Welcome to the future of warehouses! Here, everything is connected in one ingenious software. Manual labour and the accidents that follow are a thing of the past. That’s because AI helps make strategic data-driven decisions that scale businesses to new heights.
As technology would have it, the concept has already become a present-day demand. With smart warehouses, the traditional thing is quickly becoming outdated, owing to the former’s increased efficiency, accuracy, and security.
Almost every other business, big names or small and medium-sized enterprises, will have to hop onto this bandwagon if they don’t want to fall behind. If you’re looking to stay ahead of the curve, it might be time to start thinking about smart warehouses, and we’re here to guide you through the basics.
What is a Smart Warehouse?
You must have heard of the term ‘smart’ being thrown around recently, and no, we’re not talking about the adjective synonymous with intelligent. Nowadays, the term is more popular with reference to technology.
With that said, smart warehouses are the future of logistics. How? Simply by incorporating technology to transform the existing mechanisms. The result is highly automated and optimised operations. Some of the key components include robots, sensors, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), and software.
While you can only reap the full potential by collectively integrating all components, even a single component can prove to be an incredible resource. Automation reduces accidents and labour requirements; meanwhile, real-time data allows round-the-clock visibility, inventory tracking, and order tracking.
Based on a study by Grand View Research, the smart warehouse market will reach $54.60 billion by 2030, a staggering 174% increase from 2022. Imagine the global shift to smart warehouses in general within the next seven years alone.
For businesses to survive in today’s competitive e-commerce landscape, a smart warehouse is no longer a luxury but a requirement. Next, let’s dive into the benefits and makings of a smart warehouse.
4 Essential Features of Smart Warehouses
So far, we know that smart warehouses come with various new-tech additions to their classic counterparts. However, the real question is what characteristics these components bring to make smart warehouses more efficient, productive, and connected.
Here’s what happens:
Undeniably, automation makes the foundations of a smart warehouse, and for good reasons. From using software as a service (SaaS) to robots, automating day-to-day operations is critical to smart warehousing.
For starters, automation brings together hardware and software. With the divergence of these tools, business owners can look towards lesser human interaction and accelerated optimization.
For instance, automation helps pick and pack orders, manage inventory, organise, store, and more. Consequently, your team could spend that time on what’s more important – complex tasks that can’t be automated.
Imagine a singular platform where every bit of your devices is connected in one place. Fortunately, that’s no longer a thing of the past. With SaaS solutions, you can now set up and monitor your networks, vehicles, inventory, and more in one place.
You might even believe you have everything under control, whether knowing every inventory detail or having all the data on in-premise systems. However, smart devices like sensors can still be useful, for example, detecting product expiry dates and sending a timely notification.
Data Accessibility and Analytics
When using SaaS for smart warehouses, this data can be accessible to owners, stakeholders, and even employees with access from almost anywhere instead of being restricted to on-site systems.
Furthermore, data analytics is another important feature added to smart warehouse systems. Besides optimising layouts and scheduling tasks, today’s advanced analytics assist in data-driven strategic decisions. We’re already on our way to utilising these analytics for forecast demand and identifying and correcting errors.
Traditional warehouse systems relied on the age-old method of hiring security guards to protect against threats. Modern-day smart warehouses don’t throw away security but shift to more fortified measures.
Smart warehouses protect physical security, cybersecurity, and access controls. Common components include motion-tracking cameras, data encryption, firewalls, and biometrics, to name a few.
What are the Benefits of Smart Warehouses?
We’ve covered the aspects of smart warehouses and their features. Before moving on to the key components every smart warehouse enthusiast should get, let’s discuss why they should. Following are a few benefits that may convince you:
We had to talk about the finances prior to other benefits, especially since revamping a traditional warehouse to a smart one means a hefty investment. Most business owners shy away from the perspective solely because of the charges that add to their operational costs.
The money you spend on a smart warehouse doesn’t just optimise your operations. Instead, you’ll be lowering your overall costs in the long run. But the reduced labour requirement is just one factor.
Through smart warehouses, you’ll decrease the likelihood of damaged goods during packaging, stolen inventory, and all the problems you might encounter in traditional warehouses. When the chances of these events decrease, your operational costs also lower.
Efficiency is perhaps the most integral factor of warehouse management and businesses. Processes that used to take hours before are now only a matter of minutes in smart warehouses.
Think of packaging and labelling, storage, and inventory management. Manually operating these tasks still exists in some warehouses, but it will get outdated sooner than later. There’s no rocket science behind the shift but lesser time consumption and eliminating human errors.
Plus, what business owner doesn’t want the time to focus on strategic business steps that don’t call for manual labour? Overall, you’ll quickly see boosted efficiency by automating and optimising your warehouse management.
Suppose you need to ship out certain items only to find out the inventory records weren’t updated. That’s just one of the many situations that occasionally arise in traditional warehouses. And if that’s the case, prepare for increased costs to correct errors, loss of customer trust, and violation of regulation charges.
The importance of accuracy in warehouses can’t be emphasised enough, which is where smart warehouses step in. An automated system allows significant improvement in accuracy via automation. Forget about losing time tracking inventory if you have a smart warehouse.
Smart warehouses allow real-time tracking and updating of inventory. Taking that forth, it also enables business owners to make timely decisions to keep operations running smoothly. Moreover, it also helps reduce errors and increase customer satisfaction.
Better Customer Service
One bad review can take the business down the drain. Even renowned companies suffer from backlash when an unsatisfactory review surfaces, especially with social media’s ability to spread any information far and wide.
Keeping customers happy takes a lot of work, but a smart warehouse can take away some of your worries. To elaborate, a crucial factor in keeping your customers satisfied throughout the buying process is maintaining a hassle-free delivery.
Smart warehousing lets customers track their orders in real-time, from when it leaves the warehouse to getting delivered to their doorstep. Remember how smart warehouses also lead to quicker processing times and reduced errors? Ultimately, this means quicker shipping and order returns. It’s definitely a bonus point you can leverage against your competitors!
Improved Safety and Security
Inventory boxes falling on an employee or hackers accessing your data are examples of incidents nobody wants to face in their business. Unfortunately, trouble doesn’t come knocking at the door, and traditional warehouses bring problems like these.
For the last benefit of smart warehouses, let’s go back to sensors and the many layers of security that smart warehouses offer. These sensors can prevent casualties by notifying a warning for potential hazards. Moreover, smart warehouses are as secure as possible, reducing the risks of unauthorised access and break-ins.
5 Best Smart Warehouse Technologies
The evolutions in smart warehousing aren’t going to stop anytime soon. More advanced technologies that supersede their former models are being released every few years. Owing to that, smart warehouses will continue to modernise.
For now, you’d want to know the present must-haves that will upgrade your warehouse. We’ve listed them below so you can take your pick.
If an image of one of those traditional robots we first saw in Wall-E comes to your mind, collaborative robots are lighter, quicker, and smaller than those. The name comes from their ability to work alongside humans in warehouse operations.
These robots, also called cobots, are relatively new but quickly pick up on various laborious tasks. Humans can even train them to assist in picking and packing orders, loading and unloading, and moving inventory.
Automated Picking Tools
Think Hulk’s arm strength, but in a robot. Automated picking tools are more or less exactly that. These cutting-edge tools can identify, pick, and package products by combining robots and automation.
What does this mean for smart warehouses? For starters, the entire process from locating a product to packaging only takes a fraction of the time it used to before. On top of that, manual picking and packaging always brought in the risk of human errors, which are practically eliminated with the use of these automated picking tools.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Sensors, networks, and software; these devices are attached to physical objects, which together form a singular network – the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT on its own is a comprehensive term nowadays. However, in terms of smart warehouses, it helps track goods, monitor conditions, and optimise operations.
For instance, you can attach sensors to products in the inventory. This will help you know the exact location the next time you need it and prevent stockouts and overstocks. If the temperature in the warehouse isn’t optimal for inventory storage, IoT can push out an alert.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)
Humans can’t possibly walk around operating your warehouse 24/7. But wait… automated guided vehicles can! These self-driving robots are another resourceful addition to smart warehouses and are designed to navigate warehouses and store and transport inventory.
AGVs learn a predefined path they move through within a warehouse when it’s fed into their algorithm, assisted through IoT. Once that’s done, they can fundamentally decrease the chances of human errors, inventory damage, inefficient space usage, and inventory management.
Warehouse Management System (WMS)
The term software as a service (SaaS) gets bounced around quite a lot nowadays; this is one practical example of it. A warehouse management system (WMS) is an advanced software system that manages and overlooks the daily operations of a warehouse.
But, before you think of it as just another software, WMS is integrated into other smart warehouse technologies, including IoT, cobots, and AGV. Consider unparallel benefits like real-time visibility of inventory and operations, automated tasks, and improved accuracy on your fingers.
While there are multiple WMS options nowadays, ERP software wins the race. Because of its comprehensive solutions and scalability, it’s more in demand compared to its alternatives. If you want to try one out for your e-commerce platform or shift from your existing WMS, Globallyfulfill can help you out.
Safe to say, smart warehouses have emerged as the future of logistics, and they’re establishing a strong foothold faster than you’d think. Plus, with the integration of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and automation, traditional warehousing can’t begin to compete with the solutions smart warehouses can bring to the industry. If you want your business to continue competing in the upcoming e-commerce market, you should consider taking a step towards smart warehouses today.