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Taking your warehouse inventory further with RFID

Written by Michael Badwi
Created: 12 February 2020

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The modern competitive environment requires redesigning of functionality for warehouses to deliver the desired results and sustain their presence in their industry. In this context, a well-defined WMS plays a significant role in perfect performance.

 

At the front of your business, an efficient warehouse is the face of your brand: it is essential for customer satisfaction because it helps ensure quick, accurate shipments. Happy customers mean happy business owners, which make happy staff, which just makes everything better.

But besides that, behind the scenes, maximising your warehousing capability allows for optimised distribution, and increased labour productivity, basically meaning that you as a business owner get more for less. It also helps reduce errors and damage in the order fulfilment, storage, and movement processes, making it core to a business’s viability and success. You simply cannot do without it.

 

With any great demand, innovative supply arises, which is where bigger better faster warehouse technologies come in. Evolving from manually tracking and handling each element of shipping, which opens business to human error, damages, time loss, and other natural hazards, seamless integrated software has changed the face of it forever, and businesses using warehouse management software are found to have optimised material flow that can crank out more work in less time.

 

For example, when assessing the value of RFID, consider that knowing your current inventory at any moment is key for business success. For warehouse managers and operations, inventory visibility and control are key to maximising throughput and boosting productivity.

 

What is a warehouse real time location system?

A real time location system (RTLS) is an advanced technology that can detect and record in real time (at any time) the geographical location of assets in warehouses and transit environments. Never wonder where anything is, ever again!

Real-time location tracking using RFID gives unique insights into logistics and warehousing business, and the data it provides us is the basis of transparent work processes that increase internal efficiency and productivity.

What RFID technology is used in warehouses today?

RFID is required to keep better track of the movement and storage of products within your warehouse, and maximising your efficiency by streamlining the receipt and shipment of consumer goods.

 

To ensure that this can be achieved, passive RFID tags (which do not have transmitters or a power source, which is convenient for goods in transit and storage) reflect the radio waves from the antennae back to them, giving a real-time location.

 

Note: An active RFID tag, which is a transponder with a microchip and antenna, and is far more costly, are used for larger assets like shipping containers, being tracked over long distances, as opposed to individual products or pallets.  

 

RFID Warehouse Software technology connects warehouse workers to the warehouse management’s back-end application server, where the wireless handheld devices will record warehouse activities. This includes scanning bar codes or RF tags attached to the pallets. Using this data, employees can more easily identify where to pick, put away, count, or move products within the distribution center.

The general benefits of RFID technology in Warehouse Management

  • Prevents under-stocking or overstocking AND improves security.

  • More information capability, such as tracking and tracing, keeping consumers, retail partners and other supply chain partners lifetime updated.

  • Reduced labour costs, as RFID tags automatically generate and report information when scanned.

  • No line-of-sight (like barcode) requirements to track or scan.

  • Improved visibility across your supply chain due to maximal information processing and lead capture.

  • Increased longevity and less damage through processes due to hardy construction.

  • Scans more, faster, than even the best handheld barcode scanners.

The direct benefits of RFID to your inbound and outbound processes 

Your tracking, checking, and speed of processing increases immensely with a real-time tracking solution. 


INBOUND, for example:

  • Reduce detailed inventory checking

  • Improve flow-through opportunities

  • Improve supplier conformance

OUTBOUND monitoring, for example:

  • Reduce outbound quality checking

  • Improve visibility to stores and customers

Overall business benefits of RFID implementation


1. Inventory auditing

Inventory accuracy is vitally important; the challenge lies in achieving it. RFID helps you to achieve and maintain 99.9% inventory accuracy without the laborious and often expensive inventory audits that can take hours or sometimes days. RFID provides you with all of your real time pallet location information within minutes. By accurately monitoring inventory moving through the inbound/outbound process management can be streamlined by carrying correct stock at all times.

 

Not only that, as RFID delivers a clear and current picture of when and where inventory travels, there’s a potential efficiency saving of up to 15 seconds on every pallet move by eliminating the need to manually scan a barcode each time a pallet is picked up or dropped – that’s four hours’ worth of time saved for every 1000 pallets moved. This leads to time savings on transactions, locating and tracking inventory, and eliminating unnecessary processes, such as barcode scanning.


2. Labour management

Effective RFID implementations result in enormous cost savings by improving inbound and outbound routing. The real time GPS tracking provides unparalleled accuracy and a resulting boom in productivity and efficiency. This means that over time SCALE is bound to deliver a ROI in efficiency savings alone by maximising every employee and vehicle.

  • Monitor staff behaviours and avoid time wastage.

  • Maximise staff scheduling for correct manpower on the floor at any time.

  • Reduce human error.

By creating the most optimal work routes and processes for people and machinery jobs are completed quicker and safer than ever before.

3. Improved Shipping Efficiency

Transport problems can make or break an otherwise successful warehousing venture. Having access to real time driver movement information means you can work with your drivers to continually refine and improve performance that benefits both the driver and the business… all ultimately for maximum client satisfaction.

 

DID YOU KNOW... a single pallet will be moved at least four times in a distribution centre:

Delivery arrival and unloading
Movement to a storage location
Readied for dispatch
Moved to dispatch for delivery

On average, a single pallet move takes 2 minutes of driver time. If a company ships 40,000 pallets per week at an average 2 minutes per pallet, the time expended is some 5340 hours, but most companies find the actual number of driver hours taken to be an average of 7000.

 

Calculating efficiencies is not simple, and without RFID and it would be almost impossible to identify where time has been wasted or spent.

Using a WMS provides factual movement information, enabling our clients to see exactly where and how time is lost, enabling efficiency changes based on quantitative inputs.

Drivers’ time searching for pallets is minimised, as real time location information is instantly available to them enabling them to avoid time wasted trying to identify correct items and avoid the possibility of mistakes.

Read the Cambridge Foods Case Study

4. Workplace Safety

According to the United States Bureau of Labor, one in twenty workers are harmed or injured in warehousing workplaces each year by MHE, at great expense to employers. Our RFID provides clients with all of the information needed to investigate and avoid such problems, from determining accountability to redirecting warehouse flow to prevent future accidents. Positive company culture with an attitude of care towards employees is one that is both sustainable and essential for longevity and

Make the enhancements you need to grow with your market and open your business to new opportunities by taking advantage of every capability-boosting feature in your WMS.


To conclude, efficiency means improved productivity, and both of these are directly linked to profitability. The science is in, and the logical conclusion is not whether your business should capitalise on these technologies, it is how quickly the move can be made to maximise your structures and processes.

 

Get more out of your warehouse by optimising your existing processes:  Take a look at our practical guidebook for expert tips on how to implement processes that support your business goals and help achieve a world-class warehouse while cutting unnecessary costs.

Download the High-level WMS Implementation Checklist

 


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