Innovative Warehouse Technologies
Within the next 5 years it’s been predicted that over 85% of all businesses will be digital. What does this mean for those in the warehousing sector? Businesses will need to react quickly by implementing the latest warehouse technology. Not only will this ensure future proofing, but supply chains will be operating at peak efficiency – which is great news for customers and businesses alike.
According to ITE Transport & Logistics, 66% of warehouses were planning to expand their tech spend this year. With this in mind, here are 5 current innovative warehouse solutions:
1. Rise of the Robots
Robotics are playing a huge role in innovative warehouse solutions and it’s a fast-developing sector. The big picture with robots is to develop machines that are intelligent enough to help with warehousing tasks and reduce the need of human labour.
Robots can be incorporated into most aspects of warehouse solutions, including:
- Conveyor robots
- Gantry robots
- Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV)
- Palletizer robots
- Storage robots
- Sortation robots
- Packaging robots
So, what does the future hold for warehouse robotics? Autonomous is the buzz word of the future; Robots that are capable of performing tasks by themselves without explicit human control.
2. EDI Communication is Growing
Electronic Data Exchange (EDI) technology permits sharing of seamless information between two different systems using a shared format. Although EDI tech is already present within the warehousing industry, it looks to expand further in the future. Within the warehousing sector, the integration of EDI allows the creation of:
- Purchase orders
- Warehouse inventory & shipping advice
- Warehouse shipping orders
- Stock transfer receipts
The benefits of EDI are greatest when the technology is teamed with an effective warehouse management system (WMS). The standard format and compatibility of EDI documents allows for greater efficiency, visibility and collaboration for smoother operations.
Read also; 6 ways to improve warehouse efficiency
Drones have started to make an appearance in the warehouse sector as businesses increase their automation solutions. The main benefit of using drones is the man-hours that are saved. Take for example, barcode scanning; warehouses are often stacked to the roof with inventory, making barcodes difficult to reach. It’s estimated that a few drones could count as much stock in two days, than an 80-man team, with fork lifts and handheld scanners could in three days! It’s no surprise that major companies including Walmart, Amazon and Domino’s look to expand their warehouse operations with drone tech.
Although certainly a product of the future, drones are not without their drawbacks. They still require a person to fly them. However, it’s envisaged that drones will be autonomous in the near future.
RFID technology uses radio waves to pass info between tags that are attached to stock items and signal readers. As well as improving stock visibility and transparency, RFID also aids inventory management and reduces theft.
Already a major feature in warehouse technology, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) will continue to develop in the coming years.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, in Dortmund, Germany, aims to combine drone tech with RFID to further automate the inventory process. By attaching a reader to a drone, inventory can be catalogued much faster. Floor space can also be saved as the RFID tech combined with the maneuverability of the drone, allows stock to be stacked as a high as possible.
Also known as vision picking or augmented reality picking, pick-by-vision uses smart glasses technology with an integrated display to guide operators through the work process. Using audio and visual cues, the smart glasses guide the operator to each pick location; The built-in vision system then scans the location barcode to verify the operator is in the correct place and recognizes the product to verify the correct item is picked.
Optimized routes allow the picker to move quickly from one pick to the next, saving both time and unnecessary distance. Vision picking ensures strict and precise process guidance in the warehouse, with high pick accuracy at a constant high pick rate.
With the majority of global businesses to become digital, implementing the latest warehouse technology will be vital. Technology is advancing at such a fast pace- who knows what the future holds for the warehousing industry. The idea of autonomous robots and drones may frighten us now, but in 10 years’ time it will most likely be the norm.