Mhlnews 1786 Bert Moore

Data Intelligence: The Other Green

Feb. 1, 2009
Let’s look at some ways to green your bottom line.

By now, you may be a little green around the gills from all the talk about going green. If so, you’re not alone. The term “green” was number one on Lake Superior State University’s annual “List of Banished Words” for 2009.

So, let’s talk about the other kind of green: how to save money.

We already know that improved efficiency in the supply chain conserves resources and reduces the environmental impact of transportation by optimizing inbound materials and eliminating unnecessary returns. And, certainly, both of those save some green.

But, let’s look at some internal issues where you might be able to green your bottom line.

• Outdated equipment. Could you benefit from updating your data collection equipment? It’s true that in tough economic times, it’s not the first thing you think of, but there are possible tax advantages of depreciating new equipment. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, older equipment, such as mobile computers and portable data collection terminals, might be costing you directly in service, maintenance or repair costs. They may also cost you indirectly by limiting the applications you can run and requiring hot spares on hand for critical operations.

This may be the best time to look at equipment replacements or upgrades, since vendors are more concerned than ever about keeping their existing clients happy.

• Outdated processes. Are there any places where you still rely on paper or manual processes that could actually benefit from an automated data collection or data communications solution? I stress “actually” because the promise of a paperless workplace has been over-hyped. But, if you’re faced with pressure to maintain order quality with fewer skilled or experienced workers, it may be time to consider, for example, a voice-directed picking system (with barcode verification) to eliminate errors and paper pick lists. A properly configured system can be directed to print the manifest, shipping and, if applicable, return label. And, because voice systems can be configured to work in a number of different languages, they can significantly reduce training time for new workers.

• Outdated inventory. Most companies maintain an inventory of critical spare parts for equipment. And, many have spares for equipment they no longer own. Developing and maintaining an accurate barcode inventory of these spares can reduce space, speed up the process of locating spares and, in some cases, provide a list of parts that can be sold or returned for credit. This last item has, for some companies, more than paid for the inventory system.

• Outdated thinking. You may have projects in mind that haven’t been hot enough for action. Now
might be the time to dust off those ideas and see if they make economic sense. Implementing spares tracking, for example, could leverage existing barcode equipment to produce labels. And, you might even have a spare portable data collection terminal you could use. Yes, there will be labor involved, but if your spare-parts inventory is extensive, it’s possible that the labor costs will be offset by the value of the outdated parts.

• New is green. New equipment, processes and all the rest can improve efficiency, which makes sense in terms of energy savings. However, the efficiencies themselves should be enough motivation to upgrade or expand your data collection systems.

Bert Moore, a 20-year veteran of the AIDC industry, is director of IDAT Consulting and Education. Contact him at [email protected].

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