Application

Warehouse Inventory Tracking with Automated Put-Away and Pick Location Verification


Sectors

Warehousing & Logistics, FMCG, Automotive, Automotive Components, Steel & Mining, Electronics, Electronics Components, Electrical, White Goods & White Goods Components, Pharmaceuticals, Life Sciences, E-Commerce

Tags

Digital Supply Chain, Industry 4.0, Smart Warehousing, Inventory Tracking, Track and Trace, Automation, Location Verification, MHE Tracking, Forklift, EOT Crane, Warehouse Management System


Context

In a warehouse or distribution center or fulfillment center, thousands of inventory units in pallets or coils or bins, which are brought in and shipped out. These handling operations are carried out by manually operated material handling equipment such as forklifts, lift-trucks, tow-tuggers, tow-carts or EOT Cranes. In a warehouse, products generally go through the processes of receiving, put-away, storage, replenishment, picking, staging and dispatch of products to customers. Most companies have dedicated systems and departments in place to monitor and manage inventory throughout the supply chain.
A warehouse inventory load’s (pallet or bin or coil or case) initial location influences all the processes that follow. WMS’s logic for put-away, replenishment and pick can only ensure location accuracy if the operator has the tools to accurately confirm the transaction by rapidly scanning the inventory and location labels or speaking a check digit for the rack or floor location. To record every put away, replenishment and pick transaction as well as to monitor capacity and space availability, warehouses use a system such as manual updates, put-to-light or check-digit codes to verify locations.


Challenges
  • Location verification systems based on barcode scans or put-to-light are prone to human errors such as forgetting or skipping scans or scanning the wrong barcodes (or pressing the put to light buttons)
  • Even for check digit systems, workers memorize a check-digit resulting in the risk of entering it before reaching the location resulting in inaccurate location record or picking from the wrong location upon arrival
  • Inaccurate put away leads to inventory not being locatable at the desired location during the picking process which results in unfulfilled or delayed or, worse, inaccurate shipments
  • To arrest these inaccuracies, some warehouses have a quarterly or monthly down-time to pre-emptively conduct an inventory location reconciliation and correction
  • Existing location verification systems based either on manual entry or barcode scans or check-digit systems are unproductive activities increasing the cycle times and operating costs resulting in reduced throughput
  • Inefficient manual routing by MHE operators during material put-away, replenishment and pick leads to a higher travel time and distance resulting in capacity under-utilization

Solution Approach
  • Integration with existing ERP/WMS for a digitizing and auto-updating put-away checklist and pick-list on a screen interface mounted on MHE before every task
  • Live 30cm precise location tracking of MHE across 3-dimensions throughout the warehouse using Clean Slate’s inLocate 6.0 RTLS
  • inLocate 6.0 also automatically captures inventory storage location during put-away and picking processes and verifies if the operator has put-away the inventory at or picked the inventory from the correct location
  • Live inventory inaccuracy audible alerts on screen interface of MHE and supervisor’s web dashboard if the MHE operator has put-away inventory at the incorrect location or picked inventory from the incorrect location in the warehouse
  • (Optional) Replacement of manual barcode scanner with UHF RFID auto-reader on MHE. RFID reader automatically scans the RFID tags on the inventory load during put-away and pick processes and records the transaction. RFID identifies the inventory loaded or unloaded by the MHE, while inLocate 6.0 RTLS tracks and verifies the inventory storage location with continuous real time MHE tracking
  • System continuously records and updates any intermediate change of inventory location with Clean Slate’s inLocate 6.0 RTLS
  • Real time inventory control and automated audit reports with historical trail for every inventory unit load
  • Dynamic turn-by-turn smart routing instructions displaying the shortest paths considering the traffic for pick and drop of material on screen interface for MHE operator
  • Live display of process KPIs such as daily attendance, number of loading & unloading cycle trips
  • MHE utilization analysis like distance traveled, run & stop time, idle & down-time, average speed and % optimal routing on a web dashboard
  • Centralized web communication portal for supervisor to dynamically instruct MHE operators via their screen interface during express or ad-hoc requirements
  • MHE location movement Heat-map and Spaghetti diagram analysis to visualize the flow, traffic density and bottlenecks at different times

Benefits
  • Higher inventory accuracy and reduction in associated costs of handling complaints, inventory losses and administrative burden
  • Reduced order picking and order put-away cycle times by up-to 15%
  • Lower warehouse down-time by up to 3%
  • Reduced reliance of warehouse productivity and inventory accuracy on manual activities or operator’s experience and knowledge
  • Greater reliability and higher efficiency of audit through real time inventory control without costly manual stock counts conducted through paper and data entry processes
  • Increased control of shipping products as per FIFO, LIFO or FEFO practices thereby lowering inventory losses
  • Increase MHE utilization by up to 20% by digital process validation, minimizing stop times and increase in number of cycle trips
  • Right-size the MHE fleet by tracking actual utilization and actual operating time
  • Decrease the distance traveled by MHE and pick-drop cycle times by up to 10% through dynamic intelligent turn-by-turn routing with the shortest paths
  • Increase in warehouse space utilization by up to 20% with underutilized space optimization through heat-map and spaghetti analysis
  • Higher system uptime by up to 25% than pure BLE or RFID or Barcode system due to higher performance and reliability of inLocate 6.0 in industrial set-ups