Warehouse management is no longer the static element in the supply chain, but an area that’s ready for smart transformation. In an experience economy, customers want goods made to order and delivered as soon as possible, in a way that suits their flexible lifestyles. This makes warehouse digital transformation a reality in order to sustain business and thrive amidst increasing competition and market pressures.
In this new, connected world, the Warehouse of the Future is about achieving key operational metrics and exceeding customer service requirements more profitably while supporting sustainability goals.
The Warehouse of the Future is likely to become the norm in the coming years and will be driven by technologies such as:
- IIoT and real-time data
- Internet of Things (IoT), is an ecosystem of sensors (e.g., for location, humidity, temperature) that are interconnected across digital networks. These sensors can collect and transmit data in real time without human intervention.
- IoT will bring in real-time visibility and seamless collaboration among processes and chain partners, resulting in highly evolved, efficient and effective operating models.
- Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
- Although not yet widely adopted, AGVs, as potential substitutes for forklifts, promise to revolutionize the way cargo is transported inside and outside the warehouse.
- According to Mordor Intelligence, the global automated guided vehicle market was worth USD $2.41 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach USD $14.18 billion by 2026.
- Data intelligence, analytics and machine learning
- Warehouses are expected to play a key role in increasing customer satisfaction, effectively predicting product demand and making better use of the resources at hand. As a result, the demand for forecasting and accurate decision-making is on the rise.
- Predictive analytics, together with artificial intelligence (AI), can be very effective for recommending optimized inventory levels, replenishing inventory and increasing operational efficiency—as well as for warehouse optimization as a whole.
- Automation and robotics
- Automation and robotics along with cobots can simplify the performance of manual tasks, which helps minimize time and cost (cumulative) and increase efficiency.
- Robotics are expected to become more human-like in terms of memory, sensing, skill and affinity for learning without being programmed for particular skills (AI).
- Augmented reality (AR) and virtualization
- Devices such as smart glasses, augmented reality and voice-enabled devices are becoming more popular by the day as a means of achieving effective interaction with systems.
- Wearables can help optimize efficiency in processes such as order picking, receiving, high-value asset handling, cycle counting, safety and workforce training, to name a few.
- Real-time inventory management
- Automatic identification systems like smart sensors, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and GPS not only provide end-to-end visibility of inventory but also operational intelligence through the data that these sensors collect in the process.
- This helps in optimizing inventory management as well as in making the warehouse safer while increasing visibility.
Putting the digital transformation of warehouses and distribution facilities into motion by these means allows organizations to elevate productivity, planning and operational efficiency. This, in turn, leads to better supply chain performance that enables reduced warehouse-related costs and emissions as well as improved service levels, efficiency and safety. Ultimately, the enhanced visibility these emerging technologies deliver will empower warehouse operations to be agile in adapting to new developments and disruptions, bringing them closer to the vision of the Warehouse of the Future.
To learn more about the ongoing modernization of warehouse and distribution facilities, I invite you to attend a webinar, hosted in partnership with Reuters Events, Prologis and Parker Hannifin, on June 29 entitled Connectivity and Optimization: Establishing the Warehouse of the Future.
This will be an interactive session where I, along with other industry experts, will discuss the Warehouse of the Future in greater detail. You will gain insights into the need for integrated visibility across operations and the technology infrastructure necessary to drive optimization for your future warehouse’s success.
Click here to register for the webinar.