Warehousing companies are operating in really tough environments. With rising international trade barriers and limited labor, they need to find ways that reduce cost and increase efficiency, operational speed, and productivity. All of this would have seemed like a far-fetched goal until a few years ago. Still, with the technological advancements taking place every day, we’d say the sky’s the limit. Yes, even for the warehousing industry.
Taking A New Approach
Modern warehouses are going out of their ways to make the most of technological disruptions in today’s daylight. There are warehouse robots making lives easy and trying to achieve accuracy as we speak. We mean, it is the year 2020, it is only fair for global supply chains to expect flexibility in logistics. All thanks to Jeff Bezos with his fulfillment centers and “Octocopter” concept, which by the way, never took off, but there’s always hope, right?
Modern warehouses at tech companies in today’s date are looking to make sure they adapt long term techniques to ensure they successfully meet customer demand and increase productivity at the same time.
Lucky for the human race, in the world of supply chain automation, robots are only about increasing efficiency and not taking over the whole of evolution, which seems like a little bit of a twisted sci-fi movie plot. Let’s not dwell on that. The advancements in the warehousing industry with technology and automation are praiseworthy.
Has anyone watched that episode of South Park on “fulfillment centers,” you’ll understand what we are talking about. If not, you are missing out. You watch it, and then you read about everything Bezos and other warehousing comrades in the United States are doing. It might blow your mind.
That brings us to our next point, and there is no way all of this can be worked upon or controlled manually. Humans are intelligent, but not superheroes all right. Plus, there is so much more to look after when it comes to supply chain management at warehouses like material handling, cost-effectiveness, flexibility, agility, planning, management, accuracy, fast delivery, and whatnot.
How can a man be doing all of it? After all, meeting customer demand is a priority, and customer’s demand is for prime one-day delivery. Sometimes, the same day. Machines are saviors, in every real way possible for these global supply chains.
Warehouse Automation Is The New Game
As per many reports in the last year, about 63% of logistics professionals are investing in warehouse automation technology to deal with shipping challenges. They are not only installing various technological aids but are also looking to indulge in robotics in a more significant way.
This is beneficial for both consumers and employees as the consumers get deliveries right on time, and the employees can put their valuable time into something more important that requires human effort and touch.
Of course, warehouse automation has to buckle up now because e-commerce has changed the face of many businesses in the last decade. Now everything is online, from dog food to mobile phones. This is where the need to handle order fulfillment carefully arises, and global warehouses are practicing supply chain management efficiently just for this.
So without further ado, here are five warehouse automation trends in supply chain management that suppliers should be aware of:
Artificial Intelligence in Supply Chain
We are in the year 2020, people, the hardware is one step below, and software is taking the lead. It’s true. Every other supply chain manager out there is looking into automation in his operation as it grows. Last year, as per a McKinsey research, about 47% of the companies reported having benefited from using AI in the supply chain. The noticeable benefits to this are streamlining of warehousing operations, higher productivity levels, improved accuracy, enhanced safety, and the list is long.
Don’t be scared already. These things only look complicated; in fact, they have been an enormous help to the whole warehousing industry combined. No discussion about warehouse automation and supply chain management is ever going to be complete without discussing robotics, after all. Namely, the help we get from robotics is reduced risks, labor-management, and, most of all, efficiency in deliverables.
Let’s talk about AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots), and AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) invented to support human activity in various global warehouses. These are designed to support specific functions and come in forms like pallet movers, floor cleaners, forklifts, and other loading bays as well. They move on optimized and pre-defined routes, which leaves no room for error. Some AGVs use lasers and magnets to navigate and can move products from one point to another. This is not a sci-fi movie, you all, it’s all happening out there.
In layman’s terms, we could call this technology the Siri or Alexa for warehouses. Does it get cooler than this? Pick-to-voice or voice-directed systems can be implemented in a warehouse to ensure the accuracy and speed of the warehousing staff.
This allows the staff to concentrate efficiently on the picking process and also reduces waste like the use of paper. They can go all handsfree. These systems use speech recognition and speech synthesis to allow warehouse operators to communicate with Warehouse Management Systems.
Elastic Logistics and Transparency through APIs
In the year 2020, warehouses are looking to expand and retract shipping capabilities as per a report by Supply Chain 24/7. This will not only allow rapid scalability but also facilitate flexibility for global warehouses that are looking to enhance their deliverables. All of this is made possible through the use of advanced APIs that provide people with real-time and transparent data. Warehouse owners, leaders, and shippers can make the best use of these APIs and ensure transparent and efficient delivery to the customers as per customer demands.
Why implement an API in your WMS, you ask? All the critical data you require to operate your warehouse can be pushed to external applications via the API, including product data, sales orders, purchase orders, and more. Isn’t that a breather for all now?
Cloud-Based WMS (Warehouse Management Software)
Warehouse management and software systems are reliant on each other for quite some time now. Technology advancements have intertwined with investment in warehouse automation broadly by smartening the picking up process, inventory tracking, and digital practices like the integration of WMS.
Cloud-based WMS refers to the process of making the most of technologies developed by others. With all this automated data in the tech world, one needs to make sure that they are utilizing their warehouses’ potential to the fullest. It’s always a race.
As per the recent McKinsey report, with the right WMS, warehouses have reported an increase of 35% in warehouse picking productivity. Here’s a list of ETL tools that every modern warehouse is putting to use.
Until last year, because of warehouse automation activities, the warehousing industry saw an increase of 27% in investment from retailers worldwide (mentioned in the McKinsey Report from 2019).