Shipping & Logistics

Kenya warehouses lag as giants automate for speed, lower costs

Siginon has installed a system for online tracking. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Siginon has installed a system for online tracking. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Global warehousing giants are investing in automation with eyes on lower transportation costs, achieving faster delivery, and expanding by linking up with new suppliers and locations.

According to a new report, in the US and Canada warehouse executives are investing in barcode scanning, warehouse truck loading automation, tablet computers for inventory, data synchronisation, real time location systems and radio-frequency identification (RFIR) to identify and track tags attached to freight, tracking solutions firm Zebra Technologies has found.

In a survey, 43 per cent of warehousing executives said the software technologies had lowered transport costs, 41 per cent said they had shortened delivery time, while 32 per cent reported that automation enabled them to expand businesses across new suppliers and locations.

“Even if you are saving 15-20 seconds per order, it can add up quickly when dealing with 500-1,000 orders per day. As a distributer, when you take steps to reduce time per order, it opens up the door to service more customers in the same day,” the consultants reported. However, some goods move slowly and others faster, depending on type and size.

Across the world, the demand for modern quality warehousing is growing. However, in Kenya, such services are in short supply, according to the 2017 Sub-Saharan Africa report by Broll Property Group.

“Kenya’s warehousing industry operates at a primary level; meaning that warehousing is standard and the provision of total warehousing solutions is barely practised in the market. The market predominantly has B-grade and C-grade spaces, with A-grade warehousing remaining at its infancy stages,” says the report.

Last month, logistics solutions company Siginon Global Logistics launched cloud software in its Nairobi warehouses that it says has increased operational efficiency and reduced stock taking and stacking time by more than 23 hours.

The Streamline Warehouse Management System now rolled out by Siginon in Kenya has enabled the creation of a web-based portal where clients can view their shipments in warehouses and instruct the team on shipment movements.

Overall, Siginon says the system has reduced stock taking and stacking time from a whole day to 30 minutes for a 70,000 sq-ft warehouse, with all shipments received now bar-coded and scanned. The system runs inventory movements within the warehouse, be it under dangerous goods rules, or to the cold room, inventory replenishment, or because of expiry dates. Previously, all of this was done manually.

“Our system now provides real time reporting of clients’ cargo during inbound, storage and dispatch timings. Clients’ cargo stock-take is done through scanning of the radio frequency identification at the warehouse and inventory is updated automatically,” said Winstone Akweyu, operations manager at Siginon Global Logistics.

“The system also generates proforma invoices to the customer and dashboards for customers to view space utilisation and precise stock location.”

According to research by consultants Newcastle Systems, when an error is made at the receiving point of a warehouse, it can have a 10-fold effect on the rest of the warehouse storage process.

“When it comes to warehousing, optimising receiving is the first most important step to optimising the warehouse. On average, it takes a total of 20.75 minutes to receive and store goods in a warehouse. However, with the adoption of warehouse management system technologies, the total time taken is reduced by over half to 9.91 minutes, as it eliminates wasteful processes,” reads the Newcastle Systems report.

- African Laughter