The technologies that work together to make up the manufacturing ecosystems of today’s smartest warehouses have exponentially advanced over the past decade. So much so that the term Smart Manufacturing was developed to summarize this extremely cutting-edge environment. Envision computer-integrated machines, highly adaptable processes, sensors and automation, and the most tech-savvy machine operators in history.
Some of the top themes in smart warehouses are robotics, fully automated packaging lines, cyber security, dynamic simulations and rendering capabilities. Here are some interesting things that are happening in smart warehouses.
Warehouse Management Technology
An effective warehouse management system should comprehensively consolidate all of your critical warehouse data into one easily accessible platform, to give select members of your supply chain a full view of your workings, lightning-fast reporting, real-time statistics, and accurate planning capabilities.
The use of your warehouse management system should perfectly complement your other autonomous processes, and provide the following benefits:
- Real-time access to quality data giving you increased visibility throughout your supply chain
- Accurate demand forecasting
- Reduced labour costs due to efficient labour allocation
- Streamlined warehouse processes
- Optimized warehouse layout
- Improved inventory accuracy
- Improved pick accuracy
- Decreased time between picks
- Improved warehouse flexibility and responsiveness
- Improved warehouse safety and security
- Improved supplier relationships
- Improved customer service levels
Integrating with IoT
The Internet of Things is the overarching concept (not an individual item) that informs how you control all the moving parts of your warehouse.
The IoT can help your warehouse to reduce risk and avoid mistakes or accidents that can create losses in the supply chain by early detection.
- Sensors in the warehouse can monitor temperature, moisture, and other conditions.
- Data coming from shipping conveyances, vehicles, and the products themselves can be combined to reduce theft, counterfeiting, diversion, and spoilage.
Whether automated or manual, the IoT system synchronizes all of your data in an easy-to-access network, helping to optimize your inventory control (with double the impact if integrated with an automated inventory control platform), labour planning, and customer experience (through streamlined processes and improved turnaround time).
Robots and Cobots
“Cobots” are fully autonomous and robotic technologies which require a sizable investment and infrastructure overhaul but are a very nice-to-have addition to a busy warehouse. Cobots are built to work with your existing associates, not without them.
Warehouses using these technologies can often keep most of their existing processes and infrastructure designs while benefiting from the optimized workflow that is achieved with this robotics.
Until the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and supporting technologies, maintenance had long been a passive, reactive process: i.e. waiting for things to break, then fixing them.
Today a mix of technologies allows for 3D representations of objects and their components – sensors, RFID tags, smart supply chains, and AI, is allowing organizations to gain unprecedented insight into the lifecycle of products, components, and even materials.
Using these and other technologies, objects can not only tell organizations when they need fixing, maintenance, or upgrade, but also predict when they’re likely to fail, enabling end-to-end lifecycle management. Warehouses around the world are increasingly adopting proactive maintenance processes so that costly and time-consuming equipment failures are less likely to happen. And, of course, the same processes can be used to protect perishable stock.