthusiasm right away. Prices for both hardware and software have been decreasing, so this barrier is getting smaller. Nowadays everything from scanners, handheld computers, and mobile networking equipment to labels and RFID printers costs just one-third of what it used to be 5 to 7 years ago.
Existing software systems are getting more affordable too. Meanwhile, development tools are becoming more sophisticated, powerful, and easier to use. These changes play a major role in the final ROI calculations, making the prospects of automated warehouse data collection both more appealing and probable.
The last part of this trio is expertise. It is necessary to select the right technology, determine the proper approach, and identify which business processes to adjust. Only an experienced professional can do that. If you are considering automated warehouse data collection, it is critical to find the right partner. To bring all of the pieces together and make sure they fit the particular needs of your company.
If you make a decision to save some money at this stage, you face a huge risk. It makes sense to hire a team of experienced professionals right away. Otherwise, you might waste both time and money. On our behalf, we can guarantee you that our teams are in a state of constant learning. Firstly, we upgrade our knowledge and skills. Secondly, we make an effort to stay on top of the technological wave. Thirdly, we learn our on-hand lessons and we make sure that we do not repeat them.
Ok, so now we have all the obstacles identified and handled:
- buy-in from the warehouse staff is secured. People are excited and ready to go;
- the budget has been set aside. We have already purchased the right hardware and software;
- an experienced partner has been found. They have developed an integration strategy to cover your business needs.
We are ready to launch, but something goes wrong. For example, some training-related issues or some details missed in the QA phase become apparent. Your warehouse stuff has recently had goodwill but may get sour now. Or there are small problems with integration that are getting compounded day by day. All of the aforementioned tends to turn into bigger issues if it is not handled as soon as possible.
At this point, it is critical for the team members to be diligent and persistent. Upper management plays an even bigger role. They have to insist on the successful implementation of the new system. This one last component is what often makes the recipe work. It goes back to the human factor outlined above. Here it is even more important, but is often is underappreciated by IT consultants. It seems very obvious, but frequently it is the one thing missing from the equation.
Automated warehouse data collection is the way to make your business more effective. Yes, the truth is that this process is not quick, cheap or easy. However, it can lead to a successful outcome. So, if you are interested in it, make sure your team is committed to it too. Keep in mind that the challenge is only 25% technical. The core part of this puzzle is people-related. Finally, if you want the best results, hire a group of professionals. You won`t regret it.