The modern supply chain has advanced rapidly in just the past few years. It requires constant assessment and innovation to stay on top of the game.
Times have been drastically reduced, complex processes have become streamlined, and competition is at an all-time high.
These quick strides in tech advancement coupled with the availability and adoption of e-commerce for consumer spending has spiraled into increasingly higher and higher expectations.
Not surprisingly, effective management of inventories and warehouses has become even more crucial in meeting these demands.
1. Asset Traceability
Another effective practice implemented by successful warehouses is asset traceability. While most organizations have transitioned to labeling their inventory, identifying other assets can be equally beneficial. Marking equipment, machines, and other tools can provide an added layer of information as well as security.
Take forklifts for example. Let’s say a large size warehouse uses around 10-12 forklifts on a regular basis, depending on how busy things may get.
As with all of the equipment we rely on, forklifts tend to breakdown, require maintenance, and eventually replacement (usually at the worst times). Wouldn’t it be great if you knew at any moment exactly which forklifts were available for use, their location in the facility, how long it’s been since they’ve had maintenance, etc.?
All of those questions can be answered by implementing the same type of system used for inventory tracking. Affixing a durable barcode tag to your forklift instantly turns it into a traceable asset. If you need to know exactly where an item is at any given point, GPS and RFID tracking can provide that solution as well.
With more and more industries dipping their toes into the world of blockchain, asset traceability will soon take on new possibilities. Tangible items will be traceable from origin to final delivery with the simple scan of a barcode or QR code. This will turn the supply chain into a completely transparent entity. This means both producers and suppliers will be held accountable for any lapses in quality or issues with products and materials.
2. Quality Control Systems
As with many industries, supply chains face a never ending struggle between quality and efficiency. It doesn’t matter if you have the quickest shipping operation in the world if you do not maintain quality standards.
Implementing a quality control (QC) system can be as simple or as in-depth as your organization needs. A simple QC might involve a basic reference check of an item against a purchase order. While a more complex system might be a more thorough process with many QC points throughout, or incorporate additional technology.
Start by assessing your organization. At the very minimum, a base quality control is necessary. But how much more work is necessary? Build a system which suits your specific organization best.
If adding a 15 step quality check slows down your order processing by 3 weeks, it probably doesn’t make sense. At the same time, if the product you are sending out the door either gets returned or leads to unhappy customers who will not re-order then you have an even bigger problem. The tricky part is finding that perfect balance.
Even after implementing a control system, things will change. The organization may expand, new customer expectations may emerge, and new equipment or machinery may mean higher quality production.
Reassessing your quality standards on an annual or semi-annual basis can work wonders. This not only helps to ensure the quality program you are currently implementing is providing value, but also helps provide a pulse of the organization as a whole.
While adding additional steps to your process may seem like a time-killer, a correctly implemented QC system will save time, resources on fixing mistakes, and keep your organization’s reputation from deteriorating.
3. Inventory Management
Inventory management is a key component of maintaining a successful warehouse. With the sophistication of current inventory tracking software, access to a wealth of information is at your fingertips.
With the simple scan of a barcode or QR code, items are traceable as they travel throughout the supply chain. If your warehouse is not already incorporating some form of scanning at this point, you are already behind the curve.
In addition, accessing real-time stock levels makes re-ordering inventory a breeze. A key element to keeping a warehouse operating smoothly is ordering new inventory at the right times. By receiving instant updates on stock levels, hitting these key spots is much easier.
Keep in mind, decisions are only as effective as the data they are based on. Relying on obsolete or inaccurate information can be disastrous for managing and monitoring warehouse inventory. Anyone who has spent time working in a warehouse setting knows what these disastrous bad decisions look like.
Having accurate data points provides decision makers with the capability to monitor and the warehouse and locate potential bottlenecks and other issues.
As we enter the next decade of supply chain and warehousing, staying up with the latest and greatest trends is going to be increasingly difficult. With access to automation in both hardware and software, decision makers will rely on the insights they gain through their access to information.
Staying ahead of the curve now by implementing foundational systems can allow your organization to prepare for what’s next. Inventory management and asset traceability ensure you have all the necessary data at your fingertips to make effective decisions. While quality control systems enable your organization to maintain high standards without creating too much additional red tape.
Keep in mind, the goal for these items is to improve the efficiency of your supply chain. While new technology and systems may seem foolproof, a solution isn’t the right solution if it just creates new problems.
Tailoring supply chain systems to your specific needs is the only way to ensure they fit seamlessly into your organization.