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3 Reasons It Makes Sense To Replace Old Lift Trucks

This is a guest post by Cheryl Bikowski, Marketing Communications Supervisor at Gamber-Johnson, the premier provider of computer mounts for equipment in the material handling industry.

 Lift Truck

The lift trucks and other equipment you use in your distribution warehouse are designed to last. When maintained properly, you should get a long service life out of them. However, there comes a time when you really need to replace the equipment you are using. New lift trucks can offer you benefits in your material handling operations. Here are three good questions you should consider when evaluating your equipment.

Does it meet safety standards?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidelines under Standards – 29 CFR 1910.178. Standards include labeling or identification of approval from a testing facility. Depending on the nature of your warehouse, some types of lift trucks may not be appropriate. For example, in areas that contain flammable vapors, lift trucks labeled as EE, ES or E are not acceptable. The lift must have an EX designation.

Lift trucks are considered unsafe if welds are broken or bolts are missing. While these are repairable issues, problems must be corrected immediately. If any portion of the overhead guard has been damaged, the vehicle must be taken out of service for repair. The repairs must meet safety standards.

You should also consider the ease of operation. If the forks are becoming bent or are difficult to adjust, you are sacrificing safety and efficiency. If the hydraulic system fails frequently, you face more than just a repair issue — you face a safety issue. Newer lift trucks are also available that offer more efficiency and meet or exceed EPA Tier 4 requirements.

Is it past reasonable repair?

Standard maintenance and repairs are expected for all warehouse equipment, including lift trucks. A well-maintained forklift should last 10 years or longer. After this point, you should expect more frequent and more expensive repairs. The older your lift is, the more difficult it can be to obtain quality parts. However, you must also consider the environment your equipment operates in. Harsh environments will reduce the expected lifespan of any equipment.

Add up the costs of repairing your lift truck and look at what you are spending on a yearly basis. You will reach a point when these costs exceed the cost of a new lift. If you have a lift truck that is frequently out for service, you must take the time lost into your considerations. You are either losing a piece of equipment you need for maximum efficiency or you may be renting a lift. This becomes an additional cost factor in repairs.

Your business should also look at other factors involved in your current lift truck and a replacement. Does your business use depreciation on your equipment for tax purposes? If the lift is past the point of providing a depreciation value, it may well be time for replacement. This is an issue that is normally considered by accounting departments, but it should be kept in mind.

Does your lift truck have mounting solutions?

Technology is everywhere and your material handling procedures can benefit from technology improvements. You need to get work done quickly while still maintaining safety standards. Warehouse management software programs will make your order picking and processing easier. Your operators will also need access to smartphones, laptops or tablets to access information.

Using the right software programs will greatly increase your efficiency. Operators can be guided to the exact areas where materials need to be stored or pulled. If required materials are missing from inventory, your operator can send an immediate message to alert your order department.

If materials need to be moved from one location to another, your operator can enter the quantity, date and new location, right from the lift truck. With immediate data input, you are much less likely to face forgotten information that could seriously affect your inventory procedures.

Lift truck operators need both hands to operate the equipment safely. They cannot juggle Wi-Fi devices while navigating loads. You also do not want expensive equipment bouncing around on the floor next to the driver. With the right mounting equipment, expensive devices are protected from falls and even vibration. Your operator can simply stop quickly to input the data and then continue with the job at hand. Mounting equipment can be added to older lifts, and many newer vehicles will come with solutions already in place.

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A Window into Your Logistics Operations: Client Web Portals

Clients can be demanding. In today’s world, unless you supply your clients with real-time information, you could fall behind the countless other third-party logistics companies that do provide this service. Your clients want to know where their merchandise is located throughout the delivery process, so having the right warehouse management software (WMS) in place to ensure that these clients always have access to this information can help your business to grow. The system will also help you in tracking the merchandise that you are moving for these clients, so that you can streamline your warehouse and minimize your transportation times.

Client Web PortalsTruck

Once you have a WMS and/or transportation management system installed, you can give each client the ability to log in and check the status of his or her inventory and deliveries. That way, the client is aware of where their merchandise is at all times, even during the transportation process. This makes life much easier for your customer service representatives, as they will not have to look up this information every time a client calls with an inquiry. It also improves things from the client’s end, as he or she will always have access to this information. Because of this, you will not have to rely on your customer service department to look the information up on a constant basis. Peace of mind goes a long way for the client, and having access to a web portal provides it for customers daily.

The Process

While this software might seem complicated, the process behind it is actually very simple. Whenever a product enters your warehouse, it will be scanned (e.g via RF gun). The same can be said for any time a product leaves your warehouse for another destination. Any time that a product is scanned by one of your staff members, the software automatically updates the information that the clients access through the web portal. This provides your clients with real-time information around the clock, allowing you to give your customer the best possible service.

Space Management

In addition to the benefits that this type of software provides for your clients, it can also benefit you. Once the software is in place, you will know exactly how much product you have in your warehouse at all times, allowing you to manage your space efficiently. The more merchandise that you can store and transport for your clients, the more money your company will make. As a result, it makes sense
to avoid wasting space and to get the most out of it.

Tracking Inventory

The short-term benefits related to having WMS are obvious, but there are long-term benefits to consider as well. For starters, the program tracks your inventory while it in inside the warehouse, so Inventoryyou always know where it is located. You will also know who has moved the inventory, when it was moved, and where it was moved in the warehouse. This creates a culture of accountability for your workers, since they know that everything that they do will be tracked and recorded. This is a great way to keep your employees working hard, which saves money every day.

State of the Merchandise

Companies that store perishable items can also take advantage of this software, as it can track the expiry date on these items. This allows you to see when the product must be moved by and where it is being stored in the warehouse. This can help you and your clients avoid the problems associated with spoiled food and the money loss that goes along with it.

Access from Anywhere

Both you and your client will have access to all of this information from anywhere with an internet connection. This provides peace of mind for everyone involved, as there is very little chance of inventory going missing or being late on delivery. By providing your clients with a window into the entire logistics process, you can keep them informed and happy about your services.

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Introducing “Outside the Box” Technologies into Your Business

Thinking outside the box” is a mantra that has always been valuable in the business world. Simply put, it points to the idea that the most obvious answer to a question or solution to a problem may not be the appropriate one for the situation. By being prepared to think outside the box and embrace the unexpected, you’re opening both yourself and your organization up to a whole new world of possibilities, many of which would have previously seemed impossible with a more traditional viewpoint.

In today’s modern climate, technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that thinking “outside the box” isn’t just a recommendation – it’s practically a requirement. There are a few key “outside the box” technologies in particular that have potentially dramatic implications for third party logistics providers all over the world.

3D Printing

One of these bold new technologies is 3D printing, which is also commonly known as additive manufacturing. 3D printing involves the creation of almost any three dimensional object that you can think of through a process in which layers of material are continually laid down on a surface under the control of a computer. Using only a 3D printer, a connected computer and a digital design, nearly any type of object can be made to a user’s exact specifications using the appropriate type of material.

For third party logistics providers in particular, the potential of this is seemingly limitless. In a White Paper written by Ken Lyon and John Manners-Bell, they use the example of service parts to get this point across. If a spare part for a particular type of machine or vehicle is required, it can be printed quickly and dispatched to the appropriate location just as fast using only a 3D printer and anLogistics 3D Printing electronic design library.

Even if the part that is required is no longer being traditionally manufactured, an existing model can be scanned in 3D and additional parts can be made on demand. 3D printing stands to not only dramatically reduce costs normally associated with warehousing and inventory, but it also has the potential to completely redefine the supply chain management process in general.

Mobile Applications

Another “outside the box” technology that can be implemented into the third party logistics business involves embracing mobile applications. Implementing mobile technology in your business is something that is handled primarily through software, thanks largely to the fact that most people already have their own Internet-ready smartphones and other devices of that nature. More specifically, Web-based and mobile order and shipment management applications can be used to gain finer control over the supply chain process than ever before. When paired with location-based tracking technology, these advancements can be used to find the exact location of individual items at a moment’s notice.

Light Picking

Another example of a benefit to be achieved by thinking outside the box includes light picking technology, also commonly referred to as “pick to light.” In this type of deployment, a light-directed system is installed in a warehouse to expand what employees are capable of doing. Lights are installed above racks, bins and other types of areas where employees will be picking items from (hence the name). When a customer places an order for a particular item or even a set of items, an associated barcode is scanned by the operator.Light Picking

Based on the items that the customer is requiring, the lights above the respective bins will illuminate and contain specific pieces of information like how many items should be picked and more. Employees will no longer have to spend varying amounts of time searching high and low for particular items. The system itself will automatically identify not only the location of those items but the quantity that is desired. The process itself becomes substantially easier and faster, increasing productivity as a result. The only expenses associated with this type of deployment include the lights themselves, the installation for the system and the dedicated software used during the picking of orders.

These are just a few of the many examples of the benefits that are associated with implementing outside the box technologies in your business. Voice picking technology, waveless technology, Kiva robots and augmented reality picking are a few more examples of advancements that are just on the horizon.

There has been much discussion regarding these and other types of “outside the box” technological advancements. Many assume that technology like 3D printing will spell “doom” for third party logistics providers. If 3D printing becomes easier, more affordable and readily available, what need will businesses have for the providers themselves? That type of thinking is shortsighted, however, as with the right attitude these technologies can dramatically benefit 3PL providers, not harm them. 3D printing, mobile technology and more – such as enhanced automation and RF operators – can make it easier for 3PL providers to do their jobs, which will only result in stronger business and better service moving forward.

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Mobile and Beyond – The Future of 3PL

The Future of 3PLBecause third party logistics providers play such an important role in the daily operations of many different types of businesses, it makes sense, to a certain extent, to always be looking toward the future to try to figure out what big advancements are on the horizon.

If you look back as recently as 10 years, the landscape of 3PL providers across the country has changed in a number of dramatic and integral ways. Popular thinking from experts, like 3PLStudy.com, has indicated that as 3PL providers continue to grow and evolve in the future, they will only ingrain themselves further into the day-to-day operations of businesses everywhere.

One of the major ways that third party logistics is expected to change in the future has to do with an increased emphasis on mobile applications of all types. Those in the industry are already seeing the beginning of this type of change. Work that was done on a desktop or, at best, on a laptop computer is now also available on a smartphone, tablet or some other type of portable device.

Current trends expect this emphasis on the mobile landscape to increase dramatically moving forward. The prominence of this trend was confirmed in the 2014 Third Party Logistics Study conducted by 3PLStudy.com. More specifically, the study indicated that paper records of all types and nearly every other function currently expected from a third party logistics provider will be available on mobile devices in the next 10 years for businesses to use while on the go.

Another important change in third party logistics has to do with an equally massive change in the economy and in business in general. Analysts, such as at Deloitte, are predicting a dramatic globalization of the economy to take place by 2020. As businesses continue to grow, they need to operate not just on a national scale but on the global landscape to thrive and continue to stay profitable. As technology continues to advance and connect businesses together in new and interesting ways, the world gets smaller as a result. Supply chains will only get more intricate and complex as costs begin to vary wildly based on the scope of a business. As a result, third party logistics providers will need to meet all of these demands in order to not only stay functional within this globalized business environment but to stay relevant at the same time.

Another key change that will take place in the future of third party logistics is an increased level of collaboration between 3PL providers and the shippers that they’re doing business with on a regular basis. Technology is already paving the way for this type of relationship to take place in the present day, so the natural evolution of that relationship is to take things to the next level. Thanks to online Web portals and mobile applications that allow for more intricately managed inventory by vendors, vendors will be able to monitor the inventory of a supplier themselves and make resupply decisions based on demand and current trends. This type of information sharing and others will become more and more critical as third party logistics providers will need to be as flexible as possible to help maintain the speed and integrity of the services that they’re offering to businesses on a daily basis.

We are living in a rapidly evolving and exciting time. The key is preparing yourself, so you can properly adapt to whatever comes your way. Remember to always be looking towards the future to stay ahead of the game.

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Top Reasons for Considering an On-site WMS Solution over Cloud-Based

On-Site WMS Solutions

If you are a participant in the rapidly growing and increasingly competitive 3PL market space, you know you are forced to constantly evaluate every aspect of your operations. As information technology plays an increasingly vital role in all elements of logistics, making the right decisions today often determine your ability to succeed tomorrow. One of the pressing issues for many providers today is the issue of relying upon on-premise or cloud IT services.

Warehouse Management Systems

Grappling with everything from transportation to billing to warehouse management presents a complex challenge for many small to mid-sized companies. For those involved in any aspect of warehouse and distribution center management, the solutions begin at the choice of an effective WMS.

The initial decision you face is choosing between one of two directions. The first approach is the traditional method of installing a proprietary system onsite with total, local control of the hardware, software, and network. The second option is to access your WMS through the cloud, relying on the services of a cloud-based data center.

If you turn to the cloud, you face another decision. You can still choose your own, custom WMS, or you can use a web-based product sold as a Software as a Service WMS. There are, then, two key parts of your decision-making process. These are:

  • Keep your WMS customized and proprietary, whether it is on local hardware or managed via the cloud
  • Turn to a more generic, cloud-based WMS that you use in a SaaS environment

Develop Your Scorecard

In coming to a solution that is right for your business, you will balance a number of issues ranging from short-term installation costs to long-term ability to get the job done. If you are trying to decide between a custom installation and SaaS, here are a number of factors to include in that scorecard:

  1. The problem with “one-size fits all.” For all the benefits of a cloud-based SaaS product, the simple fact is that when it comes to effective WMS, it is rare for one package to provide the flexibility and functionality your circumstances requires. Be careful when compromising on essential features when a “simpler solution” seems attractive.
  2. Integration with automated warehouse and handling equipment. One area many packaged systems fall short is full integration with existing and to-be-purchased handling equipment. This usually represents a large capital investment that reflects your specific warehouse operations and needs. Any WMS that does not offer full capabilities in this area presents a major challenge to operational efficiency.
  3. Customer responsiveness. As with your warehouse infrastructure, you have built a customer base with your own style of operations and service. Be wary of any standard WMS that requires you to tinker with that formula of success. Likewise, always remember that your customers are interested in results, not with conforming to your IT needs.
  4. Accountability. If you have a vendor providing your own customized solution, they are accountable and responsive to you. Dealing with a remote vendor serving many customers with a packaged or even slightly modified package often presents problems.
  5. Legal issues. While your cloud SaaS vendor will provide a service agreement, many companies are unaware of their exposures if that remote vendor or data center fails or has other problems. Recapturing your applications and stored data presents a real, if minor, risk to your continuity of operations.

While the cloud is here to stay, the solution that works for you may include an onsite installation. Properly considering your options is the first step in making that decision.

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Utilizing New Technologies to Improve Warehouse Operations

M2M Technology

When attempting to make a warehouse operate more efficiently, there are few options that a third party logistics (3PL) provider can utilize. 3PL companies are specialized and focused on making sure their operations are functioning at peak efficiency.

The best news for shippers who don’t have a big budget for a crew to monitor inflow and outflow is that 3PL providers already have that infrastructure in place. The infrastructure is set up to such a degree that contracting with 3PL companies can turn out to be less costly in the end, as 3PL companies have perfected the process so your team doesn’t waste time troubleshooting.

M2M solutions have changed the way that technology can be used when it comes to warehouse operations. M2M or Machine to Machine refers to technologies that allow both wired and wireless systems to communicate with other devices of the same type. For example, storage and transportation is aided with the implementation of tracking labels that are smaller than your average UPC sticker but provide bar codes that enable managers to track location as well as temperature and the physical state products are in. If something is damaged, or removed from a storage area, M2M tech can alert companies automatically, allowing for 3PL service providers to deal with a problem before it takes hold.

Another M2M advancement that has been hitting the market in the last few years is the ability to monitor not just the temperature of the storage unit being used, but the individual temperatures of the products themselves. M2M solutions work to tell people if something has been damaged by being exposed to extreme temperatures much quicker.

Having this data at hand means the warehouse manager has a better understanding of what products are still viable at a glance and which need to be replaced. Using M2M logistic solutions keeps the return on investment when it comes to dealing with warehouse operations as high as possible. There are times when the ROI can have a razor thin margin between high and low, and getting as much information as possible about the products is the difference between turning a profit and recording a loss.

On-demand transportation is a relatively new offering from some 3PL service providers. On-demand transportation services take the worry of transportation management out of the hands of the warehouse operations chief. 3PL services handle the worries about transportation instead. On-demand transportation can still be somewhat costly and the return needs to be examined further, but for warehouses that are suffering from employment shortfalls, the option is there for the taking, even if it is only being used in the short term.

A good 3PL takes some of the trickiness away by offering up different solutions that are fully customizable and scalable. Having a one-size-fits-all approach in this type of business is counter productive. 3PLs are very good at making sure a warehouse operation is chugging along by tracking the actual product but also by making sure financial targets are being met. The inflows and outflows of a warehouse operation can be tricky depending on what sector of the market the business is operating in.

Sources

http://ipcommunications.tmcnet.com/topics/ip-communications/articles/31196-ramco-systems-savid-technologies-enter-strategic-alliance.htm

http://maves.com/Solutions.html

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Logistics in a World of 3D Printing

Logistics 3D Printing

It wasn’t too long ago that 3D printing was limited to science-fiction novels or incredibly expensive government and corporate prototypes. However, major advances over the past few years have made additive manufacturing, or “3D printing” as it is more commonly known, a very practical and increasingly cost-effective way to manufacture certain products. However, 3D printing technology is still very much in its infancy, and it is just now starting to become practical in specific industries.

How will the logistics industry will be affected by 3D printing?

One of the industries poised to be most affected by 3D printing is the logistics industry. After World War II, the global economy entered a period of time in which massive quantities of goods were produced in one country or region then shipped somewhere else on the planet far away from the product’s origin. Early on, this meant that the United States was shipping their goods around the world. More recently, robust logistical routes allowed countries like China and India to manufacture goods that could then be shipped to wealthier countries where consumers could actually afford the products being made. This scenario helped raise previously impoverished nations out of poverty, and was a boon for the global logistics industry.

3D printing is poised to completely revolutionize this status quo.

The good news for logistics companies

Fortunately, it is not all bad news for the logistics industry. While it is true that the ability to inexpensively produce manufactured goods in the destination country will reduce the amount of international freight being shipped, logistics companies will also see substantially reduced overheads.

The increased ability to customize products and materials will dramatically reduce warehouse requirements across the industry. Because products can be made to order, there will be less need for stockpiles of inventory. At the same time, next-generation 3D printing devices will reduce, if not eliminate, the need for low-level assembly line workers. With less money tied up in warehoused inventory, reduced warehouse requirements and less expensive payrolls, logistics companies will become more flexible and streamlined.

How logistics companies can survive and thrive in the new environment

While it is true that localized manufacturing will reduce the need to ship finished products across the world, it is important to remember that products that are 3D printed still require raw materials to be produced. Shipment of raw materials is likely to be even more important than it is today. Not only will large companies require direct shipments of the raw materials, but every household with a 3D printer will require shipments as well. Residential delivery of raw materials could be a massive boom sector for the logistics industry.

In addition to residential delivery, logistics companies can transition into more of a full-service entity. Logistics companies can move away from the 3PL model, in which a particular logistics company is only directly involved in one specific part of the supply chain. Instead, logistics managers can adopt a 4PL strategy, in which they serve as a comprehensive solution from raw material sourcing to home delivery.

Many experts believe that 3D printing has the potential to completely change the way the world economy works, and to dramatically increase the living standards of individuals across the globe. Inevitably, there will be some painful transition periods and rough patches, particularly for companies so integrated with the current economic order. However, with the proper foresight, logistics companies can adjust their business models to become even more important than they are today.

Sources:

http://www.manufacturing.net/blogs/2013/10/why-3d-printing-could-be-a-manufacturing-and-logistics-game-changer

http://cerasis.com/2014/02/10/3d-printing-supply-chain/

http://www.supplychain247.com/article/the_implications_of_3d_printing_for_the_global_logistics_industry/manufacturing

http://www.inddist.com/blogs/2014/02/why-3d-printing-could-be-manufacturing-and-logistics-game-changer

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100 Recommended References for Logistics IT

Since information technology is so integral to the success of the entire logistics industry, it is important to have a strong grasp on the fundamentals, and the available logistics IT services. Logistics IT providers, industry magazines, and general logistics news sources are all included on this list to provide as complete a picture as possible of the quickly evolving logistics IT space. These sites are not being ranked or rated comparatively, they are only being recommended as useful references for newcomers and veterans in logistics IT. This collection of 100 websites is intended to give readers, a primer on some of the best and most reliable logistics IT information available online: 100 Recommended References for Logistics IT.

00_recommended_references_for_logistics_it

 

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Forklift Operation Safety Tips

Forklift SafetyAccording to Safety.BLR.com, every year, thousands of workers are seriously injured in forklift accidents, and about 100 workers die as a result of these accidents. Since forklifts may travel as fast as 10mph and weigh over 3 tons, they can become a great danger if not operated safely. Companies must implement the following forklift operation safety tips to prevent accidents, injuries and fatalities.

General Forklift Precautions and Tips

Certain general forklift precautions and tips must be followed to ensure safe operation. Before every shift, examine the forklift to ensure no repairs are needed. If the forklift requires repairs or maintenance, do not operate it. At work sites or in a warehouse, follow designated roadways. ComplianceandSafety.com also notes that operating forklifts should never be left unattended. This is not only a safety hazard, but leaving keys in an unattended forklift is also illegal. Other general forklift precautions include refueling forklifts in well-ventilated areas, applying the parking brake when parking a forklift and understanding and sticking to the forklift’s lifting capacity.

Safety Tips for Forklift Operation

To operate a forklift safely, operators are required to go through a forklift safety training and certification course. According to OSHA, forklift training should include formal instruction, practical training and an evaluation of the trainee’s performance. Topics that should be covered in an OSHA approved training program include:

–          Operating instructions and precautions

–          Instrumentation and controls

–          Maneuvering and steering

–          Vehicle capacity and stability

–          Motor or engine operation

–          Maintenance and routine inspections

–          Operating limitations

–          Charging/recharging batteries and refueling

When operating a forklift, be attentive and alert, observing the surrounding environment. Avoid hazards, use a voice or horn to alert others in the area, avoid loading or unloading on ramps and be aware of changes to the operating environment.

Wear the seatbelt at all times. Many forklift accidents involve the forklift tipping over, and wearing the seatbelt helps to prevent crushing or being thrown off. Ensuring that the body is fully inside the frame is important, as is wearing the appropriate clothing, which includes a hard hat, hi-visibility jacket, tight clothing that will not be caught in the controls or gears, and sturdy footwear.

Tips for Carrying Loads Safely

Failing to carry loads safely with a forklift may result in an accident. Pay attention to load logistics, placing loads near the mast instead of near the front. Never load a forklift beyond the load capacity. When carrying a load, avoid instability problems by carrying them as low as possible. Strapping loads, or ensuring they are stable, helps avoid stability problems as well. For loads that obstruct the view of the operator, the forklift should be operated in reverse to improve visibility.

Essential Guidelines to Keep Others in the Area Safe

Unfortunately, forklifts may become a safety hazard to others in the area if operators fail to pay attention to their surroundings. Carefully look for other people when operating a forklift and avoid making fast moves, which could unseat the load and make it crash down on someone. Before backing up, check carefully to ensure that no one is behind you. Never allow anyone to walk under the forks or stand on the forks.

Forklifts perform an essential job at warehouses and construction sites, but they can be a hazard if not operated correctly. Workplace conditions, depending on the type of workplace, may make using a forklift even more dangerous. While proper training and following forklift requirements ensures that your company fulfills the legal requirements for forklift operation, following forklift operation safety tips also helps prevent workplace injuries and product damage.

Sources:

December 2009,  “Forklift Safety Tips”  http://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-news/equipment-and-process-safety/forklift-safety/Forklift-Safety-Tips/

“Forklift Safety Tips: A Comprehensive Resource”  http://www.complianceandsafety.com/safety-tips/forklift-safety-tips.php

“Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Powered Industrial Trucks” https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9828#1910.178%28l%29

December 2009,  “Forklift Safety Tips”  http://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-news/equipment-and-process-safety/forklift-safety/Forklift-Safety-Tips/

“Top Forklift Operator Safety Tips”  https://www.forkliftacademy.com/top-forklift-operator-safety-tips/

“ Safety and Healthy Topics: Powered Industrial Trucks – Forklifts”  https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/poweredindustrialtrucks/index.html

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Voice-Picking Technology in Warehouse Management

Voice-picking technology for warehouse management has been in use for two decades. However, recent advancements in the third-party logistics software (3PL) have made these centralized warehouse systems much more efficient. Also known as voice-directed warehouse management (VDW), this kind of software was conceived so that warehouse pickers could work with their hands and eyes free from clipboard and tablet-related constraints.

Modern 3PL software takes 1990s VDW to an incredible new level, because it allows not only voice picking but also inventory, billing and order management. Thanks to this type of software, warehouse management has become a much more streamlined, efficient and safe process.

How Voice Picking Works

Speech recognition and synthesis technologies are at the heart of voice picking software. These systems have become infinitely more effective over the course of the last 20 years, which means that 3PL software today can identify specific warehouse workers and keep itemized data. For the software to work, warehouse pickers are outfitted with their own small computer device and an ear piece; the computer works as a mobile receiver and transmitter to relay data to and from the centralized source. When an individual picker receives a message or a work order, he or she will hear the message out loud and respond the same way. This system works over a radio frequency on a local area network.

3PL Software in the Warehouse and the Office

The primary reason why 3PL software has become a best practice guideline for warehouse managers is simple: It raises productivity and keeps data organized. Instead of centralized management that relies on constant group and one-on-one meetings with pickers and other employees, managers have a central unit that sends messages, schedules and inventory data wherever it needs to go.

This is especially helpful when the office and the warehouse are not in the same location, as is the case with many companies. The amount of scheduling, rescheduling, messaging and stock takes can turn into a mountain of paperwork, which can become lost and disorganized. Paper-free is not only an environmentally sound option for warehousing companies, but it is a more organized way to do business.

Benefits and Voice-Picking Setup

The benefits of using 3PL software are the range of high-tech companies who have great products to offer. Much of today’s top voice-recognition software is open-sourced, which means that you are not cornered into purchasing from one company with the only high-functioning yet expensive software. Your choices are broad, and allow you to make sure that the system you are buying really has what your particular organization needs.

Each individual picker will need to be outfitted with his or her own computer and headset, as well as attend training to learn how to use them. Managers will also need to undergo a training session to understand how to communicate with pickers on the floor. It’s a simple process that may need to be repeated as the software gets updated and more advanced; but productivity will increase overall.

Voice-picking software is especially effective for frozen warehouse units, since workers need to wear thick clothing and gloves that inhibit them from effectively handling paper invoices and operating tablets. Furthermore, keeping warehouse pickers in full control of their eyes and hands will ensure that they are more aware of their surroundings, thus lowering the rate of injuries.

3PL is a sound, modern choice for warehouse management.

Sources:

http://www.voicepicking.com/

http://www.voxware.com/in-your-world/voice-picking-in-the-warehouse/

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