Innovative Technologies for Warehouse Implementation

Written by M. Nurahim Bin M. Masruri, MSIPMM

Innovative Technologies for Warehouse Implementation

Written by M. Nurahim Bin M. Masruri, MSIPMM

by M. Nurahim Bin M. Masruri, MSIPMM

In the early 20th century, the notion of a humanoid machine was developed. Today, one can envisage human-sized robots with the capacity for near-human thoughts and movement. Innovative technologies help to improve the execution and management of business processes and ensure that a competitive position can be achieved or enhanced. Radio frequency identification is such an innovative technology with a high potential of optimization within business processes for example for reduction of process time and failure rates.

When it comes to warehouse management, constant evaluation and adoption of crucial technologies is critical so as to improve profitability and stay competitive. Today, warehouse managers have a wide array of technologies to choose from as they strive to reduce costs, improve efficiency and streamline operations. They must ensure that goods, materials and products flow effortlessly by optimizing their warehouse operations through the use of warehouse technologies.

Warehouse Robotics Technology

Global warehouse robots market is segmented on the basis of product types into fixed robots, mobile robots, gantry robots and stationery articulated robots. Mobile robots are the important segment as they are widely used in advanced retail warehouses for distribution and storage of products. Rising adoption of warehouse robots by online retailers and automotive industries are some of the factors that are expected to drive the growth of warehouse robots market.

Mobile warehouse robot in operation

The picture above shows a mobile warehouse robot in operation.

Mastering the use of high tech glasses, belt scanners and other gadgets will also help the logistics sector prepare for the high-tech transformation which will bring in the Internet of Things. And, technological change will be one of three trends, along with globalization and urbanization, which will have the most significant impact on supply chains and logistics property demand over the next 5-10 years.

New robotics technology has become one of the most sought after technologies for warehouse management. Leading-edge manufacturers are partnering with providers of warehouse management systems to create customized software and smart robots that help manage the movement, storage and sorting of warehouse inventory.

Investing in warehouse robotics technology will highly benefit you. With increasing order volumes, numerous products to navigate, highly personalized order packing and faster shipping requirements, robotics solutions will help you effectively respond to volume growth and perform more tasks with less labour and at a lower cost.

Pick-to-Light Systems

Autonomous Guided Material Handling Equipment (AGMs) are programmed by CAD-based software that routes available paths and also indicates locations that vehicles are to pick or deposit a load. AGMs are often guided by humans on their initial tour through a facility before their paths can be guided and updated by the CAD system.

These systems use specific light displays to direct warehouse operators to product locations. They make it easier for operators to know which to products to pick and how many. These systems are highly flexible and the technology comes with the ability to plan, control and analyse volumes of orders picked.

The benefits of pick-to-light systems are an increase in picking productivity, better accountability, real-time product or order sorting, and fewer errors.

Pick-to-Light system

The picture above shows the Pick-to-Light system.

Wearable Technologies

These wearable devices are becoming more prominent in warehouses. Some of the most well-known include:

1. Voice Control Headsets – Being first used in the late 1990s, voice control headsets are one of the oldest wearable technologies that are mainly used in warehouses. They are often linked with ERP software, to give real-time inventory updates.

2. Smart Watches – Because of their similarity to fitness bands, these can be used to track your employee’s efficiency, by tracking how many steps they take when they’re completing a certain task. They can also display KPI information so you can ensure customer service levels are met.

3. Smart Glasses – Although not widely used at the moment, smart glasses allows operators to work hands-free, as well as become more efficient due to no longer needing to use paper to record movements in the warehouse.
All new technologies face barriers to adoption. Smart glasses which must overcome cost, social, practicality and privacy issues are no exception.

Smart glass in use

The diagram above show the smart glass in use.

Voice Tasking Technology

It offers numerous advantages over conventional order picking methods such as paper lists or wireless terminals. Rather than communicating visually via paper or computer monitors, Pick-to-Voice relies on voice instructions through headphones and a microphone. By freeing the operator’s hands to handle the stock items, Pick-to-Voice ensures an ergonomic and efficient pick sequence.

Without the need to handle wireless data terminals and paper lists eliminated, the order picker can focus entirely on retrieving the required items. No more manual keying of data or time-consuming scanning of stock locations.

Instead, the instructions to and responses from the picker are entirely by voice. Delays caused by the picker having to stop retrieving items in order to enter data into a device are a thing of the past. The operation is streamlined – and productivity increases.

Voice picking systems are designed to service fast-medium and medium-slow full case and split case products, making them a flexible choice for order fulfillment. Use of the technology has shown standard-based picking rates increase by up to 35%, with accuracy rates of 99.9% or higher. Voice picking systems are an economical choice where there are a large number of SKUs to be serviced.

Some of the benefits of Voice Directed Picking are as follows;

– Hands-free, eyes-free picking
– Up to a 35% improvement in picking productivity
– Up to 99.9% picking accuracy
– Reduced operator training time
– Direct interface to most WMS
– Rapid return on investment

The Future of Warehouse Management Technology

As more advanced technology is introduced for the warehousing and logistics sectors, it is up to warehouse managers and firms to stay updated on the latest innovations. Upcoming technologies like Pick-by-Vision, Electronic Data Exchange and the use of drones will soon become mainstream in the industry. Implementation of the right technologies will be key to the smooth operations of warehouses and supply chains. Adoption of these technologies would help to reduce errors and increase the efficiency of warehouse management.

Conclusion

Innovative technology can help even smaller businesses compete on a global stage. Innovations such as the Internet, for example, allow a sole proprietor to offer her products or services to prospects around the world through the use of a website. She can provide detailed product descriptions and photos of her products to provide prospects with all the information they need to make an informed buying decision. Social media vehicles like Facebook and Twitter also allow her to network with others who may have an interest in her business, without the need for face-to-face interaction.

Innovation can also help business owners keep costs to a minimum. With the use of automation, a small manufacturer can reduce his dependence on human beings to perform some of the necessary production processes. As a result, the business can reduce employee expenses such as salary, benefits and turnover.

Technology can also help to streamline the production process, eliminating costly waste. Implementing a “lean” manufacturing process like Six Sigma, for instance, offers the opportunity to meet customer demand more quickly and efficiently.


References:

MacErlean, N. (2016). “Are Warehouses Set for a Wearable Tech Revolution?” Retrieved from http://www.jllrealviews.com/industries/, accessed 09/09/2017.

Robinson, A. (2016). “7 Innovative Warehouse Management Technologies to Adopt”. Retrieved from http://cerasis.com/2016/12/21/warehouse-management/, accessed 09/09/2017.

About the Author:

M. Nurahim Bin M. Masruri has more than 10 years of experiences in logistics and operations management, specifically in the heavy equipment and pharmaceutical sector. He is a qualified member of Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (MSIPMM).

Nurahim holds a Diploma in Logistics Management (DLM) and he is currently completing the course on Graduate Diploma in Logistics Management (GDLM) at SIPMM Academy.

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