Essential Technologies for Warehousing Productivity

Written by Benjamin Then Chuang Soon, DLSM

Warehouses are playing an important role in logistic as it can be an assembly line, fulfillment center as well as customer service or collection point. In the present, technology is important for every sector of the economy in the fast-paced. Besides, technologies for warehousing is one of the key drivers to ensure the goods flow effortless, improve efficiency and productivity. What are the essential technologies for warehousing productivity?

Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs)

Automatic guided vehicles are a driverless robot that can transport pallets, shelves, and goods in a dedicated area. AGVs work cumulatively with humans to transfer goods in a facility. It uses in many warehouses like ‘Alibaba Warehouse’ and ‘DHL Express’ to reduce shipment damage by the forklift and also minimize the accident in the facility. The picture below shows the AGVs were transferring the boxes on the shelve in a dedicated area.

Image taken from https://www.chinaagv.com/news/detail/201912/11834.html

Drones Technology

Drones in the warehouse operations are really useful technologies to increase efficiency as it can reach to the height like perform capture and inventory check in the facility. It gives less hazardous tasks to humans as workers in the warehouse like do not need to climb up to a height to do a dangerous inspection. It can photo upload instantly to the system. Drones can be a central role in the facility and the main objective is to decrease the risk of falling from height and increase inventory accuracy.

Image taken from https://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/12/africa/drone-scan-inventory-technology-south-africa/index.html

Warehouse Management System

A Warehouse Management System is software that controls and support warehouse functionality. WMS allows for maintenance and visibility of the facility operation, include inventory receiving and put away, inventory management, picking, packing, replenishment, and reporting. It can easy to track shipments, perform cycle count in the warehouse and help users optimize inventory system. Furthermore, choosing the right WMS is essential based on the facility or organization’s needs or requirements to meet the unique needs. WMS brings few benefits for the warehouse-like such as reduce fulfillment time, increase warehouse productivity, inventory accuracy, improved customer service, greater space utilization, as well as reduce labor costs.

RFID Technology      

Radio-frequency identification is a technology whereby digital data encrypted in RFID tags and smart labels are scanned by a reader via radio waves. RFID can transmit and exchange the data between RFID transporter and reader. RFID technology can be used to perform tasks like asset tracking, inventory management, and supply chain management. RFID tags are benefits than traditional bar-code labels as it can read faster and high durability. RFID tags can be scanned even have a line between them and also can be read much greater distance.

There are several benefits to use RFID in the warehouse:

  • RFID tags can be captured in any position of sight with the scanner.
  • The bar-code can be scanned at up to 300 ft.
  • Can reusable and rugged as they are protected by a plastic cover.
  • Humongous data capabilities, shipping histories, and expiry dates; which can all be programmed to the tag.
  • More secure and data encrypted and password protected.
  • Perform routine logistics operations such as stock storage, order status, paper processes, sorting, cycle counts.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things is getting used for warehousing equipped with technologies that allow collecting data, perceiving and report. Internet of things has been used in warehousing such as inventory tracking, managing procurement, production, workflow and integration with supplies. To meet the customer’s demand, warehouses turn to IoT applications such as Alibaba, Amazon, and DHL Express all implement the technology to take inventory to the highest level.

The Internet of things offers a lot of benefits to organizations and enabling them to:

  • Reduce costs and save more time
  • Higher employee productivity
  • Generate more revenue to the company
  • Reduce various mistakes in the process due to human limitations
  • Monitor the whole process and improve the performance of a business

Pick to Light and to Put to Light Technology

In a high-intensity warehouse where multiple picking and packing locations require the operator to be speed and accurate, a “pick to light and put to light” can be implemented to improve picking accuracy, as well as the speed of the pick performed by the warehouse staff. For example, goods are sent to the operator at an ergonomic height, and the indicator light informs the operator where they should be put and how many items to pick. The Pick-by-Light system is a light displays to direct warehouse staff for checking specific stock locations. Each product location will have an individual alphanumeric and numeric display with a light, a button and a digital display for indicating quantity. Put-to-Light system is a light displays that give the order to the warehouse staff as where and how to distribute or allocate stock to orders, allowing efficient picking in the warehouse. The operator scans each shipment and flashing light displays at the location indicate which containers require that product and how many items to place.

Image taken from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/innovative-technologies-warehouse-implementation/

Automated Storage and Retrieval System

Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) is a technology controlled by computer for automatically placing items and retrieve in dedicated locations in the facility. These systems assist to speed up manufacturing tasks in the process whereby the goods are stored in a proper location. Generally, automated storage and retrieval system are used in the facility which has productive loads and must be transferred fleetly and accurately. AS/RS technologies are one of the popular and impact in investment options for most operations. It brings useful benefits to the operation in the warehouse such as reduced labor cost, increase picking, retrieve accuracy and improve ergonomics.  

Image taken from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/technologies-effective-pharmaceutical-warehousing/

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is a technology that automated pass information and exchange record transaction from point A to point B in a secure way. Blockchain can share by every computer in a network that can be seen by anyone. The main three features of blockchain are accountability, accessibility, and security. It brings an advanced level of security. Besides, smart contracts can be utilized to automate processes and transactions by the warehouse. For example, when a good is delivered, the received has confirmed, delivery’s time and condition will be transferred to the Blockchain system. This type of automation is very useful for every party and increase efficiency and security. Picking, receiving, packing, dispatching, and storage of materials in the warehouse which need a lot of effort to maintain and record the costs, stock in, stock out, errors, and more. The blockchain enables the manufactures to link together every party. This helps the network able to manage and control product trace-ability and perishable goods.

Conclusion

Operating a warehouse is a challenging task as the activities in the warehouse are complicated processes such as receiving, picking, packing, distributing and more. An organization should consider adopting the technologies as it can have a speed and accurate process, smooth data exchange in the system, and efficient labor management. New technologies in warehousing continue to develop, it will benefit all of us to reduce human error and increase productivity in the warehouse. Over and above, when it reaches to warehouse management, constant ascertain and adoption of technologies are critical to improve profitability and stay competitive.


References

Jon Goh WoonKeong, DLSM. (2019). “Nine Technologies to Boost Warehouse Productivity”.Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/nine-technologies-boost-warehouse-productivity/, accessed 07/09/2020.

Advertisements
Supply Chain Ads

Naresh Kumar, DLSM. (2019). “Digital Technology for Warehouse Productivity”.Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/digital-technology-warehouse-productivity/, accessed 10/09/2020.

Rick Chua Chee Hack, DPSM (2019). “Technologies for Effective Pharmaceutical Warehousing”.Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/technologies-effective-pharmaceutical-warehousing/, accessed 07/09/2020.

Wong Kam Foo, DLSM. (2020). “Technologies for Improving Logistics Productivity”.Retrieved from SIPMM: https://sipmm.edu.sg/technologies-improving-logistics-productivity/, accessed 07/09/2020.

About the Author: Benjamin Then Chuang Soon has substantive years of experience specifically in warehouse management. He is a member of the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). Benjamin completed the Diploma in Logistics and Supply Management (DLSM) on September 2020 at SIPMM Institute.

Top