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5 Smart Warehouse Technologies to Boost Warehouse Automation

Author
Olia Rudkovska
Published
June 26, 2023
Time
10 mins to read

Table of Contents

    What is the role of technology in warehousing?

    According to a study by the Material Handling Institute, the adoption of new warehouse technology leads to a 50% increase in productivity and a 25% reduction in operating costs. With the increasing demand for fast and efficient supply chain operations, the role of technology in warehouses is only expected to continue growing in importance. Among the most impactful events that had both positive and negative influences on implementing smart warehouse technologies were:

    While these factors can be looked at as challenges, they are also the drivers of progress. Warehouse automation became a number one priority for most companies not only to maintain a competitive advantage but to be able to satisfy the demand. As a software development company specializing in building custom warehouse solutions, we’d like to shed more light on top trending warehouse technology solutions and how businesses can benefit from smart warehouse automation.

    What is warehouse automation and how it can help your business?

    Warehouse automation means improving the accuracy and efficiency of each warehouse flow component from receiving goods to reaching the destination. Another aspect crucial for businesses is energy efficiency. The costs of energy consumption are getting higher, and every organization is looking for ways to lower expenses with custom energy management software.

    Types of warehouse automation

    Warehouse management process and automation needs

    The overall success of the warehouse depends on the smooth running of vital processes. The layout of the facility and labor costs are often seen as the main factors influencing expenses. However, the detailed analysis of operations shows that paying salaries and maintaining the building is not the largest expense that a company faces. Besides, implementing smart warehouse automation technologies is the answer to both, costly labor and possible drawbacks in the layout of the facility. To understand the changes and their tangible results, let’s look into the processes that every warehouse regardless of the size, deals with.

    Warehouse management process

    Looking at warehouse flow is crucial to understanding the automation needs of your company. If one of the processes lacks accuracy it causes lags in the flow which in turn negatively influences order fulfillment.

    How are automated warehousing systems used?

    The point of implementing smart warehouse technologies and automation is to optimize every element of the flow to minimize waste, reduce time-consuming routines, and improve the overall performance of the facility, making it resilient and sustainable in the face of global challenges. Automation happens at all levels of a warehouse management process, from receiving the goods to shipping them.

    Top 5 smart warehouse technologies

    There is no doubt that automated warehousing systems are here to stay and they are still evolving and acquiring new functionalities. Here is a short video and list of some of the leading smart warehouse technologies that are taking over the industries.

    1. Internet of Things

    The Internet of Things is probably the most commonly used smart warehouse technology, especially after COVID brought new labor and automation challenges into this industry. IoT in warehouse automation is used to perform multiple tasks. It goes beyond controlling individual processes and allows the creation of a unified system with synchronized data. The technology comes in various forms and prices. It can be as simple as sensors or tags installed on movable parts of the warehouse to collect performance data. They provide valuable information on vulnerabilities of operations and prevent mistakes and theft.

    2. RFID technology

    RDIF asset tracking technology came as a more advanced alternative to barcode scanners. Its main advantage is that the tags can be read remotely. In practice, it allows personnel to decrease the need for moving around the facility wasting time to find objects. Walmart has been working on the implementation of RDIF since 2011 and plans on going beyond the warehouse facilities, in particular, to improve in-store inventory accuracy. Another benefit of this technology in warehousing that makes it so desirable and wanted by businesses is speeding up the inventory management process. Companies who prefer old-fashioned approaches to conducting business will struggle considering the so-called “Amazon effect” which gains more and more power. Amazon has changed the perception of delivery for the customer and created a fast shipping concept. By digitalizing their processes, they managed to be fast and efficient, so their competitors have to keep up.

    3. Automated inventory control platforms

    Automated inventory control panels allow tracking and reordering of the stock, generating documentation instantly, and presenting real-time data. By freeing workers from the time-consuming, mundane tasks of manually conducting inventory checks, businesses can scale faster. Such a platform can be easily integrated into WMS or exist separately.

    4. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs)

    AVGs are used to move things around the storage facility. Such equipment requires a marked path but can be applied without changing the warehouse layout. They are particularly handy for moving heavy containers. Unlike AGVs, autonomous mobile robots do not require an operator. Instead, they have special sensors that help them navigate through the warehouse environment. Autonomous vehicles and robots are considered to be an improvement in safety since they not only minimize the chances of mistakes but do not put employees at risk.

    5. Collaborative robots

    Collaborative robots are designed to assist people and are safe to interact with. They turned out to be a great response to the shortage of qualified personnel and rising labor costs. The research shows that 33% of the material handling market applies cobots in 2022. Performing routine, repetitive tasks, cobots work along with the human operator and complement their activities. Hence, employees can handle more complex and less hazardous assignments.

    Real-world examples of using warehouse technologies

    Giant companies with multimillion-dollar budgets need to have as much flexibility as small organizations. Implementing warehousing technologies is a step that can give that advantage to a business of any size. Here are some real-world examples of technology used in warehouse automation:

    1. Revolutionizing efficiency: The impact of automation in Amazon’s warehouses

    One of the impressive examples of a successful practical application of technology in warehousing is Amazon. The company operates fulfillment centers around the globe, with multiple distribution centers, logistics infrastructure, etc. The fulfillment centers of Amazon process millions of orders daily. Hence, the company had to make sure that global challenges wouldn’t hit the operations.

    Amazon leveraged its smart warehouse system, in particular, AWS Cloud and IoT, and managed to optimize routine tasks. Besides, they introduced a robotic picking system, and machine learning algorithms improved data management and got hold of real-time insights into their operations. All in all, the warehouse automation with AWS Cloud allowed them to achieve the following:

    Moreover, the automated system acquired by Amazon ensures their resilience and enables them to react quickly to new challenges. There will be no need to invent a new business model whenever the next crisis comes. Their system is flexible, adjustable, and easily managed regardless of geographical location.

    2. Streamlining for success: How Walmart transformed its warehouse operations with digital transformation

    Walmart owns 210 distribution centers and 2700 stores. Management of such an enterprise would not be cost-effective unless automatization were in place. Among the technologies Walmart implemented are:

    Automating routine tasks that come from a warehouse workflow helped Walmart improve its business performance. The surging need for online shopping creates a competitive environment for companies that conduct deliveries. Customers have high expectations and same-day deliveries are not an element of a wow service but a must. Hence, automation is a tool used by Walmart to keep up with the expectations their customers have.

    Benefits of warehouse automation implementation

    The environment for warehouse operation is dynamic. It changes and leads to a more demanding and responsive approach. With that in mind, businesses have to be equipped with the right tools to adjust to the situation. All means of automation have proved to be working. They are easily adjustable, quick, and relatively cheap in maintenance. The main advantage that automation brings is flexibility. A gigantic warehouse can be reorganized and repurposed in a matter of days assuming it has the right tools. Besides the long-term perspective, automation gives visible daily results:

    What do warehouse tech and automation change?

    Consider automation not only if you want to expand your business. A detailed analysis of the operations of any facility will show vulnerable spots. In most cases, when it comes to custom IoT development services for warehouse automation, they are related to inventory management, scheduling, and warehouse maintenance. Automation has a solution for most of the issues that a warehouse of any size faces.

    Do you need warehouse management software?

    Answer the following questions to understand if you need to implement software:

    If you have at least one positive answer, here are the ways to find your solution to the problems.

    4 steps to designing your warehouse management software

    FAQ

    What is a smart warehouse system?

    A smart warehouse system is a technology-driven solution that streamlines warehouse operations. The integrated hardware, software, and data analytics create an intelligent ecosystem within the warehouse environment.

    What are the modern technologies in warehousing?

    Warehousing technologies include the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, and automation.

    What is an automated warehouse?

    An automated warehouse is a facility in which automated systems and technologies perform tasks and operations, and human intervention is minimized.

    What is warehouse automation?

    Warehouse automation encompasses a wide range of technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and warehouse management systems (WMS). These technologies automate warehouse operations, such as inventory management, sorting, storage, and shipping.

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