Navigating the Complexities of Automated Data Collection in Warehousing
Implementing automated data collection into your warehouse management is essential for efficient and accurate inventory management. However, there are several considerations to consider before making your final decision. Do you choose barcoding or RFID? Which scanner works best for your warehouse? What information do you put into the barcodes? This article discusses some of the issues involved in automating warehouse management in Business Central.
Aligning Business Central configuration to your physical processes
One of the first questions to answer is: What does your Business Central configuration look like? Or, perhaps the question is better asked: what do you want it to look like?
It starts with optimizing the physical processes in your warehouse. Determine the ideal process to pick and put away items in inventory. Then, configure Business Central to enable that process. Ask yourself: How do items move from receiving to storage? Are you utilizing inventory picks or warehouse receipts? Understanding these processes is the first step in configuring Business Central to mirror and enhance your day-to-day operations.
Enabling bin functionality
Another consideration is whether to enable bin functionality or not. While this feature provides granular control over product location, it introduces transaction complexities. Without bin functionality, you may know you have 20 of a particular item in stock but not their precise locations. Enabling bin functionality allows for exact tracking of items in inventory, but now, each transaction requires specifying the bin. Careful consideration is needed to strike the right balance between precision and ease of transaction management.
Barcoding for seamless operations
Barcoding is critical to automated data collection, simplifying how you track items within the warehouse. However, developing a coherent barcoding strategy is not as straightforward as it may seem. Start by determining whether vendors or manufacturers can generate barcodes for your products. If not, you’ll need to establish an in-house barcoding system. Consider barcode formats, labeling of bins, and naming conventions. The goal is to create a seamless process that enhances operational efficiency.
The type of coding you select is a factor as well. Barcodes can be one-dimensional (linear strips of vertical lines) or two-dimensional (QR codes). Two-dimensional codes are groupings of geometrical shapes (squares, dots, hexagons, etc.) arranged in a specific two-dimensional pattern (like a square). Two-dimensional barcodes can handle more information than one-dimensional barcodes and may include lot and serial numbers, expiration dates, manufacturing locations, etc. Barcodes of both types are relatively inexpensive but require items to be scanned individually with a line-of-sight optical scanner, which can be a slow process.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) allows multiple items to be scanned simultaneously without the line-of-sight requirement of optical barcodes and can hold more information than optical barcodes, but the technology has its limitations:
- Materials that absorb or reflect the RF signal can impact how easily the RFID tags can be read.
- RFID might not be as precise as barcode scanners since the scanners will read all nearby tags.
- RFID readers can be much more expensive than barcode readers.
Managing complexity in multiple warehouses
Expanding operations to multiple warehouses introduces complexity to the automated data collection process. While the system treats inter-warehouse movements similarly to customer shipments or vendor receipts, staging shipments between warehouses can complicate matters. Batching requirements and optimizing the frequency of shipments become factors in managing this complexity. Careful consideration of Dynamics 365 Business Central setup is necessary to ensure smooth operations across multiple locations.
Choosing suitable scanners for your operational needs
The selection of scanners is another critical decision. Consider factors such as scanning range, device style (pistol grip or physical keyboard), ruggedness, and the need for a camera. The right scanner can significantly impact the efficiency of your operations. For instance, if your warehouse has tall shelves, investing in a long-range scanner can eliminate the need for additional equipment like manlifts or forklifts.
Selecting the right software solution
Once physical processes, bin functionality, barcoding strategy, and scanners are in place, the final piece of the puzzle is choosing the right software solution. Look for software that offers configurability and customizability, allowing you to tailor the system to your specific requirements. A seamless integration between scanners, Business Central, and the chosen software is paramount for a cohesive automated data collection system. Warehouse Insights from Insight Works and Lanham’s ACE Warehousing are two warehouse management solutions that integrate well with Business Central.
Implementing automated data collection in warehousing requires planning, alignment with physical processes, and a thoughtful approach. Businesses can have an efficient automated data collection system that enhances overall warehouse operations by addressing considerations such as bin functionality, barcoding strategy, multi-warehouse management, scanner selection, and software integration with Business Central.
Talk to ArcherPoint to learn how we can help you optimize your warehouse and inventory management with D365 Business Central.