During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have taken steps towards complete digital transformation with the goal of ensuring productivity and perpetual uptime. Manufacturing operations have always pushed for higher productivity through increased automation, but this has often focused on greater automation through process improvements. Driven by the need to collaborate, access data and run operations remotely, and manage supply chains during lockdowns, innovative manufacturers are now focusing on the digital infrastructure that supports their production operations through end-to-end digital transformation.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a major challenge to electronics manufacturers: supply chain disruptions. As an innovative EMS company, PCI strives to maintain tight production schedules and high quality while also providing value-added engineering services. To overcome supply chain disruptions and ensure customer orders can be produced on-schedule, PCI has implemented a Smart Factory program that focuses on end-to-end digitization of production and management operations. Warehouse digitalization plays a central role in enabling remote inventory management while also providing complete visibility inside and outside PCI’s production facilities.
What is Warehouse Digitalization?
As part of digital transformation being implemented in supply chain management and manufacturing, warehouse digitalization refers to the process of integrating warehouse operations and data with other business processes and operations. It also involves providing real-time data on-demand to internal users and to external stakeholders, including customers and suppliers as needed.
This involves much more than implementing an inventory management system or digital ordering system. The goal in implementing warehouse digitalization is to provide complete visibility of received inventory and materials, held inventory, picked orders, and shipped orders. When implemented across an organization, companies can have complete visibility of their operations and fully manage their supply chain, including storage, consumption, delivery, and receiving processes.
Warehouse digitalization addresses several pain points at each level of the supply chain. For manufacturers, including OEMs and EMS companies like PCI, warehouse digitalization targets the following challenges:
- Eliminating manual data entry and tracking of held inventory
- Lack of visibility into inventory movement through the manufacturing process
- The need to anticipate low inventory or delayed delivery rather than reacting to volatility
- Inability to integrate with other inventory management and ERP systems
By confronting these challenges with an integrated, digitalized supply chain management system, PCI now sees many benefits that create new value for customers:
Warehouse Procedure Visibility
Real-time visibility of warehouse procedures enables tighter control over movement of inventory and goods. Everything from order picking schedules, received materials, and outgoing shipments to customers can be tracked by any functional group. Data is made available to employees through a cloud platform and is accessible on mobile devices, both on-premises or while working remotely.
Warehouse Operation Digitalization
The digitalized inventory management system implemented by PCI can automate receiving, storage, picking, and shipping procedures in the warehouse, where component and material stocks are automatically catalogued as they enter or leave the facility. Inbound/outbound confirmation is provided for all components and material by scanning with a camera on a mobile device, and data is automatically entered into the company inventory management system. Once inventory data is captured, it can be immediately viewed and traced throughout the production process.
Automated Material Handling
Moving to a cloud-driven inventory management model eliminates the need for many manual tasks that are time-consuming and prone to human error. This includes elimination of paper forms for material issuance, purchase orders, order picking, and kitting components. This level of digitalization ensures accurate order picking and consistently high throughput by eliminating delays in material handling and production downtime.
Perhaps the most important benefit is the ability to remain agile in a volatile supply chain environment. Visibility into current inventory, upcoming orders, and in-process orders enables a more responsive, more agile manufacturing model. Rather than reacting to inventory problems after they arise, it’s possible to anticipate low stocks and supply chain volatility through further integration between internal inventory management systems and vendor systems. PCI’s system can automatically forward replenishment orders to the warehouse picking system and to vendors to ensure sufficient stocks are available to complete customer orders on-time and on-budget.
Overall, implementing these automated processes helps keep costs under control while ensuring consistent throughput and eliminating production delays. This helps PCI, its customers, and its vendors stay competitive in a highly innovation-driven space like electronics manufacturing.
Continued Digital Transformation at PCI
PCI has always strived to be an innovation partner for its customers and to lead innovation in electronics manufacturing. As PCI continues implementing its Smart Factory program, other business processes will see continued digitization. Other areas where greater digitization has been implemented include development of an integrated supplier network, implementing a data-driven digitized process for plant maintenance, and creation of a mobile dashboard for a detailed, real-time view of operations. These efforts are slated to continue into 2022 with the goal of continuously improving efficiency and quality for customers.
Companies that want to bring their new products to market should partner with an experienced EMS provider that brings extensive design and engineering experience. PCI’s new focus on warehouse digitalization and digital transformation can help ensure sustainable production in a highly volatile supply chain environment. We have more than 30 years of EMS experience focused in consumer goods, industrial, automotive, and medical devices, as well as in Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCBA) and box builds. Our Lean Six Sigma manufacturing expertise enables us to customize our manufacturing line to meet our partners’ requirements.
If needed, we provide our customers the flexibility needed to quickly scale production as needs arise. We provide our partners with high-quality products at lower manufacturing costs thanks to our shorter change-over time and leaner material control. Contact PCI today to learn more about our capabilities.