The days of analog devices, processes and systems are long gone. While many people might not envision warehousing technology beyond forklifts or conveyor belts, digitization is becoming increasingly popular — and necessary — in all facets of the logistics and supply chain industries.
Between booming consumer demand for e-commerce and intense labor shortages, business owners in this sector would do well to turn toward an automated and digitized warehouse. According to Acumen Research and Consulting, the global warehouse automation market will stand at just shy of $65 billion with a compounded annual growth rate of slightly under 15% in less than a decade.
So, what is a smart warehouse, and what are its benefits? Let's take a look:
The internet of things (IoT) is a phrase used to describe an interconnected system of technological devices that can work separately or in tandem with one another. They're connected, of course, through the internet and usually operate via Wi-Fi networks. Take, for example, your smartphone and a smart home system like Alexa: They're separate devices but can work together on the same Wi-Fi connection.
Similarly, organizations are increasingly utilizing smart devices and software to streamline operations and increase efficiency and productivity in their warehouses. As Automation World explains, warehouses have gone several steps beyond once-groundbreaking technologies such as floor sensors and robotic arms: Now, they're using machines and programs that harness the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning on a level that's almost incomprehensible to most of us.
Warehouses are being fitted with computer software and technological devices that automatically gather data in real time. Even better, they're able to comb through that information and make recommendations on how to improve warehousing and transportation procedures to enhance output. For example, the roaming robot produced by Otto Motors travels freely across a warehouse floor, using cameras and lasers to scan the space and generate figures about capacity and efficiency without the need for human assistance.
While machines will never totally replace people (nor should they), they're able to speed up delivery times, reduce risk to human health and safety, decrease incorrect order shipments, collect and analyze data and streamline warehousing operations — all of which make them an invaluable resource in the fourth industrial revolution.
Further, when many processes (such as data capture and analysis, customer service and client queries) can be automated, the need for manual labor is reduced. This means that employers don't need to spend exorbitant amounts on overhead expenses when it comes to employees, especially at a time when worker turnover rates are unbelievably high. Automation can also help warehousing companies save on utility costs. As DC Velocity reports, a DHL test site that uses sensors to turn off lights when people leave the room almost halved its energy bill once the sensors were installed and activated. It's time for more businesses in the logistics industry to embrace these incredible technological advances.