The world of the food warehouse is exploding with new technological advancements to ensure product safety and reliability, while reducing spoilage and improving accuracy.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations demand certain baseline protocols for product efficacy, and companies are responding by upgrading their warehouse management systems (WMS).
The FSMA regulations require food warehouses to have a food safety plan in place, while monitoring and tracking temperature and any aberrant events that could cause contamination. The increasing demand – from both the government and consumers – for product traceability and process transparency make the implementation of sophisticated WMS a necessity.
Besides providing the essential elements of monitoring and tracking within the warehouse component of the food supply chain, WMS provides other benefits that can boost warehouse productivity and allow individual accountability.
Consider the time and labor savings of a solution that can view all tasks within the warehouse and prioritize them. Moreover, such a system can actually guide the workers through the warehouse, enabling them to complete multiple tasks simultaneously.
In a food warehouse environment, better warehouse management also translates into better space utilization, a critical component when handling perishables that must be moved through the system with alacrity. High-volume-pick items are strategically placed together and near the door. More logical space assignment, along with a leaner inventory (due to WMS efficiencies), result in dramatically decreased holding costs.
As the emphasis increases on visibility into the food warehouse, WMS systems provide the perfect scenario for viewing the entire process and enhancing it based on the findings. This kind of visibility also promotes greater accuracy of shipments and facilitates better use of space and personnel.
This kind of software provides a continuous stream of information for the user that allows them to optimize the work they're doing inside the building. Food warehouse WMS provides complete visibility and transparency into warehouse practices – a non-negotiable element when it comes to food – and that the productivity gains are exponential.
The food and beverage vertical demands a nimble software solution, where higher-end functionality is critical. In the event of a spoiled or contaminated unit, the offending product can be identified down to the item level, where it can be isolated from the rest.
Fresh food warehouses also have special time demands that can be facilitated by WMS. With the obvious need to push fresh products through the system quickly, WMS provides the kind of high-end functionality that can handle high volumes of complex orders.
Dovetailing with sophisticated warehouse management software is labor management software, which measures the productivity of individual workers. This effectively puts workers in control of their own earnings, empowering them to identify areas within the warehouse that need improvement. Each associate's statistics and productivity are tracked, and they are mentored if they need improvement and rewarded for exceeding personal or team gains in productivity.
Labor management software also works to remove the stress from warehouse personnel; with voice-pick (or pick-by-voice or voice-picking) technology, workers wear headsets that allow a two-way flow of information so there's no guessing about what to do next. They are directed to their next task, using a small bar code reader that is wrapped around their finger to scan each item pulled and replaced.
With an effective combination of advanced warehouse technology and worker engagement, food warehouses, especially those managing fresh foods, are becoming vibrant centers of efficiency and productivity. If the software protocols are followed, the food warehouse stands to become virtually error-proof – a positive development for the future of food safety and warehouse protocols.
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