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Warehouse & Logistics

Digitizing forklift operations in the warehouse

According to Grand View Research, warehouse management will be a $5.72 billion industry by 2025 — and for good reason. Warehouses are the central hubs of today’s high-speed commerce. Forklift operators form a critical arm of warehouse management, as they oversee the thousands of touchpoints of daily incoming and outgoing shipping transactions.

Forklift operators receive incoming shipments on pallets and have to document the bill of goods accurately, noting damage or missing units, if any. They need to decide how and where to store the pallets using a complicated system of fixed and floating slots for stock-keeping units. Forklifts in warehousing also attend to order-picking and shipping, record actual time of departure (ATD) and determine active and surplus stock amounts if necessary.

While efficient warehouse management is critical to business operations, forklift solutions are not just about receiving and shipping goods. They’re also about forecasting demand and supply and adjusting stock accordingly. Forklift operators have immense potential to play an essential role in inventory management and asset tracking, which are critical aspects of business operations.

The Challenge of Manual Forklift Solutions

Forklifts in warehousing might be critical to movement of goods, but operators who continue to rely on manual methods of documentation risk process inefficiencies. Pen-and-paper clipboard solutions to warehouse management are problematic for a variety of reasons.

For one thing, they are labor-intensive. Because forklift operators have to record incoming freight on a paper clipboard solution before transferring it to the warehouse management system later, manual record-keeping requires unnecessary repetition of labor. A two-step process might become more complex depending on how many times a single pallet is handled. That increase in labor is expensive and time-consuming.

Manual processes also increase potential for inaccuracies. Shippers and companies demand a whole range of variables be recorded, including actual time of arrival, surplus shipment, customs regulations and compliance. Forklift operators record each transaction multiple times. With each repeated entry, the chances for inaccuracies increase. Paper documents also risk being lost or damaged, and more time needs to be spent tracking down or reentering missing information.

Altogether, manual processes make inventory management more challenging than it needs to be. A forklift operator must find an appropriate slot for each pallet. Floating and fixed slots and cross-docked merchandise must all be reconciled efficiently and speedily before a negative domino reaction wreaks havoc with inventory counts. Manual systems make these processes harder to implement.

How Mobile Devices Help

Mobile devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 and the Tab Active Pro help forklift operators by digitizing everyday warehouse management processes at the point of use. These tablets are ruggedized for the heavily equipped warehouse environment and can be fixed on mounts such as those from ProClip, Gamber Johnson or RAM Mounts.

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A ruggedized ready-to-use tablet can also incorporate scanning software solutions, such as those from Scandit and Koamtac. With special attachments, mobile tablets can easily scan inventory barcodes and autopopulate warehouse management systems. Tablets have become the first point of digitization of forklift solutions. Their rugged and mobile nature allows the work to come to the forklift operator instead of the other way around.

Mobile devices help forklifts in warehousing by:

  • Automating warehouse transactions. Forklift operators can scan barcodes on pallets on receipt and when shipping orders. Detailed information about the goods populates warehouse management software, saving time and increasing accuracy.
  • Facilitating inventory management. Since mobile devices deliver forklift warehousing solutions that scan inventory at the point of handling, companies get a speedier picture of inventory and where goods are in transit. This allows for more efficient inventory management. Downstream processes such as forecasts can be more reliable because they’re based on accurate, real-time data.
  • Streamlining customer service. Digitizing forklift operations using mobile tablets increases speed of transactions and makes shipping, handling and receiving more efficient. More accurate records of back orders, active stock, and floating and fixed slots will help forklift operators pick and pull orders for more accurate and speedy fulfillment. About 30 percent of online orders are returned, and 23 percent of returns are not the items customers ordered, according to Invesp. Companies need to do everything they can to increase accuracy and efficiencies in fulfillment. Mobile devices help them do so.

In the busy warehouse environment, forklift operators face a variety of pain points that can decrease efficiency and productivity. But mobile tablet forklift solutions digitize everyday operations and help forklift operators do their jobs better — and faster.

Find more paperless workflow solutions that can save your company time and money. Learn how to build a more efficient warehouse with this free guide.

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Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is a mechanical engineer turned award-winning writer. Her work has been published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, OZY, Vox Media and other publications.

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