Data Collection Technology Evolves for Distribution Centers

In the warehouse, excellent data collection processes are critical to accurate inventory counts in real time. By knowing what’s in the warehouse, organizations can fulfil orders quickly, avoid shortages, reduce mispicks, and deliver the highest levels of customer service.

In the beginning, pen and paper was the only method for data collection. Distribution center (DC) managers created processes, trained personnel, and handed them pads of paper to collect warehouse data. Most of the picking was done based upon paper-based pick documents spit out of printers. To fulfill orders, pickers would go and find the product and then market short picks and back orders on their paper list.  Then, at a verification station, the picker or a packer would report the quantity picked into the system and cross check against the paper document. Next, they would print a packing list for the customer and a shipping label addressed to the appropriate retailer and/or carrier.

This old process was cumbersome and paper heavy, using big dot matrix printers. Later, labels made it easy to mark boxes clearly for the customer or the store. Next, barcodes and scanners helped automate the process. Most recently, voice controlled systems have become a reality and vision picking is not too far in the future.

Evolution of Data Collection Technology Tools:

Sankara warehouse image 1_1506664634

Now let’s look at the process more granularly. At every stage, the common system had elements that were both good and bad.

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Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiatordesigns, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. So far, Smart Gladiator Wearables have been used to ship, receive, and scan more than 50 million boxes. Users love them for the lightweight, easy-to-use soft overlay keyboard and video chatting ability, data collection ability etc. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 17 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at or visit the company at Also follow him at

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