Warehouse Technology Trends
From the discovery of the wheel to the use of pulleys and the implementation of assembly lines, humans are always looking for ways to make work easier and more efficient. As technology keeps driving forward, warehouse technology trends forecast the implementation of these advances to expedite many tasks and reduce labor costs.
The advances in warehouse technology have certainly improved on what was being used even a decade ago. While many standard warehouse operations are still in place, such as conveyor belts, how orders are filled, shelves restocked, and inventory updated, the time of “smart” warehouses are upon us.
Do you know someone over the age of 20 that doesn’t have a mobile device of some sort? Smartphones and tablets are as powerful as computers were at the turn of the century, giving us the ability to track deliveries, sign documents, and tell us who won the 1987 Super Bowl with a handheld device.
Now, those advancements are being used for more industrial purposes. Code-scanning radio-frequency identification (RFID) guns of the past used to be big and bulky. The earliest smartphones didn’t have the ability to reliably scan these codes with their cameras, but as any selfie-taking teen can tell you, cameras are getting better every year.
This means codes can be scanned, transferred to cloud storage, and even hold more data than ever before. Once scanned, you will be able to tell where a product is at any point. With that information, inventory management software will change the number of products, vendors will be alerted, orders will be placed, and anything along the cloud-based supply chain management system will be notified – all in real-time.
As mentioned before, assembly lines have become completely automated in some industries. Whether it’s making paper, slapping labels on soda cans, or building cars, we’ve all seen the videos of conveyor belts, robotic arms, and packaging equipment hard at work.
The technology just isn’t there for warehouses yet, however. Warehouses can be quite large, with hundreds of aisles and thousands of shelves, it can be quite an endeavor to program forklifts, pallet jacks, or other machinery to go and get needed items on command.
But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some advances. Kiva and Fetch robotics are currently being used by large retailers for automated order picking that can be easily programmed for monotonous tasks. And these machines will only be improved as larger sample sizes are analyzed.
Although it may seem a little too “Big Brother,” drones and body sensors are being used to track how crews move throughout a warehouse. By tracking how products are moved throughout a facility, owners or managers may be able to improve route efficiencies or devise new protocols.
Drones can be used to look for products on the warehouse floor. They can scan codes to relay information to warehouse managers. This new information can be used with the existing data to square up inventory numbers. It can also be used to give up-to-the-minute stats. The warehouse managing system (WMS) will be able to tell where any product is at any time.
Location, Location, Location
As a matter of fact, some changes to the warehouse industry have very little to do with technology at all. Think of a warehouse. Do you picture a large building out in the middle of nowhere or along a dock? It’s pretty rare to see one anywhere near large residential areas.
But as they say, the most worrisome part of any delivery is the last mile. To reduce those distances, many companies are building distribution centers closer to population centers. This expedites shipping and shortens delivery times. Other ideas are a little more out of the box. Patents have been filed to devise warehouse underwater, underground, or even in the sky.
Some warehouse workers may worry that some of these technological implementations will be used to punish or even replace workers. But these advancements are still years away. And there will still be plenty of work to do, either with the programming or service/maintenance of the machines.
Thinking of automating your facility, implementing smart technology, or just making a few upgrades to improve efficiency? Call Storee Construction. We build, upgrade, manage, and expand plants throughout the midwest and we can help you with your upcoming plans. Give us a call and see how we can help.