Onboard computers connected to a WMS are poka yoke devices that reduce the incidence of retrieving and shipping the wrong item by matching the item with information on the item's location. The use of automated data collection (barcodes and RFID) virtually eliminates such errors and significantly improves inventory accuracy.
And operators are happy to give up the tedious and error-prone task of searching for items and manually checking and recording ID numbers. Onboard computers, with barcode and RFID readers, remove guesswork and force better habits, allowing workers to achieve higher productivity. Simpson of City Furniture says, Some of our forklift operators do not use computers at home, but they really enjoy having state-of-the-art technology at work. The graphical user interface of the computer is easy to use, and it allows them to work smarter, not harder.
WMS reduces defects in another way, by reducing the wasteful disposal of spoiled perishable goods. The WMS can automatically direct the operator to retrieve the particular units with the shortest remaining shelf-life, in a FIFO arrangement, without the operator having to engage in the time-consuming process of manually checking and comparing dates. Some companies shipping perishable goods will use FIFO for closer destinations and LIFO to overseas destinations with longer in-transit times.
For these reasons, onboard forklift computers integrated with a warehouse management system provide a good return on investment for many traditional warehouse and distribution center operations. These warehouse logistical systems produce results, especially in the area of labor savings, which are easily quantifiable and go directly to a company's bottom line, according to Giuliano. Giving forklift operators access to useful information technology produces success stories for Lean Management and Six Sigma programs, but you do not have to have faith in any particular management theory to recognize the excellent payback that can be achieved.
About the Author: John Geary is the co-founder and vice president of Sales, Glacier Computer. Geary has 23 years of experience in the electronics industry. Twelve of those years were spent specifically in the rugged computer data collection hardware segment. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.