Forklifts and the attraction of digitised stock control

Matthew McDonald -
Local Feature Article
- 30 May 2024 ( #1181 )
7 min read
Beyond simply keeping track of inventory, stock control has broader implications for improving workflow efficiency, cutting costs and understanding pathways to profitability
Beyond simply keeping track of inventory, stock control has broader implications for improving workflow efficiency, cutting costs and understanding pathways to profitability

Materials handling operations have long understood the importance of accurate stock control. Beyond simply keeping track of inventory, the practice has broader implications for improving workflow efficiency, cutting costs and understanding pathways to profitability.

Businesses that employ effective stock control practices know what they have and where. They know when to re-order, they understand costs at various stages of their supply chains and they are agile enough to meet unexpected sales opportunities, regardless of size.

For these reasons, according to Rob de Ridder, international senior sales manager at RAVAS, a supplier of weighing and measuring technology for hand pallet trucks, electric warehouse trucks, stackers and forklifts, stock control is as important now as it has ever been.

“With global supply chains that stretch across continents, limited stock inventory and just-in-time deliveries, companies become vulnerable to stock shortages,” he says. “Shortages interrupt production, cause delays, affect customer confidence and ultimately create costs.”

Mobile weighing systems and stock control

Asked about the latest methods of digitised stock control, de Ridder said mobile weighing systems have proven to be very effective.

RAVAS' mobile scale solutions, which are suitable for logistics and production sites in all industries, help businesses maintain stock control and save money
RAVAS' mobile scale solutions, which are suitable for logistics and production sites in all industries, help businesses maintain stock control and save money

“Mobile weighing scales allow you to accurately control your stock, reduce stock levels and lower costs, all without interrupting normal processes. They can be employed to weigh inbound goods, materials in and out of production and outbound goods,” he says.

“More and more forklifts are becoming platforms for collecting data on material flows. This data is fed to enterprise resource planning (ERP) and workplace management systems (WMS) and used to manage processes and work cycles in real-time.”

RAVAS’ mobile scale solutions, which are suitable for logistics and production sites in all industries, help businesses maintain stock control and save money. Recently, the company introduced its RAVAS Red Box technology, which allows the direct transfer of data to hardware (such as data terminals, tablets and laptops) and removes the need for a separate display in the cabin.

“This will lead to fully automatic data collection. Every pallet or container lifted on the forks of the forklift is automatically identified, weighed (and in some applications, has its dimensions measured) on the move,” he says, adding that this integrated data set can then be shared with the ERP, WMS or transportation management systems (TMS).

By way of illustrating the effectiveness of this method of digitised stock control, de Ridder highlighted the example of Astra Sweets, a Belgian candy manufacturer based in Turnhout.

The company, which produces 300 varieties of sweets distributed under its own brand and private labels internationally, faced stock management challenges associated with discrepancies in production weights. This often led to costly delivery delays. 

To address these challenges, management implemented a new system involving mobile weighing on warehouse forklifts. This takes places immediately post-production and the results are communicated via WLAN to production management software. 

According to RAVAS this integration, which allows for real-time adjustments, has reduced the need for corrections, greatly enhanced operational efficiency and reduced waste.  

Position and movement of stock

According to Marco Fava, a process and development engineer at Bolzoni Group, stock control can also be achieved by tracking the position of goods and their movement inside the plant or warehouse.

Clamps from Bolzoni Group facilitate stock control by tracking the position of goods inside the plant or warehouse
Clamps from Bolzoni Group facilitate stock control by tracking the position of goods inside the plant or warehouse

Noting that Bolzoni Group specialises in equipment, such as clamps, which are installed at the front of forklifts rather than on pallets, Fava says his organisation has much to offer when it comes to stock control.

“To ensure this, we have implemented new technologies like geolocation, measuring/presence sensors and central processing units (CPUs) in our products,” he says, “And we support the associated data collection and analysis with a web-portal, which we make available to users.”

Part of the company’s Easy-Connect range, this equipment can be applied globally. In other words, it makes it possible for organisations with an international presence to keep track of their entire fleet. Managers remain aware, at all times, of the current operational status of all forklifts, whether they happen to be in Manchester, Beijing or Auckland.

Beyond benefits associated with predictive maintenance and the like, this information can be used for stock control, to modify the handling parameters of each forklift, to identify instances of forklift misuse or incorrect decisions associated with stated stock handling parameters and to generate reports regarding the use of the forklift.

“The portal is able to generate comparison charts to benchmark two or more units, as well as two or more facilities and help logistic managers make decision regarding operational improvements,” says Fava.

Integrated technologies

According to Rick Whiting, head of global product management at Cascade Corporation, the integration of advanced technologies such as cameras, sensors and weighing systems that continue to function even while the forklift is in motion represents a significant step forward for digitised stock control.

Cascade Corporation's mobile weighing solutions measure load weights crucial for shipping accuracy and inventory management
Cascade Corporation's mobile weighing solutions measure load weights crucial for shipping accuracy and inventory management

“These systems allow simultaneous positioning, weighing and side-shifting. Enhancing efficiency, they capture data and communicate wirelessly to the end user’s WMS for analysis and further optimisation,” he says. 

“Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) now incorporate these technologies, fostering seamless connectivity and automation in stock control processes and reflecting a continuous shift toward fully automated warehouse environments.”

Cascade Corporation’s mobile weighing solutions, Cascade ActivWeigh and Weigh Forks, measure load weights crucial for shipping accuracy and inventory management. Eliminating the need for a stationary scale, they also facilitate piece counting and weight totalling. 

“From the truck-mounted display, data can be communicated wirelessly to an end user’s WMS or connected to a local terminal for analysis and further optimisation,” says Whiting. 

“For those without a WMS, Cascade offers users our free Weigh2Go app. This provides both small and large operations with the ability to easily record and transfer weight data captured by the Cascade mobile weighing indicator displays.”

Combining real-time data transfer capabilities with high mobility, ActivWeigh and Weigh Forks facilitate immediate adjustment and decision-making based on accurate weight and identification data.

As illustrated by the case of a Cascade warehouse client, Weigh Forks can also help eliminate errors in order picking. The client, who was already using the attachments, needed a fast and effective way to ensure that drivers were loading pallets with the correct weights.

Cascade’s solution was to customise the Weigh Forks. By adding an audible alert that sounds on the driver’s tablet when the pallet weight reaches a predetermined value, they were able to solve the issue.

In this case, Whiting said “…these customized Weigh Forks offered a simple way to validate weight accuracy while picking orders, requiring little driver input. They also allowed for weight data to be captured and then communicated wirelessly to the Warehouse Management System for further analysis.”

Optimised workflows and pathways to profitability

On a slightly different tack, the Parcel Metrics approach to digitised stock control involves mobile dimensioning, weighing and scanning.  

As Jacob Blom, sales director at Parcel Metrics, points out this method is suitable for cross docking, which is the practice of moving goods directly from one (inbound) dock to another (outbound) dock, eliminating the need for storage.

Cubetape, a hand-held measuring tape with digital output and an integrated scanner, facilitates dimension measuring and scanning
Cubetape, a hand-held measuring tape with digital output and an integrated scanner, facilitates dimension measuring and scanning

Employing this approach, data is collected using a forklift scale with Bluetooth data output, along with a hand-held Cubetape (a measuring tape with digital output and an integrated scanner). When this system is in operation, data is collected and brought together in a data hub then transmitted to an office IT system.

“The Parcel Metrics dimensioning weighing and scanning (DWS) solution creates a mobile measuring system, which provides optimal flexibility for the data capture of shipments with the intension of determining the real weight and dimensions of the goods,” explains Blom.

All data is processed in real time within the host IT system. In cases where discrepancies between the reported weight and dimensions and the measured data arise, a recalculation can be made.

“The Parcel Metrics DWS system is an ideal revenue protection system, which ensures costs are processed in a fair and honest way,” says Blom.

Scanning and dimension measuring is carried out manually by an operator positioned adjacent to the goods. At the moment of scanning, the barcode and weight are collected. Then to finish the measurement cycle, the operator manually measures the length, width and height of the goods using the Cubetape. 

All data is forwarded to the office software where it is processed and sent on to the host IT system (either on premises or in the cloud). To ensure data integrity, the transfer is performed using the HTTPS secure protocol. 

The benefits to the client of this process are many. As with the various other approaches already discussed, businesses which employ the DWS put themselves in a good position to not just track and control stock effectively but also to ensure they don’t find themselves in a position where they don’t have enough stock to meet demand.

They set themselves up to maintain the accuracy of financial reporting, to optimise workflow efficiency and better understand the potential pathways to profitability.

 

For more information on the latest methods of digitised stock control from our contributors, please visit this dedicated Virtual Showroom.


For this report we interviewed the following industry specialists:

Rob de Ridder
International Senior Sales Manager
RAVAS

 

Marco Fava
Process and Development Engineer
Bolzoni Group

Read more.

 

Rick Whiting
Head of Global Product Management
Cascade Corporation

Read more.

 

Jacob Blom
Sales Director
Parcel Metrics

Read more.

 

 


 

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