This is part two in a two-part series. You can read part one here.
In part one we discussed the ever-evolving 3PL warehouse. So much happening, in so little time!
In this part, we get more specific. Here are just a few of the latest technology developments in 3PL:
Gladiator Guns. Developed with simplicity and usability in mind, these “smart” gladiators have eliminated the need for cumbersome hand-held barcode scanners. Instead, these “guns” are arm-mounted smartphones that are custom-fitted with apps designed with picking and packing workflows in mind. A bluetooth barcode scanner fits on the employee’s finger, allowing for full use of both hands while working.
Instead of being forced to keep track of a barcode scanner and constantly pick it up and put it down, the finger-mounted scanner cuts seconds off of every pick—amounting to hours of increased productivity across the pick floor every day. The arm-mounted smartphone is a full-featured computer that can communicate with other employees, including administrators who may be needed for specific tasks or to answer questions. The Gladiator Gun has been a revolutionary tool for warehouses everywhere.
Wave Picking. If you have a lot of orders to process, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pick them one at a time, box them individually and send them on their way—that’s the least efficient way to do it. But just how to get lots of products to the picking floor in the shortest amount of time is another question entirely. That’s where wave picking has come in. Instead of one picker filling one order, many pickers are sent to pick several orders, divided up by zone.
When each team of pickers returns with their picked items, they’re turned over to other teams whose sole purpose is to collate the orders for packing. Wave by wave, orders are filled in large batches, speeding up picking by asking several pickers to pick items in the same areas and reducing picker traffic to and from the pick floor. Implemented correctly, wave picking can be an incredibly efficient pick method.
Scan and Pack. For companies that have smaller order numbers, wave picking doesn’t make a lot of sense, but scan and pack does. In this type of system, the order reaches the picker and the picker immediately heads out looking for the pieces of the order. One picker selects all the items in each order, returning them to the packing floor as a batch.
Once the order makes it to the picking floor, the items are scanned as they’re packed into an appropriately sized carton. If an incorrectly picked item is in the batch, the packer gets an error and the picker is sent after the correct item. When all the items have been correctly scanned and packed, the order is closed. It’s a simple process, but if the products are well-organized and the pick floor intelligently designed, scan and pack can be an very efficient and accurate one for small companies handling a limited number of orders.
The future of 3PL is here, from Google Glass to Gladiator Guns and Wave Picking. As efficiency increases in warehousing and distribution, small- to medium-sized businesses stand to benefit enormously as costs from their 3PL partners continue to decrease. Increased efficiency is great for everyone, at every level of the supply chain!