OpScoop Issue 1: Warehouses : Then & Now

Amazon Warehouse Employees Prepare For Their Busiest Time Of Year

The ever-demanding customers can only be satiated if service exceeds their expectations. With points of differentiation translating to points of parity in no time, the mind boggling question, that gives executives and businessmen sleepless nights, is how they can possibly stand out. Contrary to the question, the answer however is fairly elementary- time is the key.

Contemporary era necessitates businesses to firmly instill the fact that though time is free, yet it is priceless. Inventory and warehouse management are deeply entwined and both are integral to business management.

However, the next big thing lies in achieving efficiency through randomization.

Traditional warehouses store products that are similar together. This demands a lot of efforts from employees to shelf the items in their dedicated spaces. Orderly arrangements have to be done to stock goods. Furthermore, a full-fledged planning system must be in place to facilitate all of this.

The multitude of problems coerced the manufacturers and sellers to uncover an alternative solution that would totally transform the existing warehouse practices. Amazon made the first breakthrough in this direction with its Prime Now Warehouses.

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On first glance everything seems haphazard. Goods are stacked without any order. But do not mistake it to be an err on their part, items are actually randomly stocked on purpose. Workers scan every item before placing them on shelves so that computers know the exact location. They just have to make sure hard objects are not placed next to soft ones to eliminate any likelihood of damages.

When an order comes in, the computers find the fastest route for all items to be picked up. Workers are given location of each item in the order in a handheld device and the complete order is out the door faster than a normal trip to a store. Technological implementation has accelerated the process to such a level that even ice-cream can be delivered before it melts. The only objective here is to make the best utilization of the space available.

In bigger warehouses, Kiva robots come into play. Instead of workers going around the warehouse amassing the order, these robots do the job. They collect the items and bring them to the packer near the truck. Robotic picking eliminates any scope of error, saves a significant amount of time and also chances of damaging goods whilst movement within the facility is ruled out. Thus technology is completely changing the face of operations.

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Amazon is only the first of many to have invested time and money to radically transform their existing inventory and warehouse management system. The rest of the industry is also moving towards a similar goal and will eventually catch up- albeit slowly, but surely!

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