An article from Ziff-Davis titled Big Data, Mobility, and Green IT: Innovations for Manufacturers and Distributors makes a couple good points about the value of extending your ERP system into the warehouse to create more accurate and real-time data throughout the supply chain.
In a typical warehouse we often find that most employees perform their tasks away from computer terminals. Often, they use written instructions of data initially transcribed on paper, more often than not at the end of a day, to input data into the system. This creates some obvious, often costly inefficiencies, like user errors and double-entry of data. But more importantly, it can lead to decisions being made by other users that are already stale, decisions that might have been different on the purchasing and production side if current data had been available.
Today’s newer mobility technologies introduce opportunities to improve the tracking and collection of real-time, accurate data throughout the supply chain. For example, a receiving clerk can complete an ERP-integrated inspection form during actual inspection, triggering a real-time update of relevant inventory processes and records.
But mobility can have an even more subtle effect: it can help companies protect their margins through more effective costing procedures. As Jonathan Gross of Pemeco Consulting points out, “Many manufacturers and distributors determine product pricing by applying a margin to the sum of a standard labor cost and inventory costs. The problem, of course, is that standard labor costs seldom reflect the actual value of work effort. As a result, actual margins seldom reflect intended margins. Mobile labor tracking technologies allow businesses to capture actual labor costs and improve margins.”
As well, mobile technologies can improve overall warehouse and materials management processes. As we’ve often pointed out in the past, barcoding and RFID technologies help greatly when it comes to minimizing warehouse errors, improving order fill rates, speeding up delivery, and improving overall picking, packing and put-away. The fact that mobile units (handhelds, or more recently, tablets like an iPad or similar device) can be used to track inventory movements allows inventory to become “real-time.” This results in better integration of the warehouse into the overall operation, and improves its visibility within the ERP system. This kind of feedback can even have a downstream effect on JIT (just in time) improvements as well as planning, purchasing and scheduling activities.
All in all, any company with a warehouse should be investigating what today’s newer ERP systems have to offer in terms of mobile functionality. It’s a hot area, and for good reason: it saves companies time, mistakes and money.