Data collection: How small data points inform the big picture

From RFID tags to mobile computers, visibility into operational details can lead to significant productivity improvements. Here’s a look at how three companies moved forward from paper-based systems and never looked back.

February 01, 2013 - MMH Editorial

Big data might be the next frontier in the optimization of materials handling systems, but many companies would settle for some smaller data about their operations. Substantial improvements could be found in the answers to simple questions: Where is it? When was it put there? How long did that take?

The examples here include how one of the largest 3PLs in the world replaced pens and clipboards with radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking technology to cut administrative costs and provide unprecedented visibility into yard operations. Another company used intuitive mobile computers and a new warehouse management system to transition away from a reliance on the “tribal knowledge” of a workforce with an average of 20 years of experience. The third company set out to solve a replenishment accuracy problem, and ended up optimizing its fleet and boosting productivity.

These companies optimized processes around data, improving efficiency, flexibility and visibility. Between the three success stories, the longest implementation time was six months, by which time each company had already begun to realize the benefits of data collection.

RFID streamlines yard management, enhances visibility
Global 3PL replaces paper-based system with removable RFID tags and cloud-based software to double gate throughput.

Rugged mobile computers help weather the economic storm
Following a transition from a paper-based system, one distributor held sales steady at the height of the economic downturn.

Bar code system improves visibility into product and equipment
Distributor trims fleet, moves from 90% replenishment accuracy to 100%.



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About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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