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Revolutionizing Warehouse Management through Enhanced Digital Platform

By Kirk Serjeantson, CIO, Dicom Transportation Group

Kirk Serjeantson, CIO, Dicom Transportation Group

At DTG we have made a significant investment in our technology over the past several years in an effort to better manage our operations from curb side to our warehouse floors. For this specific article I would like to focus on two key areas, our mobile platform and our track and trace platform. Both are part of a larger IT platform encompassed in our smart4 suite of technology, which includes:

• smart4 shipping – new shipping system
• smart4 integration – unified APIs for both internal and external use
• smart4 mobility – smart phone applications
• smart4 tracking – consolidated tracking system

These technologies solve numerous customer-focused challenges. For the purpose of this article, smart4 mobility and smart4 tracking specifically work to optimize warehouse or distribution-centred management issues.

The smart4 mobility platform removes the need for costly industrial devices and replaces them with smartphones (utilizing robust casing for protection). Our scanning technology has evolved into downloadable apps for use on both iOS and Android leveraging strong security measures to protect the data. The apps are easily accessible through the app store or can be “side-loaded” with assistance from our help desk. Not only does this reduce the overall program costs by moving to more economical devices, but also provides the flexibility to ramp units up and down, depending on the need. In the event of device shortages in any one of our warehouses, we can quickly leverage a manager’s corporate phone or move into a “bring-your-own-device” or BYOD environment to overcome temporary unit shortages.

"Moving away from standard industrial devices has increased productivity and user satisfaction while significantly reducing costs"

The program was piloted using our drivers. We built the first smart4 mobility app for our driver force in late 2016. During that time, the drivers had the choice to continue using the company-supplied industrial devices or their own smartphone to complete deliveries. This was our first venture into smartphones and was the most complex smartphone application, given the heavy requirement for two-way communication. Most of the integration complexities were absorbed through the smart4 integration technology while leveraging cloud services from Azure. The program took both time and dedication, but once complete it took off with our couriers. As of today, Dicom sits at almost 95 percent smartphone compliance across Canada and the U.S. with our drivers making the program a huge success. This first program inspired the IT department to dive further into smartphone use across the enterprise.

The next logical step was to outfit the warehouses with new technologies. Between all the unique functions within the warehouse and the varying use cases, Dicom had to think through a flexible strategy that accommodated for different hardware types and ergonomic challenges. We now have a series of warehouse apps custom built to solve any requirement within our four walls. Tablets are mounted to forklifts, smartphones are used by sorters, and managers have been given an application to manage the floors. Later this year, applications will be scaled down to run on smart watches for positions where both hands are needed to perform specific warehouse tasks. In addition, some applications require integration of peripheral devices. For example, the forklift system is integrated with a long-range Bluetooth scanner to allow the user to remain in their forklift while canning a barcode. We have found these integrations simple, yet highly effective.

Moving away from standard industrial devices has increased productivity and user satisfaction while significantly reducing costs. The flexibility realized by the smart4 mobility program has been exceptional and the team is excited about the future possibilities as smartphone technology evolves.

Performing functions to collect data is only one piece of the puzzle, the data then needs to go somewhere; this is where smart4 tracking comes in.

smart4 tracking performs multiple functions within our warehouse environment. The technology absorbs and consolidates scans from across our enterprise into a single source repository for inventory visibility. This is beneficial for customers who subscribe to multiple services, and helps DTG paint a composite picture of customer activity. The second big function is providing real-time communications to internal and external customers. Alerts are sent by smart4 tracking via SMS or email on inventory status or change of status to ensure all stakeholders involved, can follow product movement through the supply chain. Both these functions are extremely valuable and augment the third function–event management.

The event management functionality within smart4 tracking allows operations to map the expected parcel events in the system. If a parcel event deviates from the predefined expectation, alerts are sent to those within the organization who need to know. For instance, if a product is sent to a terminal late, the receiving terminal will be alerted so that they can either engage the staff to manage the late arrival or alert the customer of a potential delay. Proactive notifications help each warehouse run more efficiently and prevent customer dissatisfaction, with remediation or communication. The investment in both smartphones and product visibility has been very lucrative for DTG, which has recognized exceptional savings and found productivity benefits through visibility.

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