Picking, Packing, and Search Times Reduced by Bluetooth

Manufacturers and warehouses need better solutions to find assets fast. From picking to searching and packing, Bluetooth is reducing wasted resources.
Each warehouse is different. Unique layouts and systems mean that every operator must carefully pre-plan and tailor their picking and sequencing to the space. Many warehouses do, however, share the same problems. That time spent picking, packing, and searching is valuable and directly relevant to the bottom line. When search times are high, the operation’s speed and final results are impacted. No wonder warehouses everywhere use specialized dividers, headsets, and optimized layouts. Yet for many operators, these old solutions will not be enough in the common years.

Why are search times important?

Warehouses, manufacturers, and similar operators have one job: deliver correct items at the correct time. The effort that goes into this simple end, however, can be great.
In fact, that relatively “simple” job of delivering items on time involves of many steps. From sourcing and manufacturing to storing or delivering, locating assets is perhaps the single most important skill in the entire chain.
Common problems resulting from poor asset localization:

  • Paused production due to missing parts and tools
  • Wasted employee time and resources
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Penalties from missed deadlines

Solving the search time problem

For many operations, it’s difficult to stop and comprehensively focus on search times. With all the moving cogs—and employees—it can be difficult to make changes that stick. Moreover, many modern solutions are surprisingly simple. Angled racks, smaller cartons, and other easy changes can always make some small difference. There are also several common-sense types of methods to make sure picking, packing, and everything in between is done efficiently.
However, simple updates can only be so effective in the long run. As expectations about speed and efficiency are changing, customers and other businesses along the supply chain will become more demanding. This is why 2018 and beyond will be different for the once relatively simple methods of picking, packing, and searching.
Thus, solving the problem of high search times will require new technologies and methods. While the hyper-connected smart warehouse of the future remains rather far in the distance, there are solutions that companies can turn to even now to reduce search times.

Adding Bluetooth to the mix

By adding Bluetooth tags to assets, search times can be reduced drastically. In short, rather than wasting time searching for an asset, that localization data can be constantly known and even used to alert staff to certain changes.
How it works
For example, one tag is attached to one specific type of asset or package. This tag constantly broadcasts to nearby Bluetooth readers. Now, all this location data can be used in the cloud to support numerous kinds of solutions. It can simply store assets’ presence data, use data to create heatmaps or send alerts. In short, the exact usage is up to the solution provider. Simple presence data, however, is perhaps the easiest to implement, requiring little effort and delivering huge, ongoing results.
From here, those traditional headsets and voice systems can also be cut as everything is delivered digitally through a smart device. Instead, these systems can also be optimized by making data more readily available or even visualized through an indoor navigation system leveraging that same Bluetooth infrastructure.

How reduced search times lead to better operations

Simply saying that these solutions “reduce wasted time” is an understatement. In reality, they deliver much more than knowledge of an asset’s location. By making every asset easier to locate, those assets also become easier to store. While items may have been traditionally sorted and stored to keep employees from getting confused or mixed up, this system means never having to wonder where a tool is located. Assets can thus be stored wherever it is the most practical and still be quickly found when needed again.
It also means waving goodbye to strict rules about replacing tools and processes. Time usually spent recording location data or timestamping that an asset has been returned can be completely erased. Scanning barcodes or passive tags simply no longer needs to occur unless the operator chooses to combine their passive and active solutions.
Finally, it means simplified trainings and acclimation periods for workers. Instead of expecting new workers to be lost and overwhelmed, reliable location data means even new workers can get down to business without pause.

Bluetooth in the warehouse

Operators and managers need always be wary of what technology they’re adding to their workspace. Luckily, Bluetooth tags offer numerous advantages over competitors. Being a relatively simple technology, they can deliver results without eating up resources.
They’re not only easy to deploy but also boast a long battery life, ranging from one to several years. There’s also no interference between tags despite the constant flow of location information. That means real-time data access with little drawback or effort.
Warehouse jobs in the U.S. have been exploding since 2010. The New York Times even reported that the rate of warehouse jobs has grown four times the average rate of overall job growth. It’s clear that changes in the economy and the way the modern person shops will only make this number continue to grow in the future. As a result, it’s not only existing operators who will be looking to new solutions, but new businesses, branches, and managers building from the ground up. With this kind of growth, the industry can expect to see a shift in the way we think about asset locating and search times.