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Automating your Beverage Warehouse with Tablet PC: Part I

Warehouse automation has been around for some time in the beverage industry. New technologies such as a rugged tablet PC are enabling manufacturers to keep up with increasingly global markets, new products, new containers and packaging variations, more complex orders and more demanding consumers and retailers.

rugged tablet pc beverage warehouseAutomated equipment and handling processes can help increase beverage storage and distribution efficiency, enabling faster and more accurate loading in and out while controlling costs, reducing waste and optimizing space. Specific systems can be organized to handle storage and order fulfillment based on pallets or smaller units.

It all comes together with the human-automation interface made possible by the rugged tablet PC.

Rugged tablets are specifically designed to facilitate mobile activities and withstand the physical rigors of a warehouse environment. They put all the necessary computing and communications power right into the hands of workers, who can instantly upload or retrieve information to quickly and accurately complete their tasks or direct equipment.

But while a rugged tablet PC has universal value, other aspects of automated material handling are not equally valuable for every operation. There’s a threshold of cost-effectiveness that depends on a number of company-specific factors.

What are your challenges?  

Despite obvious similarities, each beverage warehouse operation is unique in terms of distribution complexity and space available for storage and fulfillment. Automation is effective only if it relieves your company’s most pressing pain points and also supports your strategic goals and growth plans.

Inability to function efficiently can result in loading delays, the need for offsite storage and higher costs associated with inventory management, equipment or product damage, labor, etc. It can seriously impact customer satisfaction and profitability.

Properly implemented, automation can seamlessly handle existing and growing demand. It can increase:

  • Capacity.
  • Loading control and accuracy, regardless of SKU complexity.
  • Flexibility for staging sequencing products for loading.

It can reduce:

  • Manual labor and related costs.
  • Potential damage to products or equipment, with a better-controlled physical environment.
  • Your warehouse’s overall carbon footprint.

To work well, your system must be well-planned.

Automating your warehouse is a major investment. Some options are inherently able to accommodate growth and modifications, some not so much. In order to make intelligent choices, you’ll need to carefully assess your current situation as well as take note of long-term goals and projections. You’ll need to honestly determine acceptable levels of risk as well as return on your investment.

What’s the size and configuration of your warehouse space? Do you need to re-fit or upgrade an existing warehouse and processes, or are you building an entirely new structure?

What are you handling in terms of product mix, volume, frequency? Are you moving bottles, cases or pallets? How strong are the containers?

What metrics will you use to monitor success?  

From forklifts and floor stacking to fully-automated computerized systems, increased automation can help improve density, movement and overall control. The rugged tablet PC you’re already using will help whatever new technologies you choose mesh smoothly with existing processes and personnel.

Industry experts strongly suggest getting help from an Independent Systems Integrator to determine which automation choices represent the best investment for your company. Completing your initial assessment and developing a solid plan could take some time. But you can be confident the resulting decisions will ensure the strongest return.

In our next article we’ll discuss technology options you can consider to enhance your beverage warehouse and distribution. 

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