With the recent boom in eCommerce, managing a warehouse has never been so complex and high pressure.
Managing products across multiple platforms and warehouses while ensuring that stock availability remains accurate is a challenge. Thankfully, advancements in technology are greatly assisting in warehouse management at a time when it is needed more than ever.
One of the most pivotal technologies being implemented to improve warehouse efficiencies is the Internet of Things (IoT). This technology is making warehouses smarter – so what exactly is it, and how is it helping?
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What is the Internet of Things?
Simply put, the term ‘Internet of Things’ is used to describe a variety of physical devices that are all connected to the internet for the purpose of gathering and sharing data.
Thanks to small computer chips and wireless network availability, thousands of products are now making it possible to stay more connected than ever before; IoT devices, such as Drones, sensors, and beacons, allow for the scanning, storing, sharing, and retrieval of data to optimize operational efficiency.
How IoT is used to make warehouses smarter
There are a number of ways in which the IoT is working to make warehouse management more efficient, including:
1. Improved safety
The IoT is not always immediately thought of in relation to improving warehouse safety, but it plays an increasingly large part in making these environments safer.
Bill Murrary, Warehouse and Crowd Control expert at Todoos.com, says, “While it is always going to be necessary to invest in quality products to control staff movement flow and waste handling, the Internet of Things is greatly assisting in warehouse safety.
For example, something as simple as IoT sensors to alert management to floor spillages and thus prevent slips and falls from occurring is being increasingly adopted in busy warehouses.”
2. Optimized materials-handling fleet management
Another significant application of the IoT is to optimize the management of materials-handling fleets. With so many machines now featuring telematics, this has become quite a pressing issue.
Many modern commercial fleets rely on smart sensor and GPS technologies to monitor the condition, location, and usage of their vehicles. As data-driven solutions continue to grow in popularity, more and more managers are turning to IoT to enhance productivity, reduce maintenance costs and avoid accidents.
Additionally, the prevalence of smart forklifts is increasing. The benefits of smart forklifts include improved monitoring of vehicle condition, limiting speed and reducing the risk of collisions, and integrations with warehouse management software for greater efficiency in process flows and accuracy.
In the not-too-distant future, intelligent vehicles like smart forklifts will likely incorporate further innovations such as self-driving technologies for even greater operational efficiencies.
3. Easier product tracking
Warehouses typically are laid out with a wide range of products across a vast floor space, and it can be challenging for staff to scan each and every product – especially the ones kept on the top shelves. When it comes to tracking products safely, drones are one of the most popular and convenient IoT choices.
They can easily hover over the warehouse quickly and scan items from above – this is not only an efficient method of product tracking, but it avoids the risk of injury to staff, as they no longer have to attempt to scan products at height.
4. Improved accuracy in inventory levels
Using IoT devices and applications to track and re-order products and materials allows warehouses to optimize their use of space, as the need to visually see each item is no longer a requirement.
For example, sensors linked to IoT technology can monitor stock levels, and automatically place an order to replenish stock once it reaches a certain point.
5. Enhanced accuracy of data analytics
Accurately analyzing warehouse data is essential in making informed decisions when it comes to supply chain management. Supply chain services is responsible for the delivery of parts, materials, and people required to ensure efficient service delivery. This maximizes asset utilization and uptime.
This data assists in decisions regarding inventory control, purchasing, and shipping, making it crucial to the successful running of a busy warehouse operation.
Data collected from drones, sensors, and RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) can then be analyzed via warehouse systems and used to make more accurately-informed decisions regarding competitive positioning.
The benefits of warehouse IoT applications
E-Commerce giants like Amazon are already applying IoT solutions heavily in their inventory and logistics management, which says a lot about the scope of these applications and how vital they are for modern success in large-scale operations.
Some of the benefits of adopting IoT into a warehouse operation include:
Improved customer service – with more accurate warehouse inventory tracking and management, customers can be served more efficiently than ever before
Enhanced staff productivity – the intelligence of IoT devices frees up a great deal of staff time, as products are more easily trackable and accessible, leaving employees free to process more orders. Heightened safety can also indirectly contribute to increased productivity.
Optimal asset management – warehouse managers must be aware of every last item of inventory and asset. With the assistance of IoT sensors and data collection, misplaced product and low-stock alerts can further help management keep a tight reign over asset management.
Prevention of goods wastage – storing and transporting products successfully and safely can be a challenge, particularly if they are required to remain upright and at a certain temperature. IoT devices can be utilized to monitor and automatically adjust temperatures, moisture, and even atmospheric pressure within a designated space. These capabilities greatly reduce the risk of products becoming spoilt or damaged.
To keep up with the extraordinary demands that warehouse and distribution operations face today, it is essential to move with the times and adopt cutting-edge technologies to assist with optimal management solutions.
The Internet of Things vastly improves warehouse productivity, operational efficiency, customer service, and more. In today’s world of hyper-convenience, the smarter the warehouse, the better.