3 Ways to Leverage Mobile Solutions for Warehousing and Fulfillment

The “Amazonification” of the supply chain is transforming B2B and B2C marketplaces alike, requiring all parties in the supply chain to digitize. The pressure is on to create an omnichannel, seamless, and high-quality customer experience. In order to deliver on consumers’ increased expectations, e-commerce companies and retailers are demanding capabilities like drop shipping from their suppliers.

Manufacturers, distributors, and 3PLs (third-party logistics providers) are joining retailers in the quest for real-time inventory and fulfillment data. In order to maintain a competitive edge, they are leaving behind stand-alone siloed systems and embracing technology that offers transparency across the supply chain. Various supply chain management systems, paired with rugged mobile devices, serve as a critical enabler of this digital transformation—helping fulfill buyers’ omnichannel expectations.

How mobile solutions support supply chain transformation:

1) WMS on the warehouse floor

In the warehouse or distribution center (DC), managers spend most of their time managing staff and managing exceptions. Many supervisors have to return to their offices to generate operational reports because most of their staff rely on pen and paper to pull stock, manage inventory and complete other tasks. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of warehouse workers worldwide still rely on pen and paper. But in an increasingly competitive environment, legacy technology solutions or pen and paper may not be enough to maintain a competitive edge.

Many WMS and labor management system providers such as JDA and Manhattan Associates offer affordable mobile apps and cloud-based solutions, available on vendor-agnostic mobile devices. Rugged mobility solutions, such as handheld devices and hybrid laptops that convert into tablets, allow managers to more actively manage staff and allow pickers, packers and yard jockeys to do their jobs more efficiently, both on and off the forklift. Efficiencies include a reduction in errors due to manual data entry, increased fill rates, improved workflow, and planning of work in the warehouse.

2) Fulfillment at the store or satellite location level

Some retailers struggle to reduce stock outs. Many are expanding their assortments. Consumers want the option to order online and pick up in store. For faster deliveries, online purchases can be fulfilled directly from a local store or another that has the item in stock. Amazon is experimenting with shipping lockers, in addition to locating DCs in major U.S. cities for faster deliveries.

To keep up, retailers are opening pop-up stores to handle seasonal peaks and serve as temporary fulfillment centers for order pickup and overflow distribution. All these hybrid fulfillment models demand an accurate view of real-time inventory across stores, storerooms, warehouses, and DCs. Retailers are taking steps to integrate their back-office technology and upgrade inventory management and order generation systems, among others, to improve the accuracy of inventory across distribution nodes.

No matter where retailers are with their integrations or technologies, mobile solutions help retailers turn stores and satellite locations into fulfillment centers. Solutions include in-store inventory management to receive deliveries and capture adjustments. Fulfillment applications enable shipping from the store and managing in-store pick flows. It’s a win-win when store associates can access and update inventory and fulfillment information on mobile.

There are many types of retail solutions such as in-store fulfillment, category management, and point-of-sale. For example, Panasonic provides Toughpad FZ-N1 rugged handheld devices with barcode scanners to regional supermarket and hardware store chains who run direct-store-delivery (DSD) applications and other in-store receiving and fulfillment solutions. 

3) Last-mile solutions

Last-mile solutions are essential to accurately service and invoice customers, with real-time updates, tracking and prompt invoicing. Electronic confirmations that provide e-signatures in real-time to show proof of delivery or ePODs, are among the capabilities available today on mobile delivery solutions. Among the many benefits of bypassing paper forms with ePODs are faster order-to-cash cycles when invoicing is immediately triggered to accounting and ERP systems.

In the food and beverage sector, for example, distributors face challenges in managing product and delivery data-capture at the point of delivery. Sometimes, these are cash businesses. DSD professionals armed with rugged handheld devices can easily scan barcodes, track lots and send real-time data to the back-office before they even leave the customer location.

Mobile last-mile solutions show real opportunity to not only improve the customer experience but the supplier’s operations by increasing efficiencies and standardizing delivery processes. Field delivery solutions, such as those offered by Descartes, can be highly customized to the vertical sector or vendor.

Panasonic Toughbook solutions are driving digital transformation in the warehouse and beyond. Visit us online to learn more about our portfolio of enterprise-grade and reliable rugged handhelds, tablets, and laptops which fully enable omnichannel fulfillment in the warehouse, shipping yard or store.