When searching for ways to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the supply and distribution chains, many warehouses look to new hardware, software, and processes. But there’s a lot to be said for taking a second look at the labels that you use. A label is pretty much affixed to and used on everything that comes in and out of a warehouse. So poorly designed labels or the processes involving creating them can lead to bottlenecks or inefficiencies.
Fortunately, tech has entered the label arena, and Zebra Technologies has a multitude of solutions for warehouse environments and processes. Here is how your warehouse can leverage Zebra Technology solutions to maximize labeling accuracy and help you gain efficiencies in your warehouse operations.
Labeling in the Warehouse the Efficient Way
Whether you manage a distribution center, a manufacturing warehouse, a third-party logistics operation, or are responsible for inventory in your businesses’ back storage room, having constant visibility into all your processes, people, and assets is vital to maintaining an efficient and profitable supply chain.
One of the best ways to reduce labor costs and improve efficiency in warehouse operations is to minimize the time required to label products, pallets, work in process, and other materials. Creating a centralized labeling solution can substantially improve accuracy and productivity, also resulting in cost savings.
And you don’t have to create these solutions from thin air. RFID and barcode labels are widely used solutions in warehouse and distribution center environments that can produce positive results. When integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, central printing stations that affix RFID labels and barcodes to materials can significantly reduce costs and improve operational efficiencies.
Improve Warehouse Operations With Zebra Technology Mobile Printing
Using Zebra Technology solutions like RFID and barcode labels is one step towards producing the positive results warehouses need. But these solutions should be paired with mobile printing to create a seamless labeling solution throughout the warehouse.
Warehouse operations are error-prone because they are incredibly labor-intensive. When you add printing capability for your labels at the point of use, it improves accuracy and reduces time spent on these tasks. Some of the benefits of applying this integrated Zebra Technology in the warehouse include:
In warehouse operations, it’s a common practice for workers to print labels in batches at a central office for incoming materials. As those materials are scheduled to arrive, a worker will retrieve the labels from the office to meet the receiving shipment.
This process requires several roundtrips by workers and creates the potential for inaccuracies when materials don’t arrive as expected or items arrive earlier or later than scheduled. Labeling items in the receiving area eliminates those roundtrips, saves labeling and printing materials, and creates more efficiencies.
Similarly, there are delays when staff must again go to a centralized office to print labels for putaway operations. According to a study by Zebra Technologies, using mobile printers during these operations improved processing time by 62 percent.
Using a system integrated with RFID labels and handheld ERP systems, employees can enter information into a wirelessly connected network and receive real-time instructions on the efficient pathway for storage. Forklift drivers can use wireless printers to affix RFID or barcode labels to goods, saving additional time per worker.
Workers who spend their days picking orders understand how inefficient the process can be. When a worker has to return to a centralized location to constantly grab new pick lists, this can waste time and invites potential errors.
Using mobile wireless printers and Zebra Technology for labels gives workers the ability to pick multiple orders simultaneously, increasing productivity and reducing travel time within the warehouse. RFID or barcode labels can be scanned in the staging or packaging areas to get items ready for shipment faster.
One of the key functions of warehouse operations is making sure packages contain the right materials. When inspectors sample shipments for quality assurance (QA) purposes, they can create labels on the spot to “pass,” “reject,” or order a “rework” of that batch.
Likewise, workers can tag items with labels pulled from inventory or incoming shipments to indicate that something needs testing. This on-demand labeling capability can improve QA initiatives as well as the overall customer experience.
Packaging and Shipping
Mobile printing and labeling at the point of use helps increase efficiency when workers are assembling items for packaging or shipping. The workers can instantly print a label to indicate that an item is packaged or assembled and ready for the next step in the process to get it out the door.
This is valuable in any operation, but particularly so in drop-ship operations where the picking and packing of items can take place simultaneously. In this type of operation, the labeling is associated with a particular customer, so the shipping label will identify the order. When integrated with an ERP system, it can also send tracking data to the customer to provide a better experience.
Implementing Mobile Printing Technology in Your Warehouse
If you want to print labels throughout your warehouse, you’ll need a mobile printing solution. Too many businesses resist upgrading their systems due to concerns about the cost or effort required to get the job done.
Fortunately, Zebra Technology offers a variety of mobile technology solutions that can have your workers printing labels, and much more, in no time. Here is what you need to know about integrating mobile printer connectivity in your warehouse operations.
Printer Design & Usage
Warehouse workers generally wear mobile printers on a shoulder strap or belt or mount them on a cart or forklift. Weight and size are essential to design characteristics for mobile printers in this environment. But other features that you’ll want to consider are the ease of use, accessibility of controls, and visibility of the screen. If the printer is awkward to use, workers won’t use it or won’t be efficient with it.
A mobile printer must be able to withstand the harsh warehouse environment as well. This might include frequent drops as well as exposure to extreme temperatures. The printer should also be able to use direct-thermal media for labels.
Mobile printing must be just that - mobile. These devices should be as flexible as possible in their connectivity while also maintaining a high level of security. Each mobile printer will have its own IP address. If there is already a warehouse LAN in place, the mobile printing technology can be integrated with it.
Printer Battery Life
Every mobile device is going to be battery-operated. So, battery life will be a vital consideration for your warehouse’s mobile printers. You can choose a variety of batteries and battery charges to get a consistent charge that works for your particular application and budget.
As you think about your needs for labeling in the warehouse, you can begin to see how various Zebra technology solutions can solve your pain points or complement your existing strategies. Figure out what additional solutions you need and create a plan to replace or upgrade your hardware and systems.
Not sure where to start? Contact us - we can give you a list of questions to ask to figure out what your best options are moving forward.
Also, take the Labeling Assessment HERE!