Technology is moving the warehousing sector forward at a significant pace with innovation and creativity generating new solutions to old issues. But when it comes to the day-to-day realities, what does technology really have to add in terms of enhancing warehousing productivity and capability?
In the same way that mobile technology has become a preference for consumers as a result of convenience and ease of use, so the warehousing industry is starting to follow suit. Wireless devices give a workforce much more freedom to move around and be more effective on the warehouse floor. Information, such as inventory data, can be accessed in real time from anywhere and basic functions, including label printing, carried out on the go. This means that everyone always has the latest data at their fingertips and can be more effective thanks to the use of mobile devices.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Connectivity is the real benefit of IoT and the fact that every day devices can be connected up via the internet. In warehousing terms this provides a lot of opportunities for enhancement, from data exchanges to real time tracking.
Radio frequency identification (RFID)
When combined with the advances being generated by the Internet of Things, the use of RFID enables all inventory items to be tagged so that stock levels can be viewed in real time. This puts up to date inventory information in a single location at the fingertips of anyone who needs to access it.
While the widespread use of robots in warehouses is still some way off, the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is opening up a wealth of possibilities to make changes in the warehouse. For example, robotic equipment will be able to take over many of the more repetitive and mundane tasks from humans, completing them more quickly and efficiently. This will free human operatives up to add more value elsewhere and tackle more complicated tasks. Amazon is pioneering the use of warehouse robots and already has in excess of 100,000 small, mobile robots working in its warehouses.
The use of drones
Productivity is one of the main benefits of using drones in warehouses – research has found that a drone can potentially do the work of 100 humans in the same time period. Current obstacles, such as payload capacity restrictions, have limited the widespread use of drones but in the warehouse context they have the capacity to introduce a number of benefits, including using sensors to locate items or establish inventory levels.
Software applicable to the warehouse environment is evolving all the time. Today, it’s possible to use tracking software to process large data sets to generate insights or extract key information, whether that relates to inventory or distribution. There are many different ways in which this can be employed, from integrating it into business planning and strategy to using extracted data to help customers make buying decisions.
Technology has great potential to help enhance your warehousing. From robots and drones to software and IoT this is an area that is constantly evolving.