Warehouse technology is advancing

A warehouse needs to run like a piece of well oiled machinery, every person has their roll and each piece of equipment has its specific uses. There are many aspects to running a warehouse and technology is rising to these challenges to make it more efficient and easier to run. Many warehouses use computer technology now for everything from ordering to stock control to collecting goods.

For those readers who think that radio frequency (RF) and radio frequency identification (RFID) mean the same, welcome to a group of similarly confused people. If voice-directed packing (VDP) and pick-to-light (PTL) are unfamiliar terms, welcome to an even larger group. These acronyms refer to the warehouse technologies explained below.

RF. Radio frequency has come to mean the wireless reading of bar codes during picking and sometimes for counting inventory. Bar codes are read by devices that transmit (via RF) the data to the main system, where it's validated against data for the items on an order. If a wrong item or quantity is picked, the device alerts the picker.

Many electrical wholesalers use RF in two ways: where pickers use a printed ticket to find the items and then read the bar codes; and where data for items to be picked is shown on an LCD display on the device, which is then used to read the bar codes. RF devices are expensive, as is the equipment that communicates with the devices and the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. RF is widely used because it increases picking accuracy, and can sometimes can increase productivity. Its limitations are described next.

RFID. Radio Frequency Identification does not involve bar codes. It refers to the wireless reading of data stored in a memory chip embedded in or attached to a box, piece of equipment, etc. In addition to an item's code number, a chip (often called a “smart label”) can store unit- or carton-specific data such as date of manufacture, manufacturer's spec number and serial number. A “read/write” chip allows data to be added or updated by each user (often the date of receipt), which allows tracking at every stage of a supply chain. Click here to continue

Further reading

Warehouse technologies

Product and packaging diversity is impacting on warehouse technology