As companies strive to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving market, traditional warehousing approaches often fall short in providing the efficiency, accuracy, and agility required for effective logistics operations. The complexity of modern supply chains demands a shift towards smart warehousing and other intelligent solutions that can revolutionize the way goods are stored, managed, and distributed.
The need to switch to smart warehousing is underscored by the remarkable benefits it offers and the actionable insights it provides. By embracing smart warehousing, companies can transcend traditional limitations and forge a path towards sustainable growth and competitiveness. It's no longer a choice; it's a necessity. The future of warehousing is smart, and making the switch is not just an investment—it's a strategic imperative.
Increase Your ROI by Investing in AirFinder Everywhere
- Loss Prevention. Reduce the amount of loss that occurs during the supply chain process
- Location Coverage. AirFinder Everywhere uses a combination of GPS, Cellular, and WiFi to determine location everywhere
- Security Alerts. Know when a delay in shipment has occurred so the problem
can be addressed immediately.
The Importance of Efficient Warehousing in Logistics
At first glance, it’s easy to assume that warehousing has very little to do with the logistics process. This assumption is markedly incorrect. In many ways, the warehouse is where the logistics process begins. It’s where goods are retrieved for delivery, which means that a more efficient warehousing strategy leads to a more efficient supply chain overall. Warehousing stands as a crucial linchpin, influencing the seamless flow of goods from manufacturer to consumer. The significance of efficient warehousing cannot be overstated, as it forms the backbone of a well-oiled supply chain mechanism.
From streamlined inventory management that ensures the right products are available at the right time, to minimizing lead times through strategic layout design and technology integration, efficient warehousing is a key contributor to overall operational excellence. It’s important to know what’s in your warehouse facilities, where each item is located, and when products are arriving or leaving. By keeping track of these factors, you can make informed decisions to improve process efficiencies and eliminate unnecessary search time. This translates into the rest of the logistics process, as it means that loading and unloading can also happen more efficiently. After all, if you know when a truck is arriving for pickup and dropoff, you can ensure you have workers on hand and also plan ahead about where you will be placing new items and retrieving old ones from. In this way, more orders can be filled in less time, and trucks can quickly get back on the road.
What is Smart Warehousing, Anyway?
The next question, of course, becomes, “What exactly does smart warehousing refer to and include?” After all, the “smart” indicator is applied to any number of technology solutions, but it does not seem to have a universal meaning, only truly indicating the use of modern technology to improve upon an existing device or concept.
Smart warehouses are warehouses that improve the ease and efficiency of warehousing operation by applying cutting-edge solutions such as the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation. Depending on a company’s budget and facility size, it might lean more into one of these factors than the others. Regardless, it can be referred to as a smart warehouse with these integrations. The goal is simply to implement these technologies in a way that creates an intelligent ecosystem that enhances efficiency, accuracy, and agility, whatever that means for your company’s operations. Let’s look at the roles that each of these technologies play in building smart warehouses.
In many smart warehouses, IoT sensors play a pivotal role. These devices serve to connect various assets within the warehouse, including both equipment and inventory, in a unified network and monitor both asset location and movement. Temperature-sensitive products can also undergo condition monitoring. This interconnectivity enables complete visibility of the facility and its contents, reporting the location of each individual asset to a centralized system and ensuring that everything can be found when it’s needed.
AI algorithms are often used to drive the decision-making process in smart warehouses. Their core algorithms analyze the influx of data from sensors and historical patterns to help guide decisions about improving processes and allocating vital resources. Depending on the data being collected, these algorithms can be used to predict inventory demand, suggest efficient picking routes, and even adjust staffing requirements based on workload. In helping to guide these decisions through data analysis, impactful decisions can be implemented sooner and with more reliability.
Warehouse automation, the final cornerstone of smart warehousing, takes various forms. From complex robotic pickers that navigate aisles autonomously to simple conveyor systems that streamline order fulfillment, automated systems both expedite simple tasks and reduce error rates. By automating simple warehouse tasks, workers have more time to focus on the complex tasks that the automated system cannot complete, allowing for greater overall productivity and streamlined operations.
Your Operations Without Smart Warehousing
The best way to understand the value and lasting impact of smart warehousing is to delve deeper into what your warehousing operations look like both with and without a smart warehouse system in place. We’ll start by walking through your operations without smart warehousing by highlighting some of the key daily responsibilities of various workers in the facility.
When working within warehousing, on a normal day, you’ll need to know what deliveries you can be expecting to arrive and to go out throughout the day. This helps you assign crews at the appropriate times and build your daily schedule from there; after all, you can’t always control when the trucks arrive, but you need to be prepared. Without smart warehousing, much of this scheduling relies on manual input, even if you use an online system. You’ll need to input expected arrival times and schedule the day based on those inputs. If a truck is delayed, these times will need to be manually adjusted and resorted when the notification is received; if a truck is delayed but no notice is given, you’ll need to make adjustments on the fly. Considering factors like travel conditions, there’s a high chance the schedule you start with at the beginning of the day will not ultimately be the one you’re following by the end of the day, making it difficult to properly plan out critical tasks and forecast productivity.
Another important task that you’ll need to complete is monitoring your warehouse inventory in order to prevent both stockout and overstock situations. If you know how much inventory you have, you can better plan to order more of what you need and ship out what you have too much of. In order to keep tracking of this inventory without a smart warehouse system in place, you must again rely on manual input. When inventory arrives at or leaves the warehouse, you’ll need to update the system to reflect that. You might even rely on barcode scanners for this: although forms of technology, these don’t typically count toward transforming your warehouse into a smart facility, as they are still reliant on manual scanning. If something isn’t recorded or scanned properly, you will be making operational decisions based on inaccurate information, fueling the potential for both stockouts and overstock.
Of the three tasks most integral to warehousing operations, the third is perhaps the most prominent: every day, you’ll need to complete the necessary orders to fill trailers so that trucks can take the products to their next destination. In a world where the customer is king, it’s far more common for orders to be customized than they are to be the same from load to load. This can make the picking process more challenging, but if done successfully, it means your company will have a better reputation with your customers. In order to ensure orders are picked properly, the correct amount of workers need to be assigned to each task and the desired products have to be easily located. Although warehouse facilities typically have an internally consistent organizational structure, without smart warehousing, it can take longer to pick these orders. Something might be moved or misremembered, leading the picker on a clueless treasure hunt around the warehouse to find what they need. Also, pick lists often aren’t organized by the products’ internal locations, leaving workers to jump around the warehouse at random, again taking far more time than necessary and sacrificing efficiency altogether.
Your Operations With Smart Warehousing
Now that we’ve examined what your operations look like without smart warehousing, let’s examine the difference that smart warehouses can make for the same three daily functions: scheduling around arrivals, managing inventory, and picking orders.
To effectively schedule around arrivals, you need to remain apprised of any changes in arrival times. As previously mentioned, the flaw with this is that without smart warehousing, this knowledge isn’t always in your hands. Instead, you have to rely on drivers and operators to inform you far enough ahead of time that you can still feasibly adjust your schedule and make use of your time. If you implement trailer tracking as a part of your warehouse tracking system, you will no longer need to rely on others to provide you with this information. Instead, you’ll be able to see in real time where a trailer is and extrapolate any changes in arrival time from there. This strategy makes your warehouse operations more flexible and allows you to actively respond to delays instead of leaving them largely outside of your control.
When managing inventory to prevent stockout and overstock situations, you need to be able to account for every product moving in and out of your warehouse, particularly the locations and quantities of each. This enables you to make informed decisions about placing orders and prevent overstocking one item or running out of another. Without a smart warehouse system, this process is manual and prone to human error, but with a smart warehouse system, it becomes automated and far more reliable. By fixing products with asset tags and setting up digital boundaries around the facility, the warehouse system can automatically note when an item leaves or enters the facility. If this is set up properly, this can be used to automatically update inventory numbers and send alerts when there’s too little or too much of a given product in stock. This reliable inventory management strategy allows for a more streamlined ordering process and prevents the challenges that come with overstocking and understocking inventory.
Once again, one of the most important tasks any warehousing facility needs to be able to complete efficiently and effectively is completing order pickings so that they can be loaded onto the right trailer at the right time. With manual systems or even barcode scanners, this process can easily be prolonged by misplaced inventory or an inventory listing with an inefficient picking order. By implementing a smart warehouse management system, these challenges can be eliminated. By affixing tags to pallets, containers, or individual products, you can maintain complete visibility of the location of any given item. If something isn’t where it’s supposed to be, all you need to do is look it up on the system to find out where it was moved to. Also, by implementing the proper system, it can provide pickers with the most efficient route through the warehouse to collect everything that’s needed. This prevents you from needing to backtrack and allows you to fill more orders in the same amount of time.
The benefits provided by investing in smart warehousing are clear: on all counts, your operations are rendered more efficient, less prone to error, and more flexible. This leads to both greater revenue and greater reputation with your customers, both key metrics for measuring your company’s success and longevity. In this way, investing in a smart warehouse solution more than pays for itself by saving you from unnecessary spending, enabling you to serve more customers within the same timeframe, and bringing in new customers with your bolstered reputation for reliability.
Affordably Switching to Smart Warehousing
Switching to smart warehousing doesn’t need to break the bank. Link Labs provides an affordable indoor-outdoor asset tracking solution that can be used to transform your warehouse into a smart warehouse overnight. Our AirFinder Everywhere solution lets you fix inventory with asset tags that operate both within the facility and on the road. In the warehouse itself, our infrastructure can provide granular location data with up to 30-centimeter accuracy to help you keep track of not only what’s in your warehouse, but exactly where it is. Once a product leaves the warehouse, it can be tracked through our trailer tracking system to provide visibility to the delivery system and insight into distribution patterns. If you want to learn more about how AirFinder Everywhere operates as a smart warehousing solution, reach out to our experts, and book a demo today!