“Warehouse 4.0” is no more a concept. It is an obvious transition that many companies are realizing. However, surprisingly there are many supply chain companies that haven’t been transitioning towards Warehouse 4.0 as fast as they should. We mention “fast” because companies could lose a significant competitive advantage if they delay the inevitable.
This is especially true for companies operating several warehouses. Scalability in warehousing operations can remain a challenge for Innovation Managers if the adoption of technologies is not done in time. Warehouses are the heart of a supply chain process, due to the fact that it is the chain between the finished product and the consumer, and any inefficiencies in the same could potentially result in significant losses in finances and reputation.
Technologies that make up Warehouse 4.0 are not new. For example – technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), wearable devices, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), Autonomous Inventory Drones, Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS), etc. have been around for quite some time. Deploying these technologies in parallel can work wonders for warehouse operations. They can be easily labeled as the Present and Future of Warehousing Operations.
An efficient warehouse is way more than just a smart Warehouse Management System (WMS). WMS is majorly a source of data management. Beyond that, Innovation Managers need to ensure that the other critical tasks such as picking inventory, scanning inventory, moving inventory, etc. are done in an automated or ‘smart’ manner.
With the advancement in IoT, a lot of warehouse technologies provide real-time insights into their concerned tasks. In fact, Innovation Managers can imagine the data enrichment that can be achieved when a smart WMS can fetch real-time data from the other smart devices.
Cost reduction, time efficiency, usage of labor for more creative or productive tasks, making data-driven decisions, increased safety, etc. are just some of the benefits that Warehouse 4.0 can bring for supply chains.
Here is an example of a simple checklist that Innovation Managers or Warehouse Managers can use to understand the stages where automation can be explored –
This is of course the most obvious starting point, since handling the flow of inventory is the basic functionality of every warehouse. Systems like AS/RS, Conveyors, AGVs are some examples of technology used to handle inventory. Warehouses that have a high frequency in the movement of inventory should strongly consider these systems since they could benefit from reduced labor costs. Also, if the warehouse stores dangerous goods, such systems could potentially prevent many warehouse accidents.
An ideal example of repetitive work, counting inventory remains an important task. Frequent errors in inventory data can cause a huge dent in finances and can prove to be chaotic to the whole supply chain process. The rise in consumer demand, driven by eCommerce, has increased the volume of inventory that warehouses store. More inventory means increased chances of counting errors if done manually. Counting this inventory manually is also slow and costly since more humans are required to do this work.
Innovation Managers can embrace Autonomous Inventory Drones to tackle this challenge and make counting inventory more efficient.
Maintaining Warehouse Environment
Warehouses that track and maintain a suitable environment can boost productivity and efficiency. IoT is the front-runner when it comes to technologies enabling improvement of the warehouse environment. Automated sensors can track the warehouse temperature, which can be useful for warehouses storing perishable goods. Wearables can help monitor employee health, thus ensuring the best safety practices. Inventory theft can be tracked by security sensors and alarms. The possibilities achieved via IoT are endless.
While the checklist is not exhaustive, it can be a good start for Innovation Managers that are keen to take the ambitious task of transforming their warehouses into smart warehouses. There’s a reason why “Warehouse 4.0” is considered as a separate term from “Industry 4.0”. The scope and importance of transforming warehouses are large enough to catch the attention of supply chain stakeholders.
We at FlytWare are glad to play an important role in helping Innovation Managers achieve Warehouse 4.0, by powering their inventory counts with Autonomous Inventory Drones.