Building The Smarter Warehouse With IoT

An increasing number of brands and businesses are adding more range of products they stock in order to meet consumers ‘long-tail’ demand. In fact, 54% of warehouses in the US plan to expand the number of inventory SKUs carries over the next five years. [1]

This means, a huge amount of capital is going to be tied up as inventory in warehouses. According to a US capital survey, while the US economy is on the upswing – a shocking $1.1 trillion in cash is currently tied up in inventory along with accounts receivable and accounts payable.[2]

By leveraging the latest supply chain technology and IoT one can improve work processes and efficiency.

A “smart warehouse”, the move towards IoT-enabled solutions can serve as a pivot to increase productivity and speed through the complete supply chain. This can include wearables on workers – to software, sensors and smart machinery, internet-enabled devices and technology can overwhelmingly change logistics management.

Proven Solutions for Warehouse Management

Before one moves to integrating an IoT system, it’s essential that the system supports both legacy and new smart devices. Additionally, it should be able to provide for numerous connectivity options – wired and wireless. IoT solutions should also enable seamless remote device management in a centralized fashion that allow for everyday provisioning, device setup and maintenance.

Inventory & Asset Visibility

Inventory visibility, or the capability to find each item in the designated place, its place of origin, and it’s intended destination”

The above demand is one of the main concerns from supply chain warehouse managers. While product managers already make use of tracking or scanning of goods using barcodes and RFID tags, IoT helps by enabling real-time visibility to where all goods are at any given moment of time.

Tracking via scanners become seamless when at any time an active IoT can track shipments on a continuous basis to allow for better reporting.

By using RFID tags or wireless battery operated tags on pallets, one prority/specific components out first. Assets, in other terms also include human resources and other equipment in the warehouse, and by knowing their exact location at any time facilitated faster decision making and enhancing efficiency.

Engaged Workers

“Improve accuracy and performance of human operators, including temp workers in holiday season”

Finding an easy-to-use and accurate technology enhances decision making – and wearables and augmented reality are some of the options warehouse managers can consider to implement. With the help of wearable video cameras or even smart glasses, workers can be directed where to go, scan and pick the product, and upload information to the warehouse management system giving visual confirmation that he/she is picking the right product. This ensures correct pick and order management, minimizing lost work hours due to productivity or any injury.

Improved Safety Regulations and Procedures

Identifying and reporting potential health hazards and risks related to operating machinery or gear or workspace protocols

A vast amount of information can be gathered from wearable sensors embedded in personal protective equipment of workers on the floor, such as their smart safety helmets, protective vests or their individual smartphones. All the data generated from these devices can feed directly conditions such a pulse rate, movement, body temperature, noise levels in working conditions, and employees’ location while moving forklifts. I can also send out an injury report in cases when a workers falls or faints due to any mishap.

Enhanced Logistic Operations

“Making the warehouse, smarter and more efficient”

Processes such as internet of everything (IoE) based robotic systems can make warehouse operations more efficient. Robotic carts are deployed to pick products, place them in bins and deliver to a certain location/worker. On a humongous scale, there are companies such as Amazon who make use of autonomous robots in their warehouses. There is also an accelerated use of sensors that can be deployed – such as, cameras, RFID tags, embedded sensors in forklifts and wearables and much more.

There is no “one-size that fits in all” IoT solution for warehouse management. Each company needs to identify the right mix of devices, sensors and data that can bring them maximum benefits.

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