Supply Chain Challenges and the Applications that Overcome Them

Integrating your application with the right tools can help your warehouse and distribution center clients keep up with demands for near-instant, frictionless delivery.

supply chain challenges

Today’s retail supply chain is changing and evolving quickly, and our ISV partners are looking for insights that will help them develop applications that help companies meet demands both today and tomorrow. I’ve answered some pressing questions for ISVs working in this vertical: 

What are the latest trends impacting the small and mid-sized retail supply chain that ISVs should be aware of?

There is a big push to fulfill orders and get inventory out the door faster, track it better and minimize the cost of doing it. Small and mid-size businesses looking to build success in today’s marketplace must become highly nimble, especially when it comes to warehouse and supply chain operations. The more agility a company has, the better their ability to anticipate and respond to the “Amazon Effect” – the expectation for fast, frictionless transactions that has set the bar higher for any operation that ships product today.

What types of smart solutions can be adopted to elevate efficiency and productivity in the warehouse so that shipments can be made faster?

As warehouse technology is being updated, new investment includes innovative digital tools such as automation, robotics, AI and IoT as well as next-generation versions of perennial technology including warehouse management systems (WMS), barcode scanning and RFID and mobile and stationary label printers.

One of the easiest places to start is maybe one of the most basic, a barcode labeling system. Barcode labels are like the backbone of a warehouse because they vitally apart of every aspect of supply chain operation.

How can mobile and stationary printers streamline warehouse operations?

Something as simple as choosing the right mobile and stationary label printers can help strengthen a competitive edge by:

  • Improving supply chain visibility. Accurate labeling with barcodes is crucial to real-time tracking of pallets, packages and products on their journey from manufacturer to warehouse to customer, ensuring they get where they need to be when they need to be there. As just-in-time inventory increasingly moves to must-have, visibility becomes an even higher priority. Cost-conscious supply chain partners do not want to receive an item until they absolutely need to have it.
  • Supporting manufacturing processes. Warehouse workers could scan shipping labels to record incoming raw materials or inventory parts at the receiving dock, scan the materials and storage location once they’re moved to inventory, and, finally, scan the labels to pick raw materials or parts as needed to fulfill factory floor work orders.
  • Strengthening quality assurance and reduce fulfillment errors. In today’s omnichannel era, brick-and-mortar stores, as well as online retailers, depend on fulfillment houses to send the correct products to their customers. Even though a 99.7 percent order fulfillment accuracy may seem impressive, a small error rate translates into millions of errors annually, given the gargantuan order volume. Helping to ensure packages contain the correct items through clear, proper labeling can minimize the risk of misidentified items and support quality assurance procedures.
  • Streamlining warehouse operations. Customer expectations – such as same-day delivery, seamless returns, Buy Online Pickup In Store, and other facets key to a positive experience – continue to soar. In turn, this forces businesses, warehouses and their logistics and transportation partners to ramp up efficiency and productivity to new levels to ensure efficient routing, loading, unloading and shipping or re-shipping of merchandise. Mobile printers and strategically located stationary printers can save valuable time and ensure accurate labeling at every key supply chain juncture including:
    • Receiving – Applying barcode labels as soon as inbound items arrive ensures they can be accurately unloaded, checked-in, put away or handled by automated applications.
    • Picking – Generating barcode labels for each item picked allows them to be scanned right the in the staging or packaging area, then quickly and easily sorted for shipment.
    • Packing and shipping – Creating new labels to identify finished goods is a vital task for workers who are kitting, completing light assembly or packaging items. In addition, ship-to order applications can incorporate customer-specific labeling, scanning to fulfill orders and creating of accurate shipping labels.
    • Cross-docking – Already mandatory in some food sectors, cross-docking is also gaining popularity for other time-sensitive merchandise. Mobile printing technology enables warehouse workers to literally jump inside trucks at the inbound dock and start relabeling for store or customer delivery, increasing the efficiency of the ever-important last mile delivery.
  • Doing more with less. Powerful, reliable yet easy to use mobile and stationary printers, integrated with WMS and other systems, allow warehouse workers to efficiently generate accurate labeling for all inventory entering and leaving the warehouse. As a result, warehouse managers can operate with fewer workers most of the year and bring seasonal or temporary workers up to speed quickly and easily during peak times.

What are the top considerations for integrating your application with the latest labeling technologies?

Small and mid-size businesses have a lot of areas to tackle when it comes to growing success in today’s dynamic supply chain. Having the right software and WMS systems are critically important for achieving optimal warehouse productivity, but businesses must invest wisely to optimize their value. Here are six areas to consider when selecting labeling solutions:

  • Performance. Speed is the name of the game in warehouses now. Mobile and stationary printers are no exception. They need to print a variety of barcodes for packaging, shelf, shipping and other identifying labels quickly, clearly and easily. They need to be rugged and durable enough to withstand constant use by multiple workers in environments that are often harsh.
  • Affordability. With so many demands on a budget, companies must choose wisely when they spend. Advanced next-gen printers are more affordable than ever, but they’re not all created equal. Make sure to compare printer prices and features.
  • Ease of use. Workers need printing solutions that are easy to learn and easy to use without a major investment in training.
  • Reliability. Once labeling printing technology is installed, it must perform for the long haul. Make sure printers have premier two-year warranties.
  • Scalability. Printing solutions need to be flexible and versatile enough to grow with a business.

Ravi Panjwani is VP of Marketing and Product Management for Brother Mobile Solutions.