As time goes on, warehouses continue to incorporate various technologies to help businesses run smoother than ever before. Some may worry that machines might replace humans’ jobs, but many emerging trends are used to augment employees instead of replacing them entirely. From inventory management systems to automated sorted systems and more, here are some warehouse technology trends we’ve seen picking up in industries around the world.
1. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
An automated warehouse management system is designed to manage warehouse procedures to find ways to improve efficiency and productivity. These systems work to digitize operations for inventory control. They can be designed to direct where new inventory should be stored and maximize workspace. The systems will increase productivity for shipping by preparing labels and SKUs to monitor the status of each package as it is prepared for shipment.
By digitizing your inventory management, you can monitor your inventory levels in real time to replenish shipments of popular inventory and find out which items are not selling.
2. Automated Storage and Retrieval Vehicles
Automated storage and retrieval vehicles (AS/SR) can complete simple jobs of, as you might guess, storing and retrieving items to free up workers for more prioritized tasks. These vehicles use software integrated with a warehouse’s inventory system to direct them to specific locations or pallet containers to store or retrieve items from inventory.
Examples of automated storage and retrieval vehicles include cranes, shuttles, carousels, and vertical lift modules. They can help you maximize your storage space by retrieving items from spaces that human workers cannot safely reach. As a byproduct of that, AS and SR vehicles can also ease safety concerns associated with picking and packing inventory from high spaces and the strain of repetitive manual labor on human workers.
3. Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light Systems
Pick-to-light and put-to-light systems guide your employees by lighting up specific locations to indicate where products should be placed or picked from in the storage system. These lighting systems will reduce human error by identifying the correct item so employees can quickly locate and retrieve the items without having to view labels and determine location. Pick-to-light systems will save time by pushing an automated signal for where an item should be stored, reducing search time for human workers.
4. Automated Sorting Systems
Automated sorting systems are designed to streamline the receiving process and push new inventory to the correct location. These systems are designed with conveyor belts that push, pivot, or tilt items to the correct path. Each system utilizes either barcode scanners or sensors to correctly identify each item and scan it into the WMS for tracking and processing as it sends the parcel to the accurate storage location.
The benefits of automated sorting systems include improved efficiency and reduced labor costs. Automated sorting systems are designed to cut down on processing time and errors in sorting inventory by automatically scanning each label and using automated software to sort inventory. These systems can work faster, longer, and more accurately than their human counterparts, translating into cost and time savings for your warehouse.
5. Collaborative Robots
Collaborative robots, or cobots, are designed to assist human workers and increase workplace productivity. They can assist workers with packing, picking, and inspecting inventory. Cobots can be programmed easily, and workers can be trained to utilize them in just a few hours.
They are also flexible in terms of automation, meaning they can be redeployed to complete various tasks as needed without having to entirely reconfigure your warehouse layout. They can be flexibly programmed to handle small batches of individual items or large totes of materials as production demands quickly change.
The benefits of cobots include reduced cost and time associated with training warehouse workers as cobots can be programmed to complete new jobs in just a few minutes. Automating strenuous and tedious jobs translates to fewer workplace accidents and injuries from human error or repetitive physical tasks.
6. Hand-Held and Wearable Devices
Get automation in the palm of your hand with hand-held and wearable devices, including tablets, phones, and glasses. These devices can be programmed to align with your warehouse management system to streamline warehouse operations in shipping, packing, receiving, and storing inventory.
Warehouse staff can use a mobile scanner to quickly scan labels and get directives on where to pick or store the corresponding items. They can also use smart glasses to quickly scan a large area to identify a label on a storage shelf instead of having to manually verify it.
Wearable devices are becoming extremely commonplace because of their automation advantages. Each device is connected to the internet, instantly connecting all members and devices in a supply chain and providing valuable data collection. Wearable devices like smartwatches can give you vital stats on employee well-being, and scanners can automatically upload information to multiple databases to keep them up to date.
7. Voice Picking Systems
Voice picking systems are an emerging trend gaining popularity in warehouse management systems, designed to support workers. Each worker has a headset to receive and give orders as new picking orders are received. They can use voice control to give barcode numbers or receive instructions on where inventory is located. Voice-activated technology increases accuracy and efficiency, which can ultimately boost customer satisfaction.
Choose the Right Warehouse Technology Trends for You
These technology and automation trends can help improve safety and productivity in your warehouse. Choosing the best technology to support your warehouse layout and functionality will streamline your warehouse operations and translate to cost savings and efficiency.