“The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Alan Kay
A new era of technology is revamping warehouse logistics, and the change is happening right before our eyes. According to Business Insider, “Mobile robotics in material handling and logistics will become a $75 billion market by 2027. It will then more than double by 2038”. We are making groundbreaking discoveries in technology every day, which will lead to the expansion of smart warehouses all around the globe, and the enhancement of our entire supply chain. A recent study from McKinsey endorses these technologies as futuristic Warehouse Automation technologies.
The future of warehouse logistics is here:
Autonomously guided vehicle robots, abbreviated as AGV robots, will be an essential step towards our completed automated future. These state-of-the-art devices can be programmed to move freely or stay on a predetermined path to bring specific items to a picking station. Mobile robots are becoming prevalent in Amazon’s sorting facilities. Imagine 400 to 500 mobile robots going to their destination without bumping into another robot via their motion sensors, and simultaneously calculating the fastest route for a specific package they are carrying. They decide which chute to insert a package into and can change the package route depending on future orders.
Ryan Clarker, a senior manager for Special Amazon Robotics Tech Applications, put it best when he stated, “It’s basically a very large sudoku puzzle”(Forbes). Basically, the robots are crunching algorithms to identify how many packages can go each route for optimal delivery time without future bottlenecks.
Traditional mobile and handheld scanners have become irrelevant as warehouses become larger, more compact with items, and pressured to meet deadlines. Futuristic OCR, such as laser-guided vehicles and agile drones with cameras, will reduce human error, decrease time wasted, and lower your customer’s shipment time. According to Mark Longacre, an Applications Engineering Manager at JBT Corporation, “LGVs have a navigational laser that is typically elevated 10 to 15 feet in the air, spinning at several revolutions per second. In addition, the range of the laser is approximately 100 feet”. Especially in large warehouses, the full range can do a more effective job than humans, in a shorter amount of time.
Robotic arms are another futuristic idea that can pioneer a new wave of warehouse logistics. Picking robots serve the same function as human hands and are programmed to move any SKU to a specified new location. Companies such as “Covariant” are leading the way in this part of the industry with the latest machine learning algorithms, six-lens camera arrays, and AI functionalities.
Additive Manufacturing, more commonly known as 3-D printing, is another well-known technology that can drastically change warehouse logistics, and possibly allow warehouses to have no physical inventory on shelves ever again. Industries can never predict human behavior and the future supply and demand of a product. Therefore, it is inevitable to have items sitting on shelves for months and losing money for the warehouse. With 3D printing, warehouses can become an “on-demand production facility.” Warehouses can 3D print “digital files sent from the manufacturer [to] ensure OEM accurate designs” (Forbes). 3-D printing could be the next Netflix of warehouse logistics, where owners will physically create digital storage whenever demand increases without losing physical storage.
Smart glasses, similar to advanced VR gear, can augment reality and display directions to storage locations. This can reduce human error and lost time spent searching for the product. While everyone remembers the failure of the Google glass, newer models are game-changers in the warehouse logistics industry.
There are clear instructions for the individual to follow and has preventative measures to verify that the worker is completing the correct tasks at the correct time because orders can change.
Smart storage is the future of storage solutions that utilizes a combination of analytics, algorithms, and digital tools to find the most efficient method of storing items. Depending on the product’s characteristics, the technology will adjust where and how we will store the product. This can save warehouse space and increase performance.
Management systems are a combination of consolidation analytics, performance reporting, forecasting tools, and route metrics. Warehouse managers will benefit from having a platform where they can store important information. The system displays their mistakes in real-time and allow them to implement new strategies to increase performance and eventually scale.
Analytics tools are the combination of analyzing performance, measuring time constraints, identifying trends, predicting human behavior via machine learning for supply and demand of products, and decreasing operating costs. Essentially, this is Google Analytics on steroids. Unlike management systems, these analytic tools are solely the algorithms and not the integration of all the tools themselves.
Conveyor connections are the link between two different conveyor belt systems. The connection can use algorithms and decision logic to determine the optimal item flow. This is similar to the previously discussed mobile robot’s machine learning functions. Connections utilize data uploaded from management systems and different systems of flows to create ideal space conditions.
Multishuttle systems are machines designed to carry products via their automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS). They are programmed with specific coordinates to store and drop-off items without human error from misplacement or damage. These are alternatives to expensive robots and are becoming popular for warehouses specializing in food and beverages.
The future of warehouse logistics is here. Automation is penetrating every industry and changing the traditional ways of the supply chain. Businesses will have to understand and adapt to the transformation in their sector and change their mindset accordingly. The technology is ready, but is your business?
ITOrizon is a Global Services Company that combines industry experience with technical innovation to enable our clients to achieve their Omni Channel, Digital Business, and IT Objectives. We have an exceptional understanding of both supply chain and technology challenges, and we carry great pride in resolving those problems in the right place with the right tools.
Is your Warehouse Automation Strategy lacking? Team up with ITOrizon for your supply chain initiatives.