How PDAs can help spare parts distributors
The use of PDAs marks a turning point in the logistics management of any company. But if you working in the spare parts distribution sector, with a very high average number of references and orders processed per day, the use of portable barcode reading devices is especially recommendable.
In this article, we will look at what the use of PDAs can do when it comes to warehouse management, from the logistics processes that can be carried out with a barcode reader to the advantages of its use and the changes in the work process. We will also look at how PDAs can be linked to the ERP you use for your daily business.
Logistics processes and advantages when using a PDA
PDAs are involved in most of the selection and restocking processes that take place in the warehouse:
- Preparation of orders for end customers: extraction, validation and dispatch.
- Other outgoing goods options: returns to suppliers, and transfers between warehouses.
- Stock and inventory control
- Order reception
The main advantages of using PDAs in all these processes are that they are faster, more productive and enable to make fewer mistakes. For obvious reasons: by mechanising these processes we can eliminate the error margin of manual management and facilitate operations.
An example: the location data of references in a multi-location warehouse is done with the PDA in a single process. There is no need for another person to intervene thereafter to enter the location data of a reference in the management system.
Another example is as follows: if we work with a PDA, after the goods have been extracted we can validate the customer’s order before dispatch. This prevents those dreaded returns that cause so many losses.
Additional advantages are:
- An increase in product traceability, as we can know in real-time at what point in the preparation or delivery process a particular item is at.
- Simpler staff training, as we simplify their management. The team working in the warehouse does not have to be made up of personnel specialised in the distribution of spare parts. This specialised profile can be assigned to telephone or counter support in order to take note of orders and thus reduce the percentage of returned orders.
What changes does the use of PDAs imply in the work process?
The main change is that all management (including counter management) is based on orders. These are categorised according to the order preparation process and the type of delivery. A possible classification could be as follows:
- Priority orders
- Route orders
- Orders by transport agencies
For each type of order, we can establish different work protocols in terms of validation, extraction and dispatch. The PDA will automatically inform us of the preparation status of each order according to its classification. And it will also allow us to print the delivery notes for the customer.
The most obvious consequence of the use of PDAs in the warehouse is the streamlining of workflows:
- As the warehouse workflow status is monitored in real-time, staff can easily switch between order picking and goods placement. Work can be balanced quickly because reliable information is available to make decisions and work efficiently.
- Real-time information between receiving and picking allows us to handle customer requests immediately. And this is very useful in the spare parts distribution sector, where we are dealing with ever shorter average delivery times to workshops.
What changes does the use of PDAs imply for the physical organisation of your warehouse?
First, you must make sure that you have a wifi or 3G connection to link the PDA to your databases. Not all PDAs are prepared to work with one or the other system. In any case, you will have to make sure that the connection level is optimal in order to have real-time information about your warehouse management.
Secondly, all your products and locations need to be labelled:
- Products: most of them are already labelled by the supplier. If this is not the case, you must have a system that transforms the reference into the corresponding barcode.
- Locations: the entire warehouse must be labelled before you start working with PDA. The minimum size of the label will be the optimum size for reading. It will depend on the length of the bins and should not exceed 15 digits.