Few places feel the weight of new customer demands like the warehouse. Not only do goods need to be delivered more quickly and packaged in ways that catch the eye to start building a good impression from the moment they arrive, but individuals also want to know the status of their delivery as soon as they click “buy.”
The solution to this pressure is mobility, which many companies now adopt in their warehouses as well as their larger supply chain. It provides many clear benefits for your team and customers, plus it prepares you for the technological demands your customers will have tomorrow.
What is mobility?
In the strictest sense, mobility in the warehouse is the connection of your workers to a warehouse management system (WMS) no matter where they go or what they’re working on right now through mobile devices. These options range from scanners and smartphones to rugged tablets and other wearables that can deliver pick-and-pack information.
Mobility covers both these devices and the WMS that runs them. A mobile WMS provides tracking and analytics around your warehouse workforce in the aggregate as well as on the individual level. This information can assist with benchmarking as well as advanced analysis to rearrange pick lanes and waves or overall warehouse layout to improve space utilization. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Advantages of a mobile WMS
The core advantages of a WMS are the data that it collects and the application of that data to different warehouse activities. Here are a few business insights this data can provide:
- Real-time performance monitoring: tracking users as they accomplish tasks shows you the current state of affairs in your entire warehouse. This is expanded with inventory and more as noted in some areas below.
- Real-time decision making: adapt to changes or problems as soon as they arise. For example, if a picker notices that inventory is damaged, the WMS can select an appropriate replacement or use an automated response to replenish the stock and update shipping estimates for customers.
- Replenishment monitoring: mobile WMS track inventory levels as they are used, with users scanning products as soon as they arrive or are added to an existing order. When inventory reaches replenishment levels, a mobile WMS can automatically create a replenishment order.
- Less manual paperwork: mobile WMS support a variety of technology, such as RF data collection, that can track goods as they move through the warehouse and automatically update associated paperwork like POs and receipts. It also simplifies signature collection. When you pair this with dock schedules and data analysis, you get optimization around the most common tasks in your warehouse — which usually generates an efficiency boost for your labor force.
- Shipment precision monitoring: advanced mobile WMS can reach through a supply chain to connected devices and databases to see where a shipment is at any time. The platform gives visibility via tracking tools that can provide the status of all on-time or delayed shipments to your warehouse and your customer.
How mobility impacts cloud vs. on-premise WMS decisions
While the differences between most on-premise and cloud WMS options are narrowing, there are still a few distinctions worth noting. These might give cloud systems an edge if you’re picking a new WMS soon.
Form and functionality are roughly the same for both options; there’s not much one can do that the other can’t. The biggest difference is the speed at which functionality updates. Cloud systems tend to be a little faster and work with a wider range of mobile tech.
So, if you want to upgrade your scanners or tablets to the latest model, cloud systems will generally provide this support more quickly. A cloud platform is more generalized and has more clients, while on-premise allow for greater customization. This means, in general, your cloud vendor will have a little more incentive to support new hardware and software sooner. Plus, their techs will work on the support, while on-premise might require your team to do the initial troubleshooting for updates and upgrades.
A mobile warehouse management system is an efficient tool to ensure you’re running at your best. Adoption of this tech is picking up steam every month, and soon it’ll be a must-have platform to keep up with your competition. It’s inevitably coming to the warehouse, so the question is when you’re ready for the boost.