Have you noticed lately the word “smart” is being put in front of everything? When you hear “smart home,” you probably have a good idea of what it means since they’ve become more prevalent in society. But when you hear “smart egg tray” or “smart forest” – two innovations we looked into in our podcast earlier this year – you might not have an idea of what that means. Anytime technology is used to make something simple, it’s called “smart item name.” Today, we’re not going to talk about any crazy new “smart” terms. Instead, we’re keeping it simple with smart warehousing, a solution for warehouse management that you’ve likely heard of in some form before today. 


 

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What Does Smart Warehousing Look Like?

Depending on the level of automation implemented, a smart warehouse may look different from facility to facility. Some warehouses may use a minimal amount of automation like barcode scanners to help them manage inventory. More advanced warehouses might be using robots. Most warehouses fall into the small to middle range for levels of “smart.” When you break it down, making your warehouse smart is a way for companies to optimize their processes as much as possible. 

Is There a Need for Smart Warehousing?

To answer this question, I’m going to ask you a few questions of my own. Do you want to increase efficiency? Do you want to prevent bottlenecks? Do you want to eliminate errors? Do you want to be prepared for whatever unexpected problem might arise? Do you want to provide your customers with a better experience? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need smart warehousing. The question then becomes: since there are different levels of automation in your warehouse, how do you know what to implement to help? IoT asset tracking might be a good starting point.

How To Use IoT To Turn Your Warehouse Smart

Increase Efficiency

IoT technology revolutionizes traditional inventory management by providing real-time visibility into the location, status, and condition of critical assets. As items move through the warehouse, these tags update their location continuously. This eliminates the need for manual tracking, saving valuable time. Using an IoT solution also allows for predictive maintenance. Sensors can monitor the condition of machinery and equipment, sending alerts when maintenance is due, preventing costly breakdowns, and ensuring smooth operations. Through the integration of data analytics and algorithms, companies can analyze historical movement patterns to identify the most efficient routes for picking and storing items. This minimizes unnecessary travel time, increasing productivity and throughput. Additionally, it allows for dynamic inventory management, ensuring that items are stored in the most accessible locations, further streamlining operations. And the benefits extend beyond the warehouse floor. The data generated by IoT asset tracking provides invaluable insights for strategic decision-making. This data-driven approach empowers companies to adapt quickly to changing market demands, gaining a competitive edge. 

Prevent Bottlenecks

Unexpected bottlenecks are one of the most frustrating challenges companies face. By leveraging an IoT platform, companies can gain real-time insights into the movement and status of assets within the warehouse, allowing for proactive measures to alleviate potential bottlenecks. IoT provides visibility into the location of inventory items. Tags with sensors affixed to each asset continually communicate location and other information. This eliminates the need for manual searches, significantly reducing the time spent on locating specific items. With this level of precision, warehouse staff can quickly and accurately pick and pack orders, minimizing delays caused by misplaced or hard-to-find items. This also ensures that valuable warehouse space is utilized efficiently and that items are readily available when needed.

Another critical aspect of preventing bottlenecks is optimizing workflow and resource allocation. Real-time data on the movement of assets can be used to identify potential congestion points in the warehouse layout. This information can inform decisions about aisle placement, shelving configurations, and traffic flow, ultimately minimizing bottlenecks. IoT devices provide a wealth of historical data that can be analyzed to identify trends and patterns. By understanding peak operational times and periods of high demand, managers can adjust staffing levels and schedules accordingly. This foresight ensures that the warehouse is adequately staffed during critical periods, preventing labor-related bottlenecks.

Eliminate Errors

One of the most powerful tools in achieving error-free operations is the implementation of IoT in warehouses. This transformative technology leverages a network of sensors to provide real-time, granular visibility into the location, movement, and status of assets within the warehouse. One of the primary ways IoT asset tracking eliminates errors is by revolutionizing inventory management. With an IoT device affixed to each item, manual data entry is virtually eliminated. This significantly reduces the potential for human error, a common source of mistakes in traditional warehouse operations. Warehouse staff can confidently rely on the real-time data provided by the IoT devices to accurately locate and pick items for orders, drastically reducing the likelihood of mispicks and misplacements. Furthermore, IoT asset tracking ensures that items are stored in the correct locations. The devices continually update the system with precise information on each asset's position. This means that items are always stored in their designated spots, reducing the risk of misplaced or lost inventory. The system can even be programmed to send alerts when items are placed in the wrong location, enabling immediate correction. Another significant aspect of error elimination is in the realm of compliance and documentation. IoT asset tracking automates the recording and documentation of key information, from inventory levels to environmental conditions. This not only ensures compliance with industry regulations while providing a robust audit trail for traceability and accountability.

Prepare for Problems

Preparing for potential problems in warehouses is a critical aspect of effective logistics management, and IoT is a powerful ally to have. Firstly, it's essential to conduct a thorough assessment of the warehouse layout and potential bottlenecks. By identifying high-traffic areas, congested zones, and potential points of contention, companies can proactively address these issues. We discussed earlier the role IoT plays in identifying and addressing bottlenecks in more detail.

Another key aspect of preparation is establishing clear protocols for handling exceptions and anomalies detected by your IoT solution. This includes having a designated team or individual responsible for monitoring the data and responding to alerts. A well-defined escalation process should be in place for more critical issues that may require immediate attention. Leveraging IoT asset tracking provides valuable real-time data and insights to identify and address potential issues before they escalate. A common issue warehouses face is theft. Since the IoT solution tracks asset location, stolen goods can be retrieved quickly. Or, if thieves know the asset they want to steal is being tracked, they might be deterred from stealing altogether. By establishing clear protocols to follow the alerts, companies can ensure that their warehouse operations remain resilient and efficient in the face of challenges.

The Future of Smart Warehousing

As warehouses become smarter, there will be a shift in how logistics and supply chain operations are conducted. With technology evolving at an unprecedented pace, warehouses are set to become highly automated, interconnected hubs of efficiency. IoT will play a central role, with an array of sensors and devices providing real-time data on inventory, equipment, and environmental conditions. This level of visibility will revolutionize inventory management, virtually eliminating errors and inefficiencies. Looking much further down the road, you’ll see autonomous robots and drones working alongside human operators, optimizing tasks like picking, packing, and even transportation within the warehouse.

Predictive analytics and AI-driven insights are becoming the backbone of decision-making in smart warehouses and that won’t be changing. By analyzing historical data and real-time inputs, these systems will forecast demand patterns, allowing for proactive adjustments to inventory levels and resource allocation. This not only minimizes excess stock but also ensures that high-demand items are readily available, meeting customer expectations with precision.

Beyond the traditional approaches, smart warehouses are starting to extend their influence beyond the physical confines of the facility. They’re starting to be integrated into broader supply chain ecosystems, by tracking assets all the way until they reach their final destination. This end-to-end visibility is facilitating rapid response times to changes in demand or disruptions in the supply chain, ensuring a smooth flow of goods from production to delivery. Environmental sustainability is becoming a driving force behind the changes inspiring the future of smart warehousing. Facilities are beginning to be designed with eco-friendly features, utilizing energy-efficient technologies and renewable energy sources to monitor environmental conditions, optimizing resource usage and minimizing waste.

Will You Make Your Warehouse Smart?

The future of smart warehousing, powered by a simple yet robust IoT solution, holds immense promise for revolutionizing the logistics landscape. The seamless integration of IoT devices provides real-time visibility into every facet of warehouse operations and beyond into the transportation of assets. This level of precision and efficiency not only reduces costs but also enhances customer satisfaction through swift and accurate order fulfillment. As companies embrace this transformative technology, they position themselves at the forefront of a new era in logistics, characterized by unprecedented efficiency, data-driven decision-making, and environmental sustainability. The journey towards smart warehousing is not just a technological upgrade; it's a strategic imperative for companies aspiring to thrive in the dynamic world of modern commerce. Embracing this future today ensures that businesses are well-equipped to meet the evolving demands of the global supply chain.

Turning your warehouse into a smart warehouse doesn't have to be a difficult task. If you choose to use our AirFinder solution, you’ll discover just how easy it is to optimize warehouse and supply chain efficiencies. To discover what your warehouse will look like with IoT, book a demo with our team of experts.

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Written by Emily Saldivar

Emily Saldivar is a Marketing Specialist for Link Labs and has been with the company since 2020. She has a background in content writing and is furthering the Link Labs mission through social media and other platforms.

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