If you’re in the manufacturing industry, then you know how much pressure there is to maximize your warehouse’s efficiency. Considering that your bottom line depends on how quickly you can stock and move product, there is a lot of incentive to make any necessary changes to improve the workflow of your business to increase profitability and lower costs.
While some of these changes can be made to your operations and organization, there is one method that can provide tangible results without having to overhaul anything or implement a complicated new strategy. Today we’re going to discuss mobile workstations and how they can greatly improve your warehouse’s flow, as well as reduce one core component to your costs: labor.
What are Mobile Workstations, and How do They Work?
These handy devices are a simple and effective way to bring all of the tools to the worker, rather than having them hunt down the right equipment when necessary. Most of the time spent on the floor is walking back and forth between areas, so by consolidating materials into a mobile workstation that can follow employees as they move around the floor, you can greatly increase the level of productivity.
The way that they work is that they have their own power station. This means that you can keep other devices like laptops and scanners fully charged as they sit on the workstation itself. It also means that you don’t have to worry about tripping over power cords, nor are you limited to the range of the workstation as it isn’t plugged into any walls.
Improve Dock to Stock Metrics
One of the biggest issues with receiving is that many times inventory will sit on the dock, waiting to be sorted and put away. These days, as customers are demanding shorter wait times for delivery, companies cannot afford to waste time by having products sit out for days on end.
Because of the immediacy of the customer’s interaction, that means that everything has to be sped up on the back end. One of the most crucial metrics that you can work on is your dock to stock as it will ensure that you can move more products through the system in a much shorter amount of time.
To give you some perspective on this, the top warehouses in the world have a dock to stock time of a couple of hours. Industry-wide, however, that number is roughly eight hours or more. So how to the top companies do it? Well, by utilizing highly efficient methods that boost productivity. This is where the mobile workstations come in.
When you receive inventory, you have to print out a label for each product so that it will go into your system properly. For many warehouses, the printer station is not next to the receiving area, which means that employees have to walk back and forth. Also, if they don’t have the right labels or the right count, it could spell disaster. With a mobile workstation, you can print on demand as you go without having to make multiple trips, and you can ensure that each label is correct. Best of all, if there is an error, you can quickly fix it by printing a new label immediately.
One of the biggest struggles that warehouses have is that they have to scan each label into their system so that they have an accurate count. Many times, this is what causes the most delays. By having a mobile workstation with a computer and a scanner that is synced to the back-of-house program, workers can marry the data and the labels in much less time.
In the end, by reducing the amount of downtime between printing and labeling and scanning, you can improve worker productivity by a substantial margin. To put it in perspective, California’s largest berry supplier started using mobile workstations and was able to save up to 4.5 hours a day, which resulted in over $20,000 in savings for the whole year.
In essence, by streamlining your dock to stock procedures, you can practically double the productivity levels of each employee, which will have enormous benefits to your bottom line. Not only can you increase the speed with which you take inventory and move product in and out of the warehouse, but you can drastically cut your labor costs.
Other Problems on the Floor
While dock to stock is a huge part of your operations, there are plenty of other areas in which you can benefit from having a streamlined process. Best of all, because these mobile workstations can move to any part of the warehouse and still provide stellar results, there is no reason that you cannot make drastic improvements in all of these areas.
Too often, warehouses are not stocked according to what is most efficient. Usually, it’s a haphazard mess, which can cause all kinds of issues when it comes to maintaining inventory levels and picking for new orders. In many cases, a worker will have to cross over the same area multiple times for a single order due to how things are placed.
But, With a Mobile Workstation…
By bringing the workstation with them, they can manage order tickets and scan items as they remove them so that the system updates. This will ultimately help reduce time spent walking and will allow you to make improvements without having to overhaul your current layout.
Unfortunately, even with modern technology becoming such an integrated part of our lives, there is still a lot of paperwork being filled out by hand. What this usually means, though, is that there is a higher chance of error. For example, if someone counts 15 of one product and then winds up seeing more in another spot, they have to cross out the 15 and put a new number. If this happens a few times, it can create an illegible mess.
Inaccuracies affect the whole shipping and receiving process as well because pickers are filling orders based on incorrect information, which can lead to over or under stocking of various products.
But, With a Mobile Workstation…
You should already have a comprehensive back-of-house system that tracks inventory and lets you know when you’re running low on product, among other metrics. Mobile workstations can allow you to go paperless, which will greatly speed up the process and ensure more accuracy. Also, they can be synced up to scanners and each other so that you can let the system work harder for you.
Customer wants and needs change all of the time, usually depending on the time of year. Inefficient warehouses do not plan for such swings, meaning that they wind up with either too much stock taking up valuable real estate on the floor, or not enough stock meaning that they can’t fill orders. This problem is only acceptable if it’s your first or second year in operation, but if you have a few years of data to draw from, this should not be an issue. However, plenty of warehouses still have this problem year to year.
But, With a Mobile Workstation…
Overall, you should be able to stay on top of things much easier with these devices, meaning that you can take the time to study past data and see what adjustments need to be made for upcoming seasons. In the end, not being behind the eight ball can help you stay ahead of the curve.
High Redundancy Rate
Another major issue that plagues most warehouses is that products or tickets may pass through multiple hands before getting out to ship. While having extra eyes on certain processes can help keep things from falling through the cracks, the fact is that the more time is spent reviewing and re-reviewing data and order tickets, the less time is spent actually putting orders out. There is such a thing as too much redundancy, and many warehouses are in that situation.
But, With a Mobile Workstation…
If all of your mobile workstations are linked, then you can simply have people monitor the activity of each station to provide a layer of redundancy without having to physically be present. Thus, as orders are filled, and inventory is picked (or stocked), supervisors can see what’s happening on the back end from a central location. This provides just the right amount of redundancy without taking extra time.
Case Study: Direct Relief
As a non-profit organization, Direct Relief already has plenty of incentives to make their operations as efficient as possible. The less time and money spent on filling orders and tracking inventory, the more that can go towards those in need. This company specializes in delivering medicine and health supplies to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it, so time is an even greater factor.
One of the biggest issues that Direct Relief (or any nonprofit) faces is that, since their inventory is donated, they have an ever-changing directory of SKUs, particularly on medicine. This means that accuracy is crucial, especially because delivering the wrong medication to someone could have disastrous results.
As such, the company decided to go with mobile workstations, which they use on their receiving end, as well as double-checking orders before they go out. In their first month of operation, they improved receipts by 40%, and they were able to cut down on their dock to stock metric by about 70%. This was all a direct result of the stations and nothing else.
So, as you can see, if you are looking for a fast and easy way to make your warehouse work better for you, then a mobile Workstation from Newcastle Systems is the way to go. Regardless of where you’re at or where you want to go, these stations can help your company succeed much more than you thought possible.