How Warehousing is Getting Smarter

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By Jenny Jones, freelance writer.

Warehousing is a critical step in the supply chain. Every innovation in this field can help increase efficiency and reduce costs. Depending on the size of the warehouse and its readiness for technology, the pace of transformation can vary. Nevertheless, these technological advancements can play an incredibly significant role in reducing the cost of the supply chain and improving the speed of product movement.

Here are some ways warehousing is getting smarter.

AGVs Reducing Costs 

Warehouses are adopting AGVs or Automated Guided Vehicles to reduce fulfilment and labour cost. The vehicles can optimise warehouse space while reducing the need to establish new fulfilment and distribution centres. When a significant part of the warehouse management system embraces automation, it can optimise time by reducing the demand for labour work. This reduction helps to further lower operational costs.

Also called self-guided vehicles, AGVs are material handling systems that travel throughout a warehouse or manufacturing facility without any driver or operator. These vehicles can handle tasks that require conveyor systems and forklifts to move a large volume of goods repetitively. AGVs have various applications in the warehouse. However, their most common use is transporting raw materials like plastic, metal, paper, etc. They can reliably and consistently deliver raw materials without human intervention, ensuring that production lines are full of materials to avoid interruptions.

Since AGVs operate autonomously, they help increase productivity and efficiency in the warehouse. They also eliminate unnecessary walking and minimise the physical labour required for transporting raw materials. Best of all, AGVs reduce material damage and increase accuracy and inventory while handling hazardous tasks and keeping warehouse employees safe.

Easy Access to Training 

Warehouses now have easy access to training, which is especially essential in this industry, where workers deal with dangers and hazards daily. According to statistics, an average of 16 fatalities are reported yearly in the warehousing and storage sector. Thus, companies running a warehouse must provide their workers with the necessary training on health and safety. Thankfully, workers can now take up health and safety courses online, making it easier and more efficient for them to complete.

Warehouses have to realise that health and safety training for employees is not something they are obligated to provide but something that can benefit them in the long run. When employees are well-equipped with knowledge on how to stay safe at work, they can avoid facing legal actions for not following government regulations on workplace safety.

One of the biggest challenges to training is the conflict of schedule. But with online training, warehouse employees can train at any time and at their own pace. The training materials are always accessible, so there is no need to pull out workers from the floor to participate in training. With health and safety training, warehouse employees will be more aware of the hazards in their work and what precautions to take to prevent these.

Automated Picking Tools 

Among the technologies that warehouses are now adopting are automated picking tools. These tools are either robotic or semi-robotic and often used by the pick and pack team to optimise inventory management. Order pickers and packers spend a long time going around the warehouse. Integrating automated picking tools like computerised cranes and forklifts that automatically pick items and transport them across long distances can save them plenty of time. Conveyor belts are also very useful in increasing the speed of picking and packing items in the warehouse. 

Some of the more advanced warehouses rely on robots to increase picking speed. With the help of IoT and AI, robots can communicate with the Warehouse Management System to determine which items to pick and scan the bar codes before sending the products for the packing team to pack. The main benefit of using automated picking tools in warehouses is they lower the pick times. Warehouses could see their picking speed improve by two to three times, and that's because these robots can move across the warehouse floor faster than humans.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the systems developed by connecting several smart devices into a network. Such technology is beneficial in various industries, including warehousing. IoT-enabled technologies can establish innovative warehousing techniques and improve automation. They help streamline inventory management and minimise the cost of operating a warehouse. But to ensure they work according to your needs, consider recruiting IoT specialists who can implement and manage these automated technologies.

Smart warehouse integrates IoT-enabled devices in their operation. It uses various technology solutions to automate and improve efficiency, productivity, and accuracy. In a manual warehouse, workers move around with a long list of tasks. They have to manually pick, store, and pack items, which could take plenty of time. 

But in warehouses that use IoT technologies, most tasks are automated using IoT technology solutions. These technologies offer additional capabilities to the operation, giving it more flexibility while minimising errors. Without IoT technology, a warehouse worker must accomplish all tasks manually. Considering the enormous processes required in running a warehouse, this is a time-consuming task and prone to human error.

Warehouse Management Systems 

Most warehousing operations use a warehouse management system (WMS), a technology solution allowing warehouses to keep track of everyday operations, including inventory, picking and packing items, shipping, and more. When you implement WMS in your warehouse, you can significantly reduce the time it takes to fulfil an order since the system will have greater visibility into the order activity and the entire inventory and logistics. 

An effective warehouse management system can also help improve order accuracy by automating various processes, from storing to picking, packing, and shipping. It can support a highly mobilised workforce, implement automation, and generate data useful for future decision-making. The WMS also serves as an essential link between the warehouse and transportation.

Automation and integration of new technologies are critical in running a warehouse in this day and age. To remain competitive, you must introduce automation and integrate smart technologies into your warehouse operations.

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