There’s no company in the last 2 decades (or really, since Ford & the Model T) that’s made a transformation in the industrial world as dramatic as Amazon. Bezos took his talents from Wall Street to Washington and transformed the way retailers sell - completely flipping the world of consumerism on its head.
Amazon wasn’t the first company to sell online and certainly wasn’t the only player in the space. Big wigs like Ebay and Walmart saw Amazon coming over a decade ago, but still weren’t able to do anything about it - how? Amazon’s biggest advantage was never technology or online - it was about their operations. Amazon’s warehousing and processes were so ruthlessly streamlined and efficient, they still remain over a decade ahead of their nearest competitor.
To stay well ahead of the competition, modern warehouses need to chase the holy grail of a WMS - going 100% paperless. This certainly isn’t a new idea, and industry leaders have chased this hefty goal since well over a decade ago.
To this date, however, nearly 95% of warehouses continue to struggle with legacy offline paper systems and the opportunity to separate from the pack remain.
The Benefits of Paperless
Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat: all-digital isn’t necessarily always the best choice. There are several industries/workflows/scenarios where paper is still the ideal choice - particularly in financial or legal scenarios where a trail is necessary, and to hedge against security issues.
In warehouse management, however, this isn’t the case - the more you digitize your processes, the more your processes can scale. And in an industry where ruthless efficiency is the bottom line, the warehouse that scales is the warehouse that wins.
There are a whole host of reasons why paperless is important in warehouse management, but chief among them is simple: efficiency.
Increased efficiency & productivity
In a warehouse supply chain, every single action contributes to the unit economics of whatever product is being processed. Every wasted motion, every 10 minutes here and 5 minutes there spent searching for documents, every misplaced sheet adds supply chain debt that directly impacts your bottom line.
Some studies have suggested that mobile warehouse management for data organization can double organizational accuracy - and higher accuracy, means less mistakes, which means less leakage.
Better Customer Service
The second major benefit of the paperless approach to warehouses is simple: customer service.
There are 3 factors that lead to a customer’s opinion of a shipping process: how quickly they received their product, how much visibility they have into the tracking process, and how easily they can resolve issues.
Going paperless immediately helps all 3 of these factors. A paper-free approach leads to higher efficiency, and deliveries flying out the door quicker. In addition, a digital WMS will let customers stay in the loop at every step of the shipping process, and will enable success agents to very quickly retrieve details on the package and immediately see where the issue took place.
Ridiculously Efficient Barcoding
The old system of barcoding is clunky - large, non-standardized paper labels with a hundred different details crammed into ugly packaging. Service agents end up wasting non-trivial amounts of time per package finding the label, navigating clumsy barcoding machines, translating and tracking receipts, etc.
Modern, state-of-the-art WMS systems like Pulpo WMS come native to Android devices, are extremely lite touch and essentially just require a simple, hyper-streamlined barcoding process. The app keeps track of virtually every detail about the package, including warehouse position, expiration dates and any other variables, which means labeling just needs a simple barcode employees can scan via Pulpo's app.
Digitizing the barcoding process offers tremendous advantages by itself. The lack of hefty labeling and a standard, streamlined process tremendously improves organizational efficiency - not to mention digitizing the mapping and labeling of warehouse positions means warehouse employees can swiftly move from package to package without any latency because of physical organization.
Data-driven Decisions & Just-In-Time (JIT)
JIT thinking has been the global standard in supply chain, but it continues to be a difficult goal to achieve end to end - especially for complicated products. A digitized warehouse management process allows for actual data-driven decision making;
A system that runs in the cloud can immediately identify bottlenecks and eventually even allow for real-time resource allocation, process optimization and granular forecasting. Rather than running processes and reviewing on a quarterly basis (after all the paperwork is accounted for and I’s dotted), a modern WMS can enable an organization to adjust on the fly and streamline operations on an extremely granular level.
In 2019, it’s a no brainer - the smartest warehouses are entirely paperless. Real-time process management, significantly higher efficiency, integrations and a “continuous improvement” philosophy make the modern WMS significantly more efficient than its predecessor. It’s a wonder after all the walls that companies like Amazon have broken down, so many organizations continue to rely on legacy systems, underestimating the enormous throughput improvements of a paperless system.
In short, there is no other way for modern fulfillment: go paperless. Your bottom line will thank you.