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"If you're operating in a non-wired warehouse and you're counting inventory, the possibility exists that you can go to an inventory slot and find that the inventory you're looking for isn't even there. You have no idea where it is," says Retalix's [Bob Morgenroth]. 'This is because a forklift driver has already obtained it from the pick slot, only you aren't aware of that fact, because you don't have a system that is constantly being updated in real time."
statusreport Technology WIRELESS WAREHOUSE Warehouses Operating Without A Wire Wireless technology is converging to make warehouses more productive. By Brian Schiavo D ale and Thomas Popcorn makes and distributes gourmet popcorn prod- ucts in a variety of flavors, including choco- NETWORKING: Wireless technology, such as voice recognition, increases late, peanut butter, butter toffee and walnut efficiency and accuracy. crunch, to name only a few of its two dozen- or-so taste alternatives. In the past few years, the Englewood, NJ company has been experiencing tremendous growth as the demand for its products has moved to retail stores, in addition to its exist- ing catalog and online sales. The company needed a way to manage this growth, as well as its complex inventory needs. It needed to find a way to enhance its business processes, while at the same time maintain the highest quality popcorn and also ensure quick delivery. The first part of the solution involved Dale and Thomas moving to a larger facil- ity that incorporated 105,000 square feet of These antennas are access points that with the wireless network, including RFID, warehouse space, which would allow it to connect to a central switch, which allows voice, barcodes and mobile computing to get accommodate greater product volume. Next, data collected by units such as Motorola’s the job done. to handle the flow of that product, the com- MC9000 handheld mobile computer, to be pany decided to implement a more efficient wirelessly connected to a host server via a Scanning Speeds Up The Process inventory management system. facility’s WMS system. “We run an application on some Intermec The backbone of this is a wireless, scal- “801.11b is the standard radio frequency handheld devices, which runs through the able, communications infrastructure installed system used in the industry now. If you wireless network and goes to our WMS prod- in the facility by Siemens Communications, have that, you have the ability to run any uct, which is RadioBeacon by Accellos,” says a Munich, Germany-based technology ser- RF devices on your wireless network,” notes Norm Steiner, manager of IT infrastructure vices company. This wireless infrastructure Bob Morgenroth, director of supply chain for Dale and Thomas. “The work process enables Dale and Thomas to effectively man- management for Retalix, the Plano, TX-based begins when workers uncrate the product age the arrival, storage and departure of provider of software solutions for the food we’ve received—raw materials—and use the items throughout its warehouse via a bar- distribution industry. Its Power Warehouse handhelds to scan it into inventory.” code tracking system. WMS is designed to work in tandem with After this, they create a work order speci- Stories like this illustrate how wireless wireless network systems. fying the type and amount of raw materials technology, which encompasses RFID, voice, The access points in the ceiling take radio to make the finished product. They will scan barcode scanning and mobile computing, frequencies generated by wireless devices these materials and take them out of inven- makes warehouses more efficient, more pro- and relay them back to the WMS system in tory, to reflect that the materials were used ductive and cheaper to operate. the main office. to create finished product. After the manu- “It all starts with the infrastructure,” says Every facet of the warehouse’s function- facturing process, workers scan the finished Mike Maris, director of industry solutions ing—receiving, put away, replenishment and product in, this time as a pallet of popcorn of for Motorola,
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