Fleet Management & Forklift Safety Blog

Automatic data capture : What's right for your operation?

Posted by Brian Quigley, Director of Client Services on Apr 28, 2016 4:00:00 AM

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Automatic data capture is one of the key components of an effective inventory management strategy. And it is only going to grow in importance as distribution centers tackle the demands of omni-channel fulfillment and a rising number of stock-keeping units.

In order to stay competitive, you need to be able to swiftly fill orders for multiple channels while also keeping costs low. Picking the right tool for automatic data capture (ADC) could be what sets you apart from the pack. If you, for example, are able to speed up bar code scanning, it will have an enormous impact on productivity. As multiple trucks make thousands of scans over multiple shifts, benefits quickly accrue when seconds are shaved off each scan.

So what tools do you have at your disposal? In recent years, the ADC market has evolved to encompass more than proven solutions such as rugged, wireless handheld scanners, vehicle mounted scanners, and bar code printers.

A few trends in particular are driving changes in the ADC market, according to Logistics Management:

  • Warehouse supervisors want mobile access to applications to monitor trends in real time and tweak resources.
  • Traceability and package conditions have taken on increased importance as a result of customer and regulatory requirements.
  • The delivery of products has grown more complex with scanning of items, signatures, and returns pickups.

These days, newer operating systems, touchscreens, rugged tablets and smart phones, mobile printers and wearables have joined mainstay solutions to improve approaches to common logistics tasks such as picking. Although “consumerization” of the information technology can be seen in the ADC market, according to experts from VDC Research and Tompkins International, the nature of the warehouse environment favors a new take on the traditional. In other words, purpose-built data collection devices assume the look and feel of a consumer device.

Richa Gupta, director of auto ID and data capture at VDC Research, explains to Logistics Management:

“The build quality is rugged because that is what the warehouse operators are really looking for, but in terms of a look and feel, the traditional vendors are designing these units to be as easy to use as a consumer device like a smart phone.”

He also notes, “It comes down to what is suitable for a specific application. For heavy-volume scanning, the rugged, purpose-built devices still have the edge… With a 2D scan engine, DC workers can capture images of product shipments and packages as they enter or leave a point in the supply chain.”

Being able to track the movement of product through each step of the supply chain is especially important with the requirements of e-commerce. And so is meeting customer demand for speed and accuracy. Replacing hand scanning with auto scanning in your warehouse, for example, will have a ripple effect on your supply chain, freeing up funds and driving productivity.

In the end, any decision to invest in new tools for automatic data capture comes down what stage of the lifecycle your existing devices are in, Gupta says:

  • Are they requiring more maintenance than you want?
  • Are the devices still capable of meeting the application or customer requirements?

Topics: hand scanning, auto scanning, automatic data capture

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