The Benefits of Mobile Printing in the Warehouse

Mobile Printing Streamlines Supply Chain and Warehouse Processes

To maintain accuracy and efficiency in warehouses and distribution centres, barcoding and radio frequency identification (RFID) systems are indispensable. Businesses can enhance these benefits by using mobile printing to produce and attach barcode and RFID labels at the point of application. Supplementing stationary barcode and RFID printing operations with mobile printers can reduce operator errors, streamline operations associated with labelling in inconvenient locations, and eliminate costs associated with correcting errors. Mobile printing can cut costs by up to 20%.

Using mobile printers to eliminate the distance that workers travel to pick up labels can boost productivity, often providing a full return on investment (ROI) in less than a year when used in warehouse, distribution centre, and other industrial environments. The ROI is especially strong for facilities with existing wireless LANs, because a relatively small incremental investment in mobile printers creates new ways to increase efficiency, reduce operator errors, and leverage the wireless infrastructure investment.

RFID is an automatic identification technology that relies on radio frequency (RF) waves to read encoded digital data. RFID is similar to barcode technology in concept. Unlike a barcode, RFID does not require a visible tag or label to read its stored data.

The case for using mobile printers becomes stronger with every step users must take to pick up labels. Zebra Technologies conducted a time-motion study of receiving operations, in which the warehouse worker only had to take nine steps to travel from the pallet with items for labelling to the workstation where labels were printed. Pallets were labelled in 42 percent less time (28.11 seconds compared to 49.74) when belt worn mobile printers were used to eliminate the short walk to the central printing station. Based on the volume of materials processed at that particular distribution centre, managers quickly determined that a mobile printing system could provide significant productivity gains and a rapid ROI.

Mobile printers are typically worn on the hip, sit on a cart, or are mounted onto vehicles such as fork lifts. This provides on-demand printing benefit that saves time, reduces errors, and improves quality in all warehousing processes and can be easily integrated into your WMS software, which will help streamline your operation.

Common Mobile Printing Applications

Businesses can apply the time savings and labelling accuracy benefits that mobile printers provide to many common warehouse processes, including receiving, quality assurance, cross docking, putaway, picking, packaging, and shipping. Mobile or cart-based printers can go wherever workers go. Work areas that require the farthest travel to get labels, or operations that could benefit from improved accuracy, are the best candidates to support with mobile printing. The sections that follow detail ways mobile printing technology can support typical warehouse operations.

Improve Receiving Dock Productivity

Workers can use forklift-mounted mobile printers to apply barcode labels on incoming materials immediately as they are unloaded. This procedure ensures items are prepared for scanning and other automated processing systems in place at the facility.

Advance Quality Assurance Tasks

At the QA station, inspectors can take advantage of mobile printers to create clear, legible labels to identify samples taken for quality assurance.

Streamline Cross Docking

Warehousing operations use cross docking to save time in receiving and redistribution. Mobile printing presents the optimal solution for this environment because it saves steps for receiving personnel.

Simplify Putaway Tasks

Items labelled at putaway were processed 62% faster when mobile printers supported the operations as compared to when workers picked up labels from a stationary printer located one aisle away from the putaway location.

Simplify Picking Tasks

Picking works like putaway in reverse, and holds the same time-saving potential. Wireless LAN and onboard printing are especially valuable because they enable operators to pick multiple orders simultaneously within a small zone, which reduces empty travel time and raises productivity.

Complete Packing and Finished Goods Faster

When assembly or packaging is complete, the worker can immediately generate a label to identify the finished goods. The label can have a serial number or two-dimensional barcode that has the specific configuration information for the item. This application is important for maintaining accuracy.

Fulfil and Track Ship-to-Order Operations

Businesses can leverage a similar application to manage ship-to-order operations. Rather than identifying and labelling final assemblies, workers use barcode labelling and scanning to verify the picking and packing of all items required to complete the order.

In Summary

The most effective way to improve efficiency and keep labour costs under control is to minimise the amount of time required to label materials, work in process, finished products, boxes and pallets. Centralised labelling solutions significantly reduce productivity and inject inaccuracies; thus, even the slightest improvement to the handling process will yield significant cost savings.

Mobile and wireless printing offer options to make select warehouse labelling operations more convenient, improve productivity, and reduce labelling errors. Supplementing enterprise printing operations with mobile printers can produce time savings that eliminate bottlenecks, or boost accuracy that results in better overall performance of warehouse management, shipping, and other operations. The examples presented above show how saving a few steps, or improving upon already accurate identification and labelling procedures, can produce measurable cost savings and productivity gains. Enterprises can maximise these improvements by selecting the products and features that best meet operational requirements and easily integrate them with their Warehouse Management Solution.

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ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.