A recent Intermec distribution-center survey of 250 global supply-chain executives found nearly a fourth reluctant to move away from inefficient, paper-based technologies. Yet there are compelling arguments for investing in automated systems that can more effectively manage workflows, Albaum says.
The sentiment against new systems reflects the state of the marketplace, he says. "Companies and people responsible for supply-chain operations are at different stages of the continuum. I don't see a one-size-fits-all technology." Nevertheless, as DC managers become more accustomed to systems such as voice picking and radio frequency identification, the technology will mature.
Albaum sees strong opportunities for rugged mobile technology in the warehouse. "As affordability and the business case becomes clearer, there's going to be a real groundswell in investment," he says. New government mandates on food traceability will give a lift to voice technology, even outside the DC.
Trends in direct store delivery and field service are transforming the customer experience, he says. Healthcare is one industry with an especially strong potential for growth in distribution technology that improves the quality of patient care.
In looking at areas of the DC that are suitable for streamlining, managers should focus on those operational aspects that impact most directly on customer service. The order-fulfillment process "is a great place to start," says Albaum. New advances in DC technology, particularly rugged mobile devices, can help companies to achieve the goal of "the perfect order."
Albaum advises warehouse managers to do a detailed walk-through of their facilities, reviewing everything from wireless infrastructure to specific work processes. "You should be able to assess what's working well, and what's most ripe for opportunities for improvement," he says.
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, inventory management, inventory control, logistics management, warehouse management, WMS, supply chain planning, retail supply chain
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