The Warehouse of the Future is Here
Today your typical warehouse worker uses smartphones and tablets to connect them to online banking, shopping, music-on-demand, and apps that warn if there is heavy traffic ahead and suggest another route. But when the worker checks in for work at the warehouse, many face limited technologies to make tasks more efficient.
Supply chains – particularly warehouses – haven't adopted new technologies quickly. The hesitation is because many companies don't wholly understand recent advances or aren't willing to allocate funds to adopt them. Companies that realize that automation leads to efficiencies can reap the benefits by offering better customer service, doing more work with fewer resources, and growing their business.
Innovations make the warehouse of the future a reality
The most significant difference between today's warehouse operations and how things worked twenty years ago is the availability of computers and communications technology.
Supply Chain demands revealed that new systems were needed to maintain communication and store data, which led to the creation of Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Transportation Management Systems (TMS). These systems enable the tracking of products anywhere in the warehouse or in transit between warehouses.
Initially, the benefit of these systems was to allow supervisors to check inventory in and out. Later as technology improved, they could scan barcodes to keep track of loads without tedious manual data entry. Today's WMS has evolved beyond that.
A well-designed WMS saves supervisors much of the work needed to organize a warehouse and create loading and unloading plans.
A WMS equipped for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking can automatically record what comes into and goes out of a warehouse.
WMS can suggest where to place products based on your priorities. The system generates the optimal picking order for employees to simplify retrieval.
An intelligent WMS can generate the most efficient path to and from products for employees. If an employee wears smart glasses that display that route, they save even more time.
Create a safer warehouse by tracking equipment and personnel moving around the warehouse. Warn employees about what's coming around the corner and avoid accidents.
Automate like the Big Box Companies
Large Ecommerce Distribution Centers across the globe already use automated systems.
Amazon uses Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) to move goods from one area to another.
Grocery supply chains use Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) to help keep perishables stored at ideal temperatures
Automation is not only about replacing human labor. Here are other advantages:
Enforce procedures - Workflows that pre-program procedural controls keep people on task. (Unlike humans, a program won't forget to perform a step). The program notifies supervisors if a worker does not complete an assignment as specified.
Optimize warehouse space – Dedicate more space to storing products and less space to accommodate human accessways. ASRS can reach higher than any forklift to free up more space.
Continuous warehouse operations – Improve operational capacity by keeping your warehouse automation running 24/7 without interruptions. (No breaks, absences, and reduced accidents)
Logistical and Tracking Advancements
Modern warehouse management offers advances in logistical planning and tracking. Many warehouses still rely on paper-based systems to track inventory and manage shipments which is not an efficient or effective way to manage a warehouse.
Current technologies enable warehouses to move to electronic systems that provide real-time data and allow for more accurate tracking. Additionally, RFID tags and other tracking technologies have evolved to keep track of inventory and ensure products ship on time and arrive at the correct locations.
How Warehouse Management Software Helps Businesses Run More Efficiently
Most businesses know that they need warehouse management software (WMS) to help them run their operations more efficiently. But with so many different WMS solutions on the market, it can be challenging to decide which one is right for your business.
Here's a list of the top five rewards of using warehouse management software:
Improved Customer Service
Greater Visibility and Control
Features of the Best Warehouse Management Software
Here are features you should look for to ensure that the WMS you select will meet the needs of your business.
Real-time data and tracking
Robust reporting capabilities
The ability to integrate with other systems
Automated tasks and processes
A user-friendly interface
The Warehouses of the Future
Today, warehouse management software (WMS) is vital for any organization. Tomorrow's WMS will be even more advanced, offering features and capabilities that we can only imagine today. Additionally, robotics and other automated technologies will become more common in warehouses as companies look for ways to increase efficiency and accuracy further.
Another area that is changing is the workforce itself. As the Baby Boomer generation begins to retire, there will be a need to fill those positions with qualified workers. Additionally, the growth of e-commerce has created a need for more warehouse workers who are comfortable working with technology and can handle the demands of a fast-paced environment.
Finally, how we store and manage inventory has been revolutionized. As we continue to face space limitations and the need to be more efficient, organizations look for ways to keep inventory that take up less space to simplify management. Warehouse improvements include changes to physical layouts to include new storage methods and technologies.
Many warehouses still use outdated forklifts and human resources. Any automation upgrades should consider bridging the technology gap between old and new methods. For warehouses stuck in the past, an intelligent transformation by a trusted software partner can phase out inefficient processes and ease the pain of change.
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About the Author: Business Management International (BMI) focuses on bringing business technology to companies to help them compete. We're not afraid to offer radically excellent customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and Acumatica to solve real-world business problems. www.bmiusa.com.