The advancement of technology has not spared the warehouse industry. The quest for more efficiency and the global COVID 19 pandemic has led to the automation of serious warehousing processes.
Warehouse automation pertains to the movement of goods within or out of warehouses to customers is done with the least possible human assistance. These days, it’s crucial for businesses to focus on efficiency so that they can keep up with the demands of the market and consumers.
If you’re looking for improvements for your warehouse, you might be interested in the automation trends discussed below.
1. Rise of The Robots
Robots have substantially taken up notable functions in warehouses across the world. It’s estimated that by the year 2025, robotic warehouses should be around 50,000, and robot installations over 4 million.
Robots can be used in warehouses for tasks such as:
Big distribution companies have already invested millions in augmenting their fulfillment centers and delivery efficiency. Robots have the capacity to handle thousands of orders and millions of objects weekly.
Using robots has been seen to improve efficiency and reduce the cost of labor in some warehouses.
Mobile Robots: AGV/AMR
Mobile robots are machines that are not fixed in one place. They’re designed to move around in spaces like warehouses, shops, or other environments. They can either be guided to follow a specific path or route or be autonomous.
Guided robots typically require navigation support from other devices, which allows them to move on a predefined route. Other types of mobile robots have multi-linked manipulators and grippers attached to a more or less stationary surface. Autonomous mobile robots (AMR), on the other hand, are designed to navigate an environment without the need for real-time electronic guidance.
In the last couple of years, mobile robots have been trending in commercial and industrial environments to move goods and materials. They’re quite practical for moving materials from warehouse shelves to fulfillment zones.
Automated mobile robots (AMRs) are gaining popularity in warehouses because they require little to no variation to the existing infrastructure of the warehouses. With several designs and options, AMRs can be programmed to handle multiple operations.
They’re also affordable and require minimal training to handle warehouse duties like transportation, packing, and packaging. These attributes make mobile robots an attractive investment for warehouses in 2021 and beyond.
Warehouse automation trends include the use of autonomous robots capable of relocating loaded shelves and retrofitting forklifts to facilitate automation during peak periods.
Mobile robots can also be used for transporting and taking over duties usually handled by conveyors, manual forklifts, carts, and towing machines. Their other uses include packing, moving, and sorting.
Mobile Robots Replacing Conveyors
Conveyors are a familiar feature in the transportation of materials in warehouses, but their days seem to be numbered. Portable and cheaper, plug-and-play solutions in the form of smaller mobile robots seem well poised to replace the enormous traditional, fixed warehouse systems.
The need for effective space utilization may also be a driver for the switch from massive conveyers to mobile automated units. Small logistics operations appear to be moving towards robot-as-a-service models offered by automation vendors.
Drones have gradually become trendy in warehouse operations since around 2013. The relaxed regulations, improved software and hardware innovations, and the reduced prices have increased the interest in warehouse drone use.
The advantages of drones include the following:
- Drones can now be safely navigated without GPS.
- They’re fairly accurate in locating and identifying inventory.
- They’re affordable and scalable.
- They can work in tandem with barcode technology.
Modern drones have high-definition video capacity and cloud connectivity. They can independently hover above objects and reach any location in the warehouse.
Drones are now used for shipping and delivery, and they’re useful in a range of other operations, including:
- Barcode Scanning
- Reaching Inaccessible Locations
- Cycle Counting
- Conducting Aerial Inventory Scans
- Inspecting Stock
- Retrieving Goods
The improved battery life and drone stability have made its use in warehouse automation quite trendy.
A cobot is a robot that works in collaboration with a human. Cobots can also be referred to as collaborative robots. They enhance the efficiency of human labor by assisting them with tasks such as handling goods, picking, packaging, pelleting, and packing.
Cobots are set to gain popularity in warehousing because they significantly reduce the time it would take to complete tasks. Some also favor them because they’re not a threat to human labor. So, if you were looking for a smart way to invest in your current labor force, look in the direction of cobots. They’re affordable, portable, easy to program, and they’re flexible enough to use in constrained warehouse spaces.
2. The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the connection of millions, if not billions, of devices worldwide, sharing data through their connection to the Internet.
Through the Internet and wireless networks, you could now make pretty much anything part of the IoT. Connecting objects by adding sensors give them some digital intelligence that enables them to communicate in real-time without involving human beings.
The IoT is driving current warehouse automation trends. It’s helping transform the modern warehouse into a connected and coordinated unit. The reduced costs and improved IoT sensors are likely to increase the popularity of IoT in warehouses in 2021 and post.
The IoT allows you to connect and monitor your warehouse robots, drones, pallets, equipment, beacons, and inventory. It also enables you to supervise your workers remotely in real-time. IoT enables devices and systems to collect, store, and share data. It also enables performance assessments and warehouse trackings of all connected devices, such as temperature in cold storage facilities and vibration in motor tracking.
3. Wireless Fleet Management
Wireless fleet management is gaining traction as a warehouse fleet management solution. It can monitor and control the vehicles in a warehouse. Such systems help with compliance and monitoring of driver performance. It could also assist with vehicle maintenance through a collection of data such as damage alerts, service warnings, driving risks, and potential mechanical problems.
4. RFID Tagging
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that uses electromagnetic fields to identify and track tags attached to objects digitally.
RFID tags can store tones of data. Integration of RFID with the IoT could enhance inventory management. Warehouse managers seem to have increased their utilization of RFID for inventory counting and validation in the last few years.
5. Cloud-Based Software
Cloud-based software has become a hit with most warehouse management businesses. It requires neither special infrastructure nor an in-house IT department to maintain it. Cloud-based software has become increasingly popular among logistics companies.
If you are thinking about improving your warehousing efficiency, consider the automation trends discussed here. Automation will, no doubt, soon be the new normal in warehouse operations. Moreover, increasing efficiency and productivity for your warehouse can help future-proof your company.