4 Fast Ways to Automate Your Warehouse for Better Efficiency

The last few years have been a wild time for warehouses, with the e-commerce boom, COVID-19, and now supply chain disruptions and labor shortages making it tough to keep up with demand.

This is why it’s now a crucial time to be thinking about ways you can automate more of your warehouse workflows and processes for better efficiency, so you can fulfill more orders in less time, with the most efficient use of labor, and at the lowest possible cost.

Fortunately, we have a lot of cost-effective technologies and solutions available to help us achieve that level of efficiency and actually get ahead of demand rather than constantly struggling to react to it.

  1. Implement Hands-Free and Voice-Directed Picking

Hands-free, voice-directed picking is one of the fastest-growing innovations in warehouse efficiency, and it’s the absolute best way to dramatically increase your picking speed and accuracy almost overnight.

Voice-directed picking is a multi-modal system where your warehouse workers are equipped with a wrist-worn mobile computer, a finger-worn ring barcode scanner, a headset, and a mobile version of your warehouse management system that provides voice-directed instructions and visual cues.

Using their wearable computer, they can access an order or pick list, and the software and voice direction tell them which items need to be picked, where they’re located, and how to get to those inventory locations on the most efficient path. The ring barcode scanner can then be used to scan and verify correct picks, and all of this happens while keeping workers’ hands free to handle inventory without having to juggle mobile devices or scanners.

Warehouses that implement these systems see immediate improvements in picking speed and accuracy thanks to all of the time and labor-saving automation. But it also helps make warehouse work more attractive to prospective workers because it helps reduce the amount of walking to fulfill orders and makes the whole process more efficient and less labor-intensive.

  1. Go Paperless by Capturing Form Fields and Signatures Digitally

Most warehouses use barcode scanning every day to identify and track their inventory and to help automate their processes. But relatively few take full advantage of all the automation and data capture capabilities that are now possible with barcode imaging.

Barcode imaging is the next evolution in scanning technology, and it enables much more than simply scanning a barcode label. With barcode imagers, you can also capture form fields with OCR text recognition, and you can also capture signatures. This can help you go completely paperless and remove the last vestiges of manual data entry or re-entry that’s required when dealing with all the documents and forms you may have to manage from third parties.

In addition to form field and data capture, the latest barcode imagers, such as Zebra’s 3600 Series Ultra-Rugged Scanners, can also capture multiple barcodes with a single trigger pull. You can use your scanner as a “wand” and move it around a box to capture up to 20 1D and 2D barcodes at one time, and you can also use Zebra’s scanning tools to automatically parse specific information you need from those barcodes and get it into your systems in the right format, right away.

  1. Improve Teamwork with Unified All-in-One Mobile Communication

Warehouse teams that can connect, collaborate and communicate faster and in real time will always be more productive and efficient. This is why it makes sense to improve teamwork by unifying all your communications through a single mobile, all-in-one solution, to connect your managers and workers, even across a massive warehouse.

With Zebra’s Workforce Connect, you can do this with a simple and easy-to-use mobile solution that brings together push-to-talk, voice calls, secure texting, and even PBX phone access on a single mobile device.

Instead of having to juggle multiple devices or walk back-and-forth to an office or desk area to access PBX calls and voice mails, workers and managers can communicate in real time through their preferred methods, wherever they happen to be. It’s a great way to get teams working together more seamlessly and efficiently because they can save time and cost by staying connected and collaborating on urgent issues or just everyday work whenever needed.

  1. Automate Your Inbound Receiving and Put-Away

When it comes to order fulfillment, we tend to focus on getting goods out the door as quickly and accurately as possible, and most of the time we look at our picking, packing and shipping processes.

But truly efficient and accurate fulfillment starts in receiving and put-away. Make sure that you’re receiving and put-away are as automated and streamlined as your picking, packing and shipping.

This might mean using mobile computers and your warehouse management system to print labels on demand, start tracking your inventory as soon as it arrives in receiving, and direct workers to the right put-away locations on the most efficient pathways. Or it might mean using RFID to remotely identify and track inbound items even before they reach the dock door and as