I wrote previously about the implications of eCommerce for distributors as a major technological trend impacting the distribution and wholesale industry. A growing recent trend in small and medium-sized Wholesale and Distribution companies is the adoption of new technology to improve warehouse operations, specifically Warehouse Inventory Software with Wireless Barcode Scanning.
Barcode scanning systems have been around for quite some time, but what's changed is that they are now employing modern technologies such as smartphones, and are generally far more affordable. In the past, it was common to spend over $100,000 on a Warehouse Management System (WMS) to accomplish much of what can now be carried out with a more affordable ERP solution. Some more sophisticated solutions (such as those using RFID tagging) may still warrant a full WMS, but small and medium-sized distributors can now find affordable and integrated warehouse scanning solutions as part of an ERP system - without requiring a dedicated WMS.
One of the biggest steps forward in barcode scanning is the introduction of smartphone applications for use in the warehouse. Instead of having to spend thousands of dollars on ruggedized wireless barcode scanners, businesses can now employ sophisticated applications running on inexpensive hardware, like an iPod Touch or iPhone. Protective casings are also available for these devices to allow for extensive use in the warehouse, such as the well-known OtterBox.
The main benefits of warehouse inventory software with barcode scanning include: quick inventory lookups, moving inventory location, picking, packing, and receiving inventory. A primary goal of implementing a system like this is to achieve a process-driven and truly paperless warehouse — and now that warehouse inventory software is affordable, interest from small/medium business owners and warehouse managers has spiked.
It's only a matter of time before physically printing pick tickets in the warehouse will seem like a quaint oddity.