Technology is getting smarter day by day so that we can do everything faster, and more efficiently with minimal hassle. This is why the idea of Smart Warehousing isn’t some futuristic science fiction concept but a rapidly unfolding necessity. It essentially refers to the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence, Robots, the Internet of Things (IoT) to automate and digitize various fulfillment activities to make the warehouses fast and efficient. These solutions work in tandem with human employees to reduce errors, save time, and improve employee productivity and overall warehouse efficiency.
On-floor associates can be freed up to focus on more strategic and value-driven activities or guide the machines while they execute a certain task. Efficient warehouse monitoring, reduction in errors, lower returns, better visibility of assets, improved customer experience, and faster shipping, are some of the main benefits of a smart warehouse. To know more, read on.
6 Benefits of Smart Warehousing
1. Better Warehouse Optimization
Incorporating smart solutions can improve the efficiency of the warehouse and optimize the workflow of various fulfillment operations. Advanced analytics driven by machine learning algorithms, help warehouse operators to manage inventory flow, optimize storage, and reduce process chokepoints. The data-driven approach not only helps in keeping a tab on the key metrics, but also enables the warehouse to have a streamlined operation, and in turn, offer better customer service.
Such advanced technologies are also capable of detecting problems and potential risks early in the supply chain. The advantage of having data around inventory and supplier risks empowers the warehouse managers to be more proactive than reactive.
2. Lower Operational Costs
One of the biggest benefits of a smart warehouse is that not every task requires constant human intervention. Incorporating robots, drones, and automated vehicles can make the execution partially or completely autonomous.
3. Faster Picking and Shipping
A Smart warehouse also translates into faster order processing times.
In a non-automated warehouse, associates spend a large part of their day moving around and looking for different products. This is not only time-consuming but also prone to errors. Smart picking devices such as pick-to-light, wearable scanners, smart glasses, and picking robots can drastically cut down the time needed to search, verify, and pick an item from the storage bin. Similarly, adding parcel sorters and conveyors to the shipping workflow can eliminate misplacement and incorrect labeling of packages. Thus, faster picking and error-free shipping can shorten the order lead times. Faster fulfillment cycles offer the competitive edge you need in a world that is gradually getting used to same-day shipping.
4. Greater Accuracy in Warehouse Operations
A typical warehouse operation consists of several processes and steps that are susceptible to errors. These errors can set up the entire business for a huge operational loss if not identified and resolved on time. One of the top advantages of a smart warehouse is higher accuracy at every step of the order fulfilment cycle. It also helps in reducing the number of items getting lost, damaged, or expiring due to improper inventory management.
5. Better Customer Service
Every product in a warehouse finally ends up with the consumer. Naturally, it is important to focus on customer service, experience, and satisfaction. With smart warehousing, companies can improve the way they interact with their customers, fulfill their changing demands, provide support, and enhance the overall experience. With faster shipping, reduced costs, and prompter responses, businesses can build a satisfied customer base.
6. Better Tracking of Assets and Inventory
Efficient inventory tracking is one of the biggest concerns for most warehouses. Knowing where a specific product is in the supply chain can help you gain insights about the orders processed, improve supply chain planning, and estimate when the next batch of products might be needed to prevent a stock-out situation. So, in a smart warehouse, RFID tags, barcodes, integrated sensors, and other latest technologies provide unparalleled visibility of product movement and inventory status.
Read Also: Digital Transformation of the Warehouse
How to Implement Smart Warehousing
While the top benefits of smart warehousing are gradually becoming public knowledge, some organizations are still cautious about investing in the digital transformation of their warehouses.
The reluctance in adoption usually stems from the cost-prohibitive and time-consuming nature of the incumbent automation infrastructure. However, smart warehousing entails a wide spectrum ranging anywhere from enabling paper-free operations to installing autonomous robots. Following are some of the components of a smart warehouse.
Autonomous Mobile Robots
These advanced machines can execute several tasks ranging from automated picking and storage to packaging, inventory distribution, and more. They are intended to work in tandem with the floor associates to ensure a seamless, optimal, and error-free goods movement flow.
Internet of Things (IoT) adoption
IoT is getting increasingly popular in the smart warehouse space. Smart IoT devices range from picking devices, sensors, robots, to ASRS systems that can communicate the operational data in real-time to the central warehouse system. Such granular real-time data becomes a valuable input source for machine learning algorithms to learn and optimization recommendations.
Analyzing a large amount of data accumulated during warehouse operations can hold the key to optimizing various operations. AI-driven approach can assist with predicting Inventory demands, optimizing picker route, enabling dynamic task allocation, and handshakes on the floor.
Warehouse Operating Systems
Smart warehousing requires much more than a run-of-the-mill Warehouse Management System (WMS). It needs a modern warehouse software that can act as the central operating system or control tower to orchestrate the flow in real-time. Besides, such a system can serve as the glue between ERP, WMS, Shipping software on one end, and all the sensors and automation hardware on the other. Most importantly, the central operating system should have the intelligence depth that can leverage advanced analytics to make predictive recommendations.
Forward-thinking businesses are catching up with the idea of smart warehousing, slowly but surely. In fact, several businesses are substituting spreadsheets, legacy systems, and other rudimentary processes with some of the mentioned smart warehousing components. With the rapidly evolving consumer expectation in conjunction with the disruptions caused by the current pandemic, building a smart warehouse is essential to stay competitive.
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