Warehouse visibility enhanced by Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model

Warehouse Visibility: Stage 3 of Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model

Nowadays, not all processes in the warehousing and distribution industries are at the same point in the modernization journey. Therefore, each demands its own technology plan. That’s exactly what Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model addresses. This five-stage framework breaks modernization down into actionable steps, boosting warehouse visibility and operations based on their state today.

Below, we elaborate on Stage 3 of the framework. At the bottom of this page, you’ll see links to the articles about the remaining phases of Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model.

Stage 3: Improve Real-Time Warehouse Visibility

Stage 1 of Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model lays out a solid foundation for future modernization efforts. Then, Stage 2 focuses on optimizing mobility to enhance warehouse productivity.

In Stage 3, we’ll explore the ways in which new technology solutions can enhance operational visibility, inventory management, and logistics. This can lead to more effective asset utilization, lower costs, and fewer errors and inefficiencies in order shipping and other processes.

Stage 3 begins the focus on technology tools that enhance your visibility into operations. Thus, the goal for this stage is to leverage automated data capture tools that monitor and report real-time information. You can leverage it to make better decisions or even automate some of your operational decision-making. This will enable frontline workers to adapt and respond to developments immediately. Meanwhile, your managers will experience the added insight they need to refine operations over the longer term.

During this stage, you won’t necessarily be ready or need to deploy end-to-end real-time location systems (RTLS). After all, Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model is all about making incremental steps based on where your company is today.

Determining Where You Lack Visibility

So, the first step is to determine where you currently lack visibility into assets, inventory, or workflows. Next comes figuring out where you have visibility but the systems that deliver it aren’t necessarily as efficient as you would like. Having done that, you’ll be able to replace manual systems with automated data capture to make processes more efficient.

This is a critical stage for every warehouse, especially small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Relatively small investments in automated data capture systems that utilize fixed industrial scanners or RFID solutions can have significant returns. They can help SMBs level the playing field with their larger competitors in the supply chain industry.

To evaluate the applicability of automated data capture solutions, you need to know the effectiveness of manual scan-based data capture. Then, you must determine where those processes could be improved with tools that deliver faster scan rates or greater accuracy.

This gap analysis will help you identify where automation will make the biggest impact. As a result, you can replace manual tools with an automated solution in just a few key areas. Yet, it can often reduce or eliminate bottlenecks and errors that have an outsized impact on operations.

So, what might these solutions look like?

Solutions that Improve Warehouse Visibility

Let’s say you determine that you need better visibility of products as they move from manufacturing to the warehouse or loading dock. In this case, you might choose to install fixed RFID readers in strategic locations to track forklifts as they move work-in-process between key locations. This will provide real-time information that allows you to keep supply chain partners and customers informed. It will also alert you to potential problems if goods aren’t moved to the expected location.

Once you implement tools that automate data capture, you might be ready for more advanced warehouse visibility solutions. Good examples are Zebra’s SmartPack solutions. They use 3D sensor technology and smart cameras alongside other data capture tools to track and optimize trailer and container utilization.

These systems give you the information you need to evaluate load density and quality and trailer or container utilization. You’ll get wall-by-wall build profiles and images of loads in progress on a single dashboard for multiple dock doors. This eliminates error-prone guesswork to help shippers move more products without needing more trailers or containers.

As you evaluate your visibility into operations, don’t overlook the visibility of your devices. This includes mobile and wearable computers, barcode scanners, rugged tablets, printers, and vehicle-mounted devices. They increase workflow efficiency but can cause major disruptions if you lose track of device location, usage, or status. So, it pays to invest in IT infrastructure that helps you manage all those devices efficiently.

Stage 3 of the Warehouse Maturity Model is all about gaining visibility to improve operations. As you improve your insight into the location and status of assets and inventory, you’ll be able to plan and execute in real time. We’ll look at those steps in Stage 4.

Discover Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model

Find out more about the other stages of Zebra’s Warehouse Maturity Model: