Let’s face it, adopting new technology is hard. And this isn’t a new phenomenon. I’m reminded of the movie City Slickers from the 90’s where Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern debate just how hard it is to set the time on a VCR – why is it always flashing 12:00? Well sometimes it can feel like today’s new technology is still flashing 12:00 at us.
It’s no different in the fast-changing third-party logistic (3PL) warehousing world. It is not uncommon for 3PL warehouses to use tools like Excel, paper, and maybe even “VCRs”. In fact, 70% of 3PL companies are currently using what can best be described as very limited technology like Excel or paper-based methods to run their operations. Further, in 2019, a study published by Kenco and Logistics Management stated that ‘supply chain leaders are showing a greater willingness to take a risk on new technologies, as 46% of respondents say they are willing to spend 10-24% more on innovation – up from 24% in 2018 and 29% in 2017.’ For companies coming from a trusted but less efficient manual environment, the potential efficiency gains are enormous. 3PL warehouses that cross that chasm must embrace these key steps to overcome common challenges in adopting new technology.
KEYS TO SUCCESSFULLY ADOPTING NEW TECHNOLOGY
Be prepared to embrace changing workflows. Warehouse management system (WMS) software, especially Extensiv 3PL Warehouse Manager, is designed with best practices in mind. This typically results in necessary but meaningful change. With access to hundreds of 3PLs and WMS users, Extensiv has brought together the expertise and experience to design important workflows that are simple and easy for warehouse staff to embrace and ensures they follow best practice recommendations.
A really simple example of this is receiving inventory. Without technology (or very little of it), warehouse teams have to manually receive inventory without any advance notice or expectation of inventory included in the delivery. A human must count and keep track of every critical track-by serial number, lot number, etc. and then write it all down or type it into Excel. Not to mention the manual labor required to identify available storage space for the inventory now that has arrived. With a solution like Extensiv 3PL Warehouse Manager, that same inventory can be quickly scanned with a mobile scanning device integrated into the WMS that will tell the warehouse receiver where to store the inventory in the most efficient location and automatically account for the inventory. These types of changes can bring about exponential efficiency gains to the warehouse operations, but may require a change in how the warehouse operates.
Invest in Training
It’s important that you spend time to ensure each warehouse worker has the necessary training so they know what their role is in the workflow and how they can do their role the easiest and most efficient way. This is an important area not to overlook as efficiency gains depend on fully leveraging and adopting best practice workflows.
It’s also important to consider that many warehouse workers may not be fully versed in the common technology leveraged in technology-enabled warehouse environments such as tablets, laptops, mobile scanning devices, etc. Effective training programs will help ensure the successful adoption of these technologies that are the critical underpinnings to the overall warehouse solution.
Ensure Technology is Supported
According to the same Logistics Management report, the second “biggest barrier to supply chain digital transformation” was a lack of understanding of digital technologies and their impact. As such, it’s important to either select a cloud-based WMS with uptime and integration availability commitments or ensure you have IT resources available to help ensure the technology is operating consistently and efficiently. Consider that this investment can be more than a warehouse management system, but may also include bar code scanners, shopping cart connections, integrations to data sources, along with the laptops, tablets and other devices. Having just parts of this solution unavailable can cause severe disruption of a warehouse’s operations.
Finally, we are living through a period of enormous change that will require a successful 3PL warehouse to continually evolve and change along with it. Having technical resources available will help ensure that critical systems continue to evolve as technology improves, which in turn will help you continue to grow your 3PL warehouse business.
Choosing the right WMS is an important decision in building a successful, modern 3PL. But it’s equally important to consider how best to ensure this investment is successfully adopted and not simply flashing 12:00.
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